HEY, YOU -- pretty lady reading this on your screen right now!
I know you’ve heard tips on managing your screen time to increase productivity, maintain a well-ordered home, limit distractions, etc., but can I talk to you real quick about your screen’s impact on your mental health? I promise this will be concise and to the point.
Turns out, it’s not just the blue light that causes trouble--your ability to enjoy the small things in life takes a big hit when you’re constantly inundated with dazzling images and messages, and we need to fix that! If we can figure out how to do it, life can become even more beautiful and purposeful.
See, there’s even some science behind this. Ever get stuck in a scrolling loop? Just scrolling for hours with no real purpose? (*raises my own guilty hand*) The science behind it is that your fun interactions on social media release a “happy chemical” in your brain called dopamine. In small amounts, dopamine is what helps you enjoy life. It makes you enjoy nature, finding that new book, the first sip of your favorite coffee, etc.
However, if you have a sudden rush of a concentrated amount of this chemical, your brain is really smart and builds up some resistance to that chemical to try and keep things balanced. Soon, you’ll need more and more dopamine to get over that resistance wall, and BAM! You'll be scrolling through Facebook for five hours watching kids prank their grannies and some guy make chicken out of flour.
By the way, this is the same process by which people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. (Don’t get upset with me, that’s science!)
Why is this a bad thing? Because when you require more and more dopamine, small amounts no longer cut it. A jog after work to watch the sunset doesn’t sound as pleasant as vegging out on the couch and catching up on Sallie Ann’s beach vacation or her essential oil journey. This can have negative impacts on your health and your relationships. Ever been on an awkward lunch date and had to fight the urge to check your phone a dozen times???
The good thing is, you can reverse these effects with a little mindfulness. You can teach your brain to enjoy the small amounts of dopamine so that life takes on deeper meaning and you don’t feel so numb anymore.
How is that? I’m going to give you a few tips that you can take, change, make your own, and improve on. Hopefully, these will help you build your life and home into something that you thoroughly enjoy and never feel the need to escape from--in true Proverbs 31 style.
Tip #1: The obvious one.
Put your phone away at least an hour before you want to fall asleep. There are so many other things you can do to help you unwind before bed. For example...
- Read a book.
- Listen to a podcast. (On the iPhone you can set the sleep timer so the episode will shut off automatically.)
- Spend 15 or 20 minutes picking up your house, dishes in the dishwasher, random clothes lying around, trash, clutter, etc. Put these things back in their little home tonight, and your morning self will thank you.
- Kiss your husband. Did I just say that? But for real, spend some time cuddling your husband (or your dog). Sit with your mama in the kitchen for a little bit--it’s all about simply learning to enjoy the company and conversation of the people around you who YOU NEED. You need them. They care about you and your success more than that girl on Instagram who you’ll never meet in real life or that tiny-house flipper on YouTube.
Tip #2: Don’t check your phone right when you wake up.
Spend the first hour of your day doing things that are analog (non-digital). Take a walk to wake up, make yourself some delicious coffee from home, dig into that Word, and talk to the Lord. The time will fly by and your days will become even sweeter. It’s hard, but it’s SO worth it, and you CAN do it!
Tip #3: When trying to get things done, put your phone in another room.
If you want to listen to music while you clean, use a speaker or earbuds of some sort so that you’re not tempted to just lie down on the couch and scroll. (Can you tell I’ve done that a time or two or twelve?)
Tip#4: Set boundaries on your time.
The 24 hours of our day are God’s. This is time that He gave us, and it’s our job to learn how to be a good steward of that time. How can we bless, minister, encourage, and take care of the people around us in those 24 hours? How can we use that time to bring glory to the One who gave it to us?
Tip #5: When you’re talking to people, whether it’s over dinner or just hanging out, be present.
I know we hear that ALL the time, but when you choose your phone over the conversation, you’re essentially communicating to your husband, kids, or friends that they aren’t as interesting or as valuable to you as what’s on your screen. I know that’s not how you mean it, but that’s the implication.
We can all improve in one or more of these areas, and we should. While the world wants to veg out, be numb and entertain their flesh, we have a higher calling. We must keep our minds sharp and our hearts pure, striving to build others up into what God has called them to be and in doing so, we will build the Kingdom of God.