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7 Fun Ways to Put Your Phone on a Timeout (and Feel Like a Kid Again)

By Ashley Austin | February 5, 2019 | Rally Health

Remember when you were a kid –– the magic hours of play that stretched from the last bell to bed? And do you remember the deep sleep that followed? Experience anything like that lately? Probably not.  

If you’re like most Americans, you’re more likely to stare at your phone, or another screen, from the time you leave work till it’s time for bed –– and even after. That can have some unwelcome effects.

Overuse of our smartphones may burden us with distractions and strip us of the ability to connect with others and live in the moment. One recent study found that tech disruptions –– which the researchers called “technoference” –– can be damaging both to psychological well-being and to our relationships.

In particular, the stress and anxiety associated with smartphone use may not only affect our mental health, but also our sleep. “Between stressful texts from friends and relatives, emails that require (a response) ..., the arousal from phone content can delay sleep onset and lead to less overall sleep,” said W. Chris Winter, MD, a board certified sleep specialist at the Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine clinic, and author of The Sleep Solution. “I recommend to everyone that their phones should sleep plugged up and silently in the kitchen.”

It can hurt our relationships, as well. Constantly being on the phone can send strong messages to friends, family, and colleagues about what we value most.  So what are we to do? Try setting aside time to bond with others and explore more about yourself. An increased focus on meaningful time spent without technology can also allow us the time to reconnect with our sense of creativity and our own inner kid.

Below are seven fun alternatives to smartphone use that focus on reconnecting with others and ourselves.

1. Set Up a Grown-Up Playdate

Schedule an activity with a friend, or better yet, someone who might become a new friend. A study found that the frequency of meeting friends face to face can have a direct positive influence on well-being. Take some time to value your friends and the emotional fulfillment that they can bring to your life.

“When we interact in person, we make eye contact, observe facial expressions, and mirror body language. This helps us resonate with the other person in ways that are impossible to elicit online,” says Victoria Dunckley, MD, an integrative child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, and author of Reset Your Child's Brain. “Face-to-face interactions boost oxytocin, the bonding hormone, facilitating feelings of closeness and support.”

2. Conceptualize What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

As adults we often become immersed in our present life course and may become fearful of carrying out career changes that align with our passions. Think back to what you wanted to be when you grew up. Recognize what your ideal job is and allow yourself to explore the steps necessary to attain that job. Identify the steps you’ll need to take, especially setting aside time for strategic reflection on your professional goals. Don’t sell yourself, and your future, short.

3. Play Outside

Numerous studies suggest an association between time spent outside and mental health benefits, especially time spent in green areas. Go for a walk in a park after work and play a sport outside that you loved as a kid. Find family members or friends to play with if you can. Prioritize your fitness and embrace nature at the same time.

4. Do Something Sweet

One of the joys of childhood is bringing delight through uncontrived gestures of love. Pick flowers from outside for the kitchen table. Do a favor for a colleague. Reach out to hug someone special. A study found that affection expressed to others can have numerous benefits, including increased happiness and higher relationship satisfaction.

Furthermore, affection and kindness can deliver neurological benefits as well. “Acts of kindness and physical affection have potent brain benefits to both giver and receiver. Delivering kindness digitally robs both parties of experiencing optimal levels of warmth, gratitude, and compassion,” says Dunckley.

5. Share a Homemade Dinner With Loved Ones

Cook for yourself and other household members out of love. Not only are home cooked meals generally healthier than eating out, family mealtime can also have positive effects on parents and children alike. Family dinners can help moderate parental stress, and may help improve the emotional well-being, life satisfaction, and the behavior of children.

Schedule a time to make sure everyone’s there, and ban tech from the table to facilitate emotional and intellectual engagement. “Phone pinging is not only disruptive to conversation and thought process, it literally alarms the nervous system. By making dinnertime tech-free, kids get the message that sharing meals together is a sacred, protected time in which they trust they have parents' undivided attention. This creates space for sharing and problem solving, empathy, and deeper conversations for both kids and parents,” says Dunckley.

6. Read Fiction Before Bed

One study suggested that reading fiction can help build empathy for others. Advance your intellectual development and engage in creative world building by reading a work of fiction that interests you.

Just make sure that the book won’t upset you prior to going to sleep. “I think for some, the nature of the genre being disconnected from the reality they live in might be a positive. If the books were exploring stressful, upsetting, or violent topics, it might be counterproductive,” says Winter.

7. Build Your Utopia With Colored Pencils

Draw outside the lines. Color your version of utopia, or dystopia if your tastes run dark. One small study suggests that coloring may help reduce stress. Make time for this vital way to explore the beauty in life and your own creativity.

Copyright © 2019 Rally Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ashley Austin
Rally Health