Are We Really Living If We're Always Staring at Our Screens?

How much time do you spend looking at your phone or other mobile devices? It’s hard to say, but we do know this much: in 2016, the average American spent 2 hours and 38 minutes a day on their phone. That breaks down to 1 hour and 33 minutes spent on smartphones, and another half an hour on tablets. Add that up, and it adds up to over six years of our lives staring at screens! It sounds like we have plenty of time to spend in the moment, right?

Switch off your phone once in a while

With everyone glued to their phones, it’s hard to shake off feelings of jealousy when we see our friends having a good time on social media. But if we remember that life is lived in real-time and online feeds are merely representations of other people’s lives—not necessarily real moments—it can help put things into perspective. So whenever you feel like logging off for a bit, take time to do something unrelated to your phone or screen. The benefits will be twofold: You’ll feel better about yourself for being proactive, as well as happier about living in the present day. Who knows, maybe even you’ll capture some great memories along the way!​

Do things together

With so many of us staring down at our smartphones, it’s more important than ever to do things together as a family. Instead of always looking for easy answers on your phone or tablet, turn your attention to each other and talk about ideas with your loved ones. At least once a day, set aside some time to share positive interactions and kind words with those around you. This will remind you how important it is to step away from technology and cherish what’s in front of you.

Enjoy nature together

Get outside and spend some time with your friends. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a small walk around your neighborhood or a fun picnic in a nearby park. Take time to enjoy nature together and encourage each other to pause and appreciate its beauty. A simple outdoor excursion can be just what you need to remind yourself that taking care of yourself also means caring for your surroundings. With everything that’s going on in our world today, it’s easy to get caught up in all of it—but make sure you take some time to stop and smell (and look) flowers along the way. The world will seem less chaotic after that!

Make memories, not photos

The camera on your phone is incredible, but it’s hardly the only way to take great photos. So instead of taking a picture of something, capture a memory. Go on a hike, bring a picnic, or dance in your living room with friends (or by yourself—we won’t judge). Plan an adventure and get inspired by what you see and do. Taking pictures might just become an afterthought. Plus, walking around with your phone isn’t exactly an inviting or approachable look. You might not remember every moment perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be present for them.

Listen to each other and have conversations instead of just checking out what people are saying on social media

When was the last time you had a conversation with someone in person where no one was glancing down at their phone or laptop for a few minutes? Sure, it may be tempting to keep an eye on what your friends are up to on social media—but doing so might mean you miss out on important conversations with those around you. To put more living into your life, try putting down your screen and listening to others when they speak. Chances are, you'll create better memories (and relationships) while doing so.

Engage with a book

You don’t have to go out and purchase a new book. You could read some of your old ones, or if you live near a library, go in and check out a new one. The key is to spend quality time with words written by others. Then find ways to bring what you learn into your own life. For example, you could write an email newsletter about something you read in that book and send it out to friends who would enjoy hearing about it as well. This can help them slow down, too!

Find a more stimulating hobby

If you can’t imagine being without your phone for any length of time, what does that say about your life? It might be that you’re not exercising enough. Studies have found a link between time well spent on activities and increases in psychological well-being—and we all know how much better we feel after a good workout or jog. That kind of motivation is what it takes to stay away from our phones, computers, and tablets; if you go somewhere new or try something different, it may be easier to spend quality time with yourself. Chances are you’ll want to spend more time looking up than down!

Create balance

You don’t have to take drastic measures and give up all technology or screen time, but it’s important to stay mindful of how much time you spend on your phone. Get a better sense of how much time you spend using different forms of media. Set limits for yourself and stick to them so that you can live in the moment more frequently and keep distractions from overwhelming your daily activities. For example, if you watch a lot of videos online, only allow yourself two hours per day—and turn off notifications during that time period so that Facebook doesn’t interrupt your life! Or try spending an hour per day on social media—but make sure not to get distracted by other articles or videos during that one hour!

Finding that sweet spot is key

It’s easy to get sucked into your phone when you’re with friends or family, even if it’s just for a moment. But if you can give in and let yourself be distracted—there’s nothing wrong with that. Most people probably aren’t going to judge you for spending some time on your phone. At least not as much as they would judge you for ignoring their company! You just need to find that sweet spot—where your use of technology enhances your experience, rather than detracting from it. It takes practice, but it will happen more naturally over time.

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