Health

Disconnecting online to reconnect offline

Why pressing pause on screen time contributes to a healthier life

When Alyssa Alibaksh entered the workforce in 2020, she had never expected to be working from home and spending most of her time on digital devices. Not only was she online for seven to eight hours a day for work, but she also found herself looking at screens a lot during her free time. 

“I end up going from one screen to another and even though the other half of my day is spent looking at things just randomly and leisurely and not anything focused on work, it’s still a great amount of time spent staring at a screen,” says Alibaksh, who works as a communications specialist at a bank. 

According to the World Health Organization, sedentary lifestyles may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety. The government of Canada recommends that adults should be active for at least two and a half hours a week in order to achieve health benefits. 

Taryn Grieder, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, says that media apps such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram keep users engaged through instant gratification which can make disconnecting from devices difficult. 

“If you’re not interested in a specific video then you can just move onto the next one,” says Grieder. “There’s this really quick positive reinforcement.” 

Remote work also eliminates commute time and may reduce overall movement throughout the day. “We walk from our car to work and we take the stairs, go for lunch and do things like that,” Grieder says. “While we’re at home we’re not doing that sort of stuff.” 

Stay consistent and persistent 

With the increase of technology, many Youtubers have developed workout regimes that can be done from the comfort of one’s home. However, following through with an online workout plan may prove difficult for some individuals. 

“I will say I had more time and I did try to engage in those online workouts and online guided workouts and all that kind of stuff,” says Alibaksh. “I did it for a solid month but I think the motivation is sometimes very hard.” 

Participating in sports, going for walks or runs or going to the gym are ways that people can naturally unplug while maintaining physical fitness. 

“You might have to start out by kind of forcing it but hopefully then you will get up the intrinsic motivation to do those types of things,” says Grieder. 

Scheduling time to engage in physical activity and committing to that time will help individuals see the reward that an exercise regime can have on the body and mind. 

Start small and make gradual changes

When it comes to maintaining social health, individuals are now connected to each other more than ever. However, Grieder says that not all connections have the same value. 

“Our ability to be connected has increased but the more deeper and meaningful connections really decreased,” she says. 

Simply swapping a text message for an audio call may provide an alternate way to enhance social connections while reducing screen time fatigue. “It’s nice to just pop some headphones in, stick my phone in my pocket and walk around the house and get things done [while] still being able to converse with someone,” says Alibaksh.  

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the future, it is important for individuals to assess their own relationship with technology and how it may or may not be working to their benefit. 

“I think it’s a lot of learning what works for you and finding out what works best in order to find that balance,” says Alibaksh. 

Although it is nearly impossible to escape the digital realm completely, switching off or taking a break from devices—even for an hour a day— is still an accomplishment.

About the author

Amy is a former reporter for Youth Mind. She is passionate about oat milk lattes, any film featuring Adam Driver, and tending to her tiny indoor Basil garden.

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