5 Reasons Why You May Want to Take a Break from Technology
Technology is a powerful tool that makes our lives easier in many ways. But if we aren’t careful, our technology usage can be disruptive to our overall health and well-being.
Exposure to screens can have a subtle effect on the body and the mind. As technology becomes ever more present in our daily routines, these effects become more jarring. It’s not that technology is all bad, but as the Ayurvedic saying goes, anything can be medicine when utilized properly and anything can be poison when abused.
In Ayurveda, we know that our five senses play a crucial role in our overall well-being. If we’re not mindful, excessive screen time can interrupt our connection with these all-important senses and take a harmful toll on our health.
Here are four signs that you may want to take a break from technology.
1. Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) Are Disturbing Your Vata
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible electrical and magnetic forces generated by all matter, from the earth below our feet to the sun in the sky. Whether or not you realize it, even your own body creates an EMF of about 10 hertz.
But not all EMFs are naturally occurring. Some are manmade, such as the ones generated by cell phones and telephone wires. These EMFs can cause biological stress, especially in high concentrations. Studies have shown that EMF exposure has a direct impact on biological stress in our bodies.1
In Ayurveda, vata dosha governs all movement from the deliberate stretching of our muscles to the seemingly automatic reactions of our nervous system. This invisible energy is constantly at work sending messages throughout our bodies. You might think of WiFi as a manmade version of vata: an invisible force sending messages out into the air around us.
If you’re feeling burnt out from technology use, earthing, or making contact with the electrical energy of the earth, is an excellent remedy.2 When you need a computer or social media break, try recalibrating yourself by taking a barefoot walk, laying down on the grass, or swimming.
2. Technology Use Is Throwing Off Your Routine
When we are out of harmony with our external ecosystem, our internal health suffers as well. Mother Nature has a lovely way of creating natural routines for us. In Ayurveda, this natural rhythm of sleeping, eating, and working is known as dinacharya, or a daily routine. Dinarcharya is what helps us find balance, health, and vitality in our lives.
Using technology excessively or at improper times of the day interferes with these natural rhythms, which can cause imbalances to appear within our internal ecosystem.
When used incorrectly, technology is bad for our sleep. A 2014 study found that evening exposure to the blue light that emanates from computers, TVs, and cell phones can disturb the body’s natural circadian rhythm.3
When our sleep is disrupted, it can negatively impact our daily routines and our overall mood. It can also affect our energy, our memory, and our digestion. To avoid this, try taking a TV and social media break in the hour or two leading up to bedtime.
Further, consider an alternative activity to wind down before bed and support your sleep, such as yoga nidra, taking an herbal bath, or reading a book (a physical book, not an eReader!). Staying off of email and social media first thing in the morning can also decrease stress and foster healthy, sustainable energy throughout the day.
Again, it’s not that we’re cutting out technology all together, we’re just monitoring when and how we use it!
3. Your Eyes Are Aggravated by Too Much Screen Time
According to Medical News Today, digital eyestrain can cause blurred vision, redness in the eyes, and pain in other areas of the body including the head, neck, and shoulders.4
If you’re experiencing digital eye strain, it could be due to any of the following:
- Too much screen time
- Excessive screen glare or screen brightness
- Viewing a screen from too close or too far away
- Underlying vision issues (consult an optometrist if your symptoms persist regularly)
To reduce eye strain, The American Optometric Association recommends the 20-20-20 rule.5 The rule entails taking a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of screen time to look at something at least 20 feet away. Looking out a window is a good way to ensure you're focusing on something far enough away.
It’s also beneficial to close your eyes for 20 seconds after 20 minutes of screen time. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself it’s time for a break.
4. Your Breath Is Shallow When Using Technology
Prana vayu is a sub-dosha of vata that is primarily responsible for breathing. It is located in the head, chest, throat, tongue, mouth, and nose.
Many of us have heard the term pranayama used to describe the breath. But the English translation of “pranayama” is closer to “the laws regulating the flow of our life force.” When we hear that translation, doesn’t it feel more important to consciously breathe and do everything in our power to keep our life force vibrant?
The easiest way we can stay vibrant is to continue breathing. While that may seem obvious, many of us are not keeping our vital life force flowing when we use technology.
Researcher and writer Linda Stone coined the term "email apnea" to describe this phenomenon.6 Even if we don’t stop breathing for long, it’s enough to trigger a stress response in our body and disrupt our healthy oxygen flow.
In her research, Stone found that 80 percent of the subjects she observed, including herself, exhibited shallow breathing or momentary breath-holding while working. The other 20 percent were people who had studied breathing techniques, such as singers and dancers.
To counteract the negative effects of email apnea, take regular breaks from your computer throughout your workday. Consider adding in a conscious breathwork practice such as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama to counter any patterns of unconscious breathing. You can then incorporate this mindfulness to become more aware of your breath while working.
5. Your Mood Is Negatively Impacted by Social Media
If you've noticed your mood worsens after social media use, you're not alone. A 2017 study found that in a test group of young adults from 19–32, frequent social media users felt more socially isolated than those who took social media breaks.7
Another study that found a link between social media use and mental health issues noted that the results varied depending on how the subjects were using social media.8 People who had mostly positive interactions on social media platforms exhibited fewer signs of sadness and anxiousness after use. Conversely, people who felt they had more negative online interactions overall reported higher levels of sadness and anxiousness after social media use.
Set firm boundaries when it comes to your social media use and monitor how it makes you feel. If you notice uncharacteristic negative feelings and higher stress after usage, it’s time for a social media break.
Other Signs You May Need a Break from Technology
The points discussed above are just some of the ways in which excessive or improper technology use can take a toll on our overall health. For instance, if you’ve experienced tension in your head and neck or discomfort in your shoulders, wrists, or hands, it may be due to too much screen time, and it could be time to change your technology habits.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, the vata imbalance caused by too much screen time can cause poor circulation, digestion issues, and decreased stamina. High vata can also disrupt ojas, the essential energy reserve powering our body. Ojas is responsible for our vitality, physical stamina, and immunity. When ojas is out of balance, we are more susceptible to further imbalance.
Don’t wait to set firm boundaries with technology! Taking regular breaks from screen time can have a positive effect on everything from your breathing to your energy levels. Technology is an incredible tool that serves a purpose, but we don’t have to let it interfere with our overall well-being.