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  • Dr. Teresa Edwards, LMFT

Digital Harmony: Navigating Boundaries with Technology

Technology can be a wonderful thing. On the other hand, it can monopolize your time, clutter your mind with information overload, and prevent you from truly relaxing.

Boundaries with Technology

Technology is everywhere in the word today and can feel impossible to escape. When I was growing up, it was actually possible to be unreachable. I used to love taking long, solitary walks on West Virginia country roads. The alone time gave me space to think and to experience the sights, sounds, and smells around me. It's amazing how relaxing an uninterrupted leisurely stroll down a country road can be.

Not long ago, I went to West Virginia to visit my family. Although the country roads and mountains are just as beautiful, I didn't feel centered and relaxed on my solitary walks. I realized that, even though I was alone, repeatedly checking my phone had kept me from completely disconnecting from the busyness of life.

Just having my cell phone in my back pocket caused a feeling of being on alert. Once I got past the initial anxiety of leaving my phone at home, I loved the exhilarating sense of freedom that I had. It was so nice to be mindful of nature and fully in the moment, instead of checking emails and returning texts.

Boundaries with Technology

  1. Limit daily technology use time. Track your screen time usage and make sure it isn't monopolizing your time. The average screen time for adults before the pandemic was 11 hours per day. That time increased to 19 hours per day during the pandemic. A study published by the Preventative Medicine Reports (2017) found that limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day led to "a significant improvement in well-being." Experts recommend that adults limit screen time outside of work to less than two hours a day.

  2. Keep the bedroom technology free. Technology use before bed can be mentally stimulating and can interfere with your quantity and quality of sleep.

  3. Turn off excessive notifications. Notifications can activate our stress hormones, igniting the fight or flight response. This triggers anxiety and sends our brain into hypervigilance, which can eventually cause mental exhaustion.

  4. Have a regular technology detox day. Not only will a technology detox day give your mind and emotions a break from the hypervigilant state caused by technology use, it can allow time to build stronger emotional bonds with family and friends and an opportunity to reconnect with nature.

Many of my clients tell me that they are less irritable, less stressed, and feel more engaged in their own life when they set boundaries with technology. Recent empirical research is also shouting the praise of limiting exposure to technology. So, my prescription for your mental health today is to set your own boundaries with technology and enjoy the freedom that follows.

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