My Quest Hub
Screen-Free Week, 1st – 7th May 2023
If you intend to go screen-free during this week, well-done to you! It’s no mean task and deserves to be celebrated with a big hi-five! I say this because we all know by now how addictive screens can be and research verifies how the constant dopamine release from watching screens can make us a slave of them.
Average screen time across media platforms and various devices for a person between the age of 16-64 years is 6 hours and 37 minutes per day (Source: Data Portal https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-global-overview-report). That means that we are spending a good chunk of our waking hours in front of a screen! And perhaps even sacrificing our hours of rest to get some more screentime. Additionally, the lockdown has only glued us more to our screens; it is even more common to see people everywhere preferring their screens over other activities, especially in the younger age groups.
Yes, it is a necessary evil and, in this screen-dependent existence of ours, we often find ourselves not pausing before giving into the temptation of picking up our device. It is as if the power of choice doesn’t exist for us in that moment and we just surrender to the screen in front of us. What might happen if we slow down and ask ourselves what else might I do apart from engage with this? Why do I always go back to the screen? What does this screen mean to me? Is there something I am trying to numb or avoid? What emotions aren’t being heard inside of me?
But in the moment we don’t give it much thought, or even realise how much we are actually missing out on just living and being, engaging and connecting meaningfully with all that is around us, and being present with ourselves and others. If you haven’t noticed yet, long hours of screen time can actually make you feel disconnected, anxious, depressed, stressed, irritable, disturb your sleep patterns, create a sense of exhaustion and even a possible screen-addiction problem.
Our eyes were not designed to stare at one thing for long periods of time. We evolved to have a peripheral view to feel safe and centred. Let’s try an exercise to demonstrate this point.
Look at a screen of your choice for a considerable time and notice how you feel in your body. What kind of a sensation is it? Do you feel tension or ease? Sense any heaviness or a sense of relaxation? Notice how you are breathing. Is your breathing shallow and fast or deep and slow?
Chances are that it takes you a while to actually notice what you are feeling in your body and when you do, you might find that possibly your eyebrows were knitted, eyes narrowed, and your face scrunched up. Most likely, you’d have felt in the body the feeling of tension, stress and possible disconnection with surroundings. That’s right! That’s what too much screen time can do to our bodies.
Now that you know what it feels in the body to look too much at the screen, try to look away from it. Look at something in distance, preferably outside a window or an open space and notice how you feel. You might find that the muscles of your face begin to relax, notice how the tension eases after a while and how you become more aware of a sense of calm, even if for a moment, before your brain might compel you to go back to the screen for its dopamine fix.
This brings us to the point that our screens can rule our lives, we often find them ‘un-put-downable’. A device is almost like the third person in many relationships – especially the parent and child relationship.
In my practice, I find a growing sense of emotional disconnection in many young adults with their parents. The young adults preferring the screen over talking to parents or engaging with the outside world. It often contributes to anxiety or depression and lack of social skills in the young adult; one of the basic ingredients for well-being – the sense of belonging that we all need – gets replaced by searching for connections via social media.
Here’s what you can do if you or your young adult struggle to put down their screen:
- Draw healthy boundaries: This does not need to be a fight and can be done peacefully, if negotiated well.
- Introduce a replacement: If not screen, then what? Explore what sparks the interest and gets your mojo ignited. Books, board games, travelling, meeting friends, going to new places, adventure activities—whatever floats your boat.
- Be intentional: Setting intentions are like giving measuring cups to the brain, so it knows how much to go for. We can be intentional in our use of screen and set down rules such as no screen at the dining table, no devices in bed, no screen on Sundays or while talking to other people. Something as basic as this can have a profound impact in the long run.
- Unplug to connect: Time away from screen doesn’t have to be boring or dull. It can be used to make meaningful, genuine connections with people around you. Talk to a friend, do an activity together (baking, gardening, sports—the list is endless), do a body scan from head to toe and check-in with yourself and how you feel in that present moment.
- Needs matter: Screen time often disconnects us from us, meaning that we stop listening to our body and go too much into our heads. Paying attention to our physical needs such as rest, sleep hygiene, nutrition, eating habits and self-care is a great way to nurture a healthy connection with our body.
Unplugging will help our system return to homeostasis, the body’s way to restore balance, cleanse the system of the dopamine and adrenaline overdose. It will help us feel grounded, present and connected to our surroundings. It will encourage us to be creative with our time and energy. It will nudge us to explore real world in real life.
A week of abstinence from the screen won’t give us freedom from our screens, but what it will do is to introduce us to an idea of what wonders might replace it and how we might connect meaningfully and mindfully with ourselves and others if we allow that to happen.
And we might find it hard to live without our screens or even successfully go through the ‘drudgery’ of the screen-free week only to find ourselves even more attached to our screens (because, of course, we missed them so much!). Either way, if are just curious and willing to explore that by asking ‘what’s that about?’ ‘what does that tell me about myself?’ that’ll be a good start. And of course, you can always find a QCHPA therapist to help you explore that.
So, whether your screen-free week is a complete success or not, know that you will come out wiser at the end of it.
Kanika Tandon is an accredited Transformational Coach, Cognitive Hypnotherapist and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner. She facilitates the journey of career-oriented professionals towards clarity, healthy boundaries and a feeling of empowerment inside and outside. She also works with children and young adults in her private practice and through Grow Therapeutic Coaching.
She lives in Surrey with her husband, 9-year-old son and guinea pigs Mango and Biscuit.