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How screen time affects your mental health

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Be it your TV, phone, tablet or watch, screens have made a steady encroachment into our lives over the past ten years or so. Chances are you’ve probably given some time to wondering what kind of repercussions this may be having on your physical and mental health.

We’ve outgrown the dubious speculation that our eyes will turn square if we watch too much television, but studies have shown a range of adverse effects stemming from too much time staring at a screen.

Screen Studies

A 2017 paper from Louisiana showed that participants who spent more than four hours a day in front of a screen are more likely to be diagnosed with moderate or severe depression than those shied away from screens. The more time we spend doing a certain activity, the more our brain gets used to it and adapts. This means we are capable of rewiring our brain to be in screen mode; a scary concept and one which can lead to issues like a decreased ability to manage anxiety and identify emotions.

Screens can also have an effect on your sleep. A 2020 study on screen time and physical activity among Icelandic youths showed that higher screen time was associated with a decrease in quality and duration of sleep, while physical exercise had a marked positive effect on these aspects.

Looking For A Change

It would be nearly impossible to live entirely without screens in this modern world, but there’s steps you can take to ensure you’re being mindful with your usage.

Time spent on the phone can be hard to monitor as it’s basically an essential item and slips seamlessly in and out of your hand throughout the day. Try using the screen time monitor on your device or find an app which will show you what you are using and for how long. The results may surprise you, but even being aware that your time is being clocked may make you more mindful of your idle scrolling.

If you’re worried about how much you look at the screens in your house, it can be a good practice to know what you want to do before you turn something on. How long do you spend some nights trawling your streaming service for something to watch, only to spend your time with one eye on your selection and the other flicking through Instagram? Try and keep your focus on one thing. The instant delivery nature of modern media has destroyed our attention span ­– you have the power to rebuild it though.

However you look at it, screens are here stay so, as is true with all things in life, striving for a balance is generally the healthiest option.


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How screen time affects your mental health