Digital Device Distraction (And 5 Ways to Fix It In Your Life)

Have you ever said to yourself, “I just do not seem to get as many tasks done in a day as I used to, and I am feeling more exhausted!” You’re not alone! This is surprisingly common in the digital age where we live. What causes this? It’s a phenomenon I like to call Digital Distraction.

I, too, have fallen victim to the ever-present digital content swirling around in cyberspace, beckoning us to engage, comment, share, like, tweet, and scroll. But, I truly believe that this phenomenon is not beneficial emotionally, physically, occupationally, or socially. Here’s why:

Once I started paying close attention to the disruption my digital devices were causing, I was stunned to realize how much of my day was being wasted looking at and reading posts on my phone and my tablet. Have you ever paused to pay attention to the amount of time you spend on your phone or tablet? There are tools you can use to track your screen time, if you are curious. I have heard great things about the RescueTime appfor monitoring personal productivity across all of your devices. And, here is alist of appsthat can track your family’s, specifically children’s, screen time. This time is time you cannot get back, and it adds very little to your quality of life.

Sadly, despite giving my digital devices so much time, I wasn’t feeling rejuvenated, informed, or entertained! Instead, I found that I was bored and drained after wasting this time. Not only was it destroying my productivity, but also it was zapping my physical and emotional energy. What if I had spent those 15 or 20 minutes doing something that actuallyrefreshed me? What if I had taken a walk, called a friend, gone outdoors, pet an animal, worked in my garden, done yoga, read a paper book, or even took a nap? My whole being would benefit more from those activities than from mindless digital scrolling.

Digital devices typically call for mindless exploration of unnecessary content – videos, blogs, articles, and posts – while sitting or standing still and not moving. Many of the things people look at online raise blood pressure and can create emotional distress. This is a very unnatural experience, when you place it in context of the body’s natural fight or flight response.

Our bodies were designed for natural movement in the face of danger. When blood pressure rises and emotional distress comes, our bodies are flooded with a surge of fight or flight hormones – namely adrenaline and cortisol – that prepare us for action. But, when these hormones are released while we are sitting or standing still, they just sit in the muscles and can wreak havoc on a person’s sense of emotional wellness. When your fight or flight hormones surge in response to an actual event, your body uses them to empower action. You fight or run, and your body uses those helpful hormones. But, when this surge of stress hormones happens without movement, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even chronic stress, which affects your sense of wellbeing and your ability to mange stress in other areas of life.

Not into social media? Digital books can cause the same problems! Reading online books can create similar hormone surges that affect your wellness. Add to that the fact that most people read their digital books at night, which can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Both the blue light of a digital device and exhilarating content can send the body and brain messages that it’s not time for sleep. It’s no wonder most American struggle with getting enough sleep!

And, I would argue that digital distraction affects people most profoundly at the social level. While people feel a shallow sense of connection with those around them, social media does very little for taking people into deep, meaningful conversation. At Natural Connections, we believe that the most healing thing people can experience is connection. Often, the deepest connections they can form are with other human beings. When a person is traumatized, our goal is to help them connect with something – anything – to begin to heal any dissociation they may have experienced in response to trauma. We help people connect with nature, animals, plants, and the earth. Our greatest hope is that they will move toward healing and be able to connect with humans again. The problem with social media and digital “connection” with others is that it does not allow for the level of depth, physical presence, and comfort that can come from authentic relationships with real people. Thus, digital distraction can also serve as a distraction from loneliness, which inhibits true social connection.

To productivity, physical health, emotional health, and social connection, digital distraction is destructive! Are you struggling with Digital Distraction? It’s time for major interventions! Here are the changes I made that transformed my productivity, relationships, and rest cycles. I recommend taking this approach to take back your life!

1) Schedule your screen time.Set your priorities and decide what information you actually needfrom your phone. I now check my phone just for weather updates, and look at it first thing in morning, at noon, and at night. When you schedule your screen time, it gives you control over your time and over the content you’re putting into your head. This allows me to be intentional to use that time on activities that actually refresh me, as opposed to leaving me bored and drained.

2) Connect intentionally with others.Choose to call folks, rather than text. If you can, take a minute to hand-write a personal note daily. If you are struggling with something deeper, like anxiety, depression, chronic stress, trauma, or PTSD, make sure to seek out trusted friends, family members, counselors, or even a wellness leader, like Natural Connections, to find connection that can help you process and heal.

3) Block out the constant noise.Rather than listening to newscasts anywhere, every day, which can depress and alarm you, choose to turn it off! Too much noise prevents you from having meaningful time to think and rest. This doesn’t mean that newscasts are bad, but I recommend being selective with what you hear, how you spend that time, and how constantly you have them on.

4) Make it a point to do something kind. Every day, you will find way more fulfillment when you serve others with no expectation of reward. So often, even social media comments are driven by a person’s desire to advocate their stance or build their online reputation. But, what if you chose to serve others on a daily basis for the sole purpose of helping them. How fulfilling and invigorating!

5) Go outside! Try to spend at least one half of each day outside working, relaxing, and reflecting. I truly believe that the smells, sounds, minerals, and essences of nature bring emotional stability and wellness at deep, unseen levels. Staying on your digital devices keeps you inside and trapped. Going outside sets your mind and emotions free, and you’ll notice a difference, almost immediately, in your sense of wellness!

Most of all, be mindful and intentional. Digital stress is not controlling my quality of life anymore, and I invite you to find this same freedom!

 

I welcome your comments on how you manage your digital distractions.