With added efficiency to daily tasks, improved communication, enhanced learning and streamlined work processes — it's no wonder why we spend the majority of our time behind a screen. For the average South African, it's 10 hours and 46 minutes, to be exact.

As we know, good things often come with a catch. Despite the numerous benefits and uses of technology like smartphones, PCs and tablets, spending an excessive amount of time in front of a screen has some adverse effects on the bodies and minds of people.

Wondering why you were tossing and turning last night instead of getting in some solid Zs? Your sleep deprivation could actually be a result of you watching that last episode of Friends before you went to bed.

According to Active Health, exposure to the blue light emitted from our screens actually hinders the production of melatonin — the very hormone that we require to sleep.

You might not have those square eyes from watching television that your mother warned you about, but are your eyes feeling a bit dry lately? Has someone told you that your eyes are red? Have you been squinting recently?

Yup, you've guessed it! Screen time puts strain on your eyes, dries them out and impairs your vision.

Now, if those aren't good enough reasons to cut back on the number of hours that we have our eyes glued to a screen, excessive screen time also:
  • affects our brain matter reducing normal cognitive functioning
  • weakens our social skills
  • heightens feelings of anxiety, depression, stress and irritability, and
  • increases the likelihood of obesity and diabetes.
Reconsidering checking that Facebook notification?

Then read on as media update's Lara Smit shows you how to decrease your digital dosage with these five tips:

1. Put boundaries on your screen time

Nowadays, many people's jobs require them to use devices constantly throughout their work day. Therefore, it seems nearly impossible to reduce the amount of time spent looking at a screen.

So, let's focus on the screen time that you can control.

Outside of work hours, it is recommended that adults limit their screen time to two hours or less. So, although we all have our favourite Disney+ series that we just have to watch, we might just have to limit ourselves to just one or two episodes a day.

Additionally, to limit the negative effects that blue light exposure has on our sleep, it is advised that we refrain from looking at a screen at least an hour before we go to sleep. Therefore, it's good to establish your own 'switch off' time where you put away your digital devices for the day and spend an hour participating in relaxing activities before bed like:
  • journaling
  • doing breathing exercises
  • taking a warm bath, and
  • reading.

2. Find activities that don't require digital devices

With all of the entertainment options available on our smartphones and PCs, we have grown accustomed to busying ourselves by watching series, playing games, watching videos, scrolling through posts and reading articles online.

Unfortunately, these activities take us away from participating in hobbies, exercising and completing tasks. This lack of physical activity caused by excessive screen time has created a direct correlation between digital device usage and health issues such as:
  • weight gain
  • diabetes
  • heart disease, and
  • cancer.
Therefore, it is recommended that adults ditch their screens to take part in activities that stimulate them both physically and mentally like:
  • yoga
  • walking
  • running
  • cycling
  • reading
  • painting
  • doing puzzles or crosswords
  • meditating
  • cleaning, and
  • cooking.

3. Disable your notifications

People are often inundated with notifications, messages and emails. This constantly directs people to their devices and often causes them to feel overwhelmed by the continuous influx of tasks and information.

Therefore, one of the best ways to cut the rope that continuously pulls you to your phone or PC is by disabling your notifications.

Just imagine — a world with no buzzes, beeps, bells or whistles! I already feel more relaxed.

4. Take regular breaks during the day

Although you can't really stop using your devices at work, you can always take regular breaks during the day and step away from your desk for a few minutes to get your blood flowing and stretch those muscles!

Taking regular breaks also helps you to reduce the damage that screens cause to your eyes. According to TIME, taking breaks every 20 minutes drastically improves any eye dryness, fatigue, strain and blurred vision caused by digital devices.

Stepping away from your desk every now and then will also help improve your mental health and stamina. How so?

According to Medium, taking breaks helps reduce your stress levels and fatigue caused by working for long periods of time. Additionally, it helps keep your mind fresh and improves your creative thinking.

So, if you're feeling anxious or experiencing a creative block while working on one of your devices, give yourself a breather — you can always come back to what you're doing later.

5. Have digital-free spaces

Choose spaces where you can and cannot use your devices — both inside and outside of your home. This will also help you to minimise your screen time.

For example, if you find it difficult to refrain from watching series an hour before you go to sleep, consider making your bedroom a digital-free zone.

We must also admit, some of us are guilty of spending time on our devices in the company of friends. Unfortunately, this habit takes us away from enjoying some quality conversations with our favourite people. In these instances, it's smart to set boundaries on using your devices in social spaces as well.

Consider this: The next time you visit a friend, ask where you can put away all your stuff — including your phone — instead of asking for the WiFi password. This way, you won't be tempted to check your chats, emails or social media pages. As the saying goes, 'Out of sight, out of mind.'

How have you managed to decrease your screen time? Share your tips on how you've done this in the comments section below.

Taking notes? Then be sure not to miss out on any more tips by subscribing to our newsletter.

Still not sure if you should take a break from your screens? Then be sure to learn more about how you can benefit from a digital detox in our article, Five reasons why you need to do a digital detox.
*Image courtesy of Canva