After my dad passed away about a year and a half ago, I started attending Friday night services at my synagogue on a regular basis. Initially, this was so I could say the Mourner’s Kaddish (prayer for the dead) for my Dad. But, as time went on, I realized that I enjoyed and appreciated the ritual of ending the work week in this way. The service lasts just under an hour, there’s lots of joyful singing, and, it’s a chance to see friends I don’t see on a regular basis. I always leave my phone in the car, and surprisingly, even that one short hour gives me a chance to unplug from the rest of the world and focus on what’s important and right in front of me.
My Orthodox and more religious and observant friends, of course, do this unplugging every week from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. But for those of us who don’t do it on a regular basis, we have the chance this coming Friday. Did you know there was such thing as National Day of Unplugging?!? Neither did I. But it is happening this Friday, March 6, beginning at sundown, and lasts until sundown Saturday, March 7.
National Day of Unplugging began in 2009, way before there was any research being done about the long-term impact of smartphone use on mental health. Today, there are about 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide. According to recent studies, the average smartphone user taps, swipes, or clicks their phone 2,617 times per day. The day was established by Reboot, a creative project that uses the ritual of taking one day per week to unplug, unwind, and relax, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.
We may all have a love/hate relationship with our devices and think we can’t live without them for even a short period of time; but consider the following statistics.
- Studies indicate that some smartphone users check their devices every 6.5 minutes.
- 88% of US consumers use their device as a second screen, even while watching television.
- 67% of cell phone users check their devices for messages, alerts, and calls even when the phone is not ringing or vibrating.
- Traditional TV viewing eats up over 6 days (144 hours, 54 minutes) worth of time per month.
- In teens especially, social media exacerbates FOMO, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Teens who spend more than 3 hours a day on an electronic device are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.
Try unplugging for just a little while and see how these benefits can change your life.
Improve Your Quality of Life. In a study from the University of Maryland, a study found that students who unplugged from technology experienced better quality of life. The students spent more time with friends, connected with family, got more frequent exercise and ate healthier.
Recharge and Be Happier. Work, even when we love our jobs, tends to drain our energy and stresses a lot of people out. Once we leave work, there’s a great burst of energy and adrenaline that gets us through the rest of the day. Researchers found that when people unplugged from work-related tasks like checking work email after the workday ended, they were fresher, invigorated, and ready to face the next day with ease.
Stay Focused and Sleep Better. Data from a 2013 PEW study showed that 44% of people sleep with their phones by their side. Turning the phone off or putting it in another room allows for better sleep, because we can actually focus on how tired we are and whether we are getting the appropriate number of hours of sleep a night. In turn, better sleep gives us better focus during the day. Other research shows that the blue light from our devices impedes sleep, and we all need to turn them off before settling in for the night.
Unplugging May Improve Your Relationships. Ever try to have a meaningful conversation with someone and they are looking at their device rather than looking you in the eye? Putting the devices away forces you to really pay attention to the people in front of you. The people who matter most. While technology helps make communication fast and convenient, it also removes body language, tone of voice, and other things that help us understand one another and form connections.
Still not sure you want to completely unplug? Try some of these easy ways to get started.
- Delete one app from your device. One less app is one less distraction.
- Turn phones off at mealtime. Connect with the people you’re sharing your meal with. Make eye contact.
- Turn devices off or put them in another room while sleeping.
- Hide notifications for fewer interruptions during the day.
- Leave your phone in your locker or car during your workout. You may be surprised at how much more you get out of it.