The Many Benefits of Unplugging
By: Heidi Schrumpf, JD, PhD
Behavioral Health Manager and Psychologist, Kaiser Permanente
It is no secret that technology, social media, and various apps are dominant forces in our daily lives. They’ve brought many added values: connecting friends across distances, low-cost entertainment, increased access to education, platforms for advocacy, and streamlining businesses and products to name a few. However, these benefits have not come without costs. Since the invention of social media, teen suicides have drastically increased. Nonstop and immediate access to others plays a role in increased stress and burn out. Many would say despite increased communication, it has decreased the general human connection, empathy, and experience. As with all things, balance with technology is key.
Unplugging has gained more traction as people in the tech industry began bringing attention to concerns they had with technology leaders specifically striving to make their online programming and apps addictive. The goal of unplugging is to elevate human connection over digital engagement.
Adding a day of unplugging to your regular monthly or weekly routine can have many physical and mental benefits, including increased physical movement, greater connection to those around you, reduced eye strain, and an increased sense of connectivity to your community. However, with the digital world firmly engrained in our society, this can be easier said than done.
Here are some tips and benefits for unplugging for the day!
- Remember that unplugging means all screens: TVs, phones, tablets, computers, etc. Turn them off, and if possible, place them in a secure location to be accessed at the end of the day. If you need a phone on for safety reasons, log out of your apps and turn off your notifications.
- Plan an activity and get moving. This is a great opportunity for a family outing or for singles to mingle. Get outside! Go for that hike you’ve been talking about or go try out that new local eatery. Movement stimulates our brain to produce neurotransmitters that can boost mood and decrease stress.
- Take time to be mindful – or as some would say, stop to smell the roses. Notice your environment: the sun, the smell of the air, the breeze, the birds chirping, and the small details around you that you’d normally rush past, without judgment, but simply to be present in the moment. Take time to breathe and notice how your body feels. Have some alone time with your thoughts or to rest and unwind. Remember it is okay if this feels awkward or your thoughts are suddenly all over the place.
- Practice gratitude. Research consistently shows positive mental health benefits from practicing gratitude. While technology activates a part of our brain not all that different from certain substances such as opiates (hence the addiction), practicing gratitude can rewire your brain by building new neural pathways that focus on the positive aspects of the world around you. This has been shown to decrease stress, increase resiliency, and create a better sense of well-being.
- Finally, and most importantly — Connect with what and who you love. Get back to that hobby that brings you joy. Sit down and have a conversation with your partner, friends, or family. We all have our own inner world of thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Connect with your loved ones by listening and sharing these.
For more health and wellness tips and information, visit kp.org