These days, there are endless ways to keep yourself entertained when stuck at home. The only downside is that many of them involve staring at a screen, exposing your eyes to blue light and lulling you into a dreamlike state of distraction.
When reaching for the tablet or switching on the television seems the most convenient option, it easily becomes the default. But limiting your time staring at screens is critical for keeping your eyes and your mind healthy, especially in the midst of an indefinite quarantine.
Not sure where to start? Here are six ways to limit your screen time, essentially saving you from becoming a screen zombie during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Talk on the phone instead of texting
It’s important during times of social distancing and isolation to maintain your relationships from afar. In fact, officials are clarifying that social distancing does not equal emotional distancing and that people should still reach out to friends and family members regularly.
Talking on the phone instead of texting not only reduces screen time and blue light exposure, but it allows you to hear the person’s voice, which is 100 times more personal and satisfying than reading a text.
Your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health – especially during this time of quarantine when you’re separated from family, friends and coworkers. Having a vocal conversation with another person helps maintain relationships more effectively than words hastily typed onto your screen. Many phones allow multiple lines on a call, so ring up your squad and catch up in a group telephone hang.
Eat your meals without a screen
This can be tricky for a lot of people (raises hand), but turning screens off while enjoying your meal can drastically cut down on screen time.
USDA-funded research done by the Economic Research Service’s Adult Eating & Health Module found that the average American spends approximately 64.5 minutes per day eating meals and 16.8 minutes snacking. Based on the math, shutting off your screens when eating could shave an hour and 20 minutes off your daily screen time.
Eating should be used as an opportunity to enjoy your food and chat with your partner, roommate, or whoever you’re quarantined with (if anybody). It’s also a good time for taking a break; you can take the time to be with your thoughts and check in with yourself.
Practice leaving your phone in another room while you eat, so you’re not tempted to reach for it between bites — the adjustment may be easier than you think.
St Michel, in silver
Listen to a podcast instead of watching TV
Podcasts are a great way to keep yourself entertained without a screen. With the number of podcasts available across several outlets (Stitcher, Spotify, Apple, etc.), it’s a safe bet that there’s something for everyone.
Whether you prefer storytelling, political analysis, self-help advice or just a group of people having a casual conversation on a subject you find interesting, there’s undoubtedly a podcast out there you’ll enjoy. So throw on some headphones and take a walk outside, or listen while you tackle those chores you’ve been putting off.
Pick up a non-screen hobby
Just as necessity is the mother of invention, stillness could be seen as the mother of imagination. Relying on a screen as your only source of entertainment actually limits one’s ability to “think up” some other way to pass the time.
In fact, constant screen exposure not only has the potential to hurt your eyes and disrupt your sleep patterns, but researchers have found that it also affects brain function and development. Embracing stillness and being left to entertain yourself without the buzz and glow of digital devices and screens allows the neurons in your brain to connect and develop creativity and a sense of self-control.
Need some examples of non-screen hobbies perfectly suited for being stuck at home? Here are a few to get you started:
- Drawing, painting or coloring
- Solving puzzles (jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, etc.)
- Yoga, pilates and other exercises you can do at home
- Losing yourself in a good book
- Sewing, knitting or cross-stitching
Set a timer for your phone use
It’s easy to get consumed by your social media feed. Rather than losing an hour to Facebook or Instagram, set a timer for 15-30 minutes to remind yourself about limiting your intake.
When the timer goes off, switch to a task that doesn’t require a screen for 30 minutes to an hour. Doing this will help you be more mindful of how much time you actually spend gazing at a screen each day.
If you’re working from home, practice the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, look up from your screen and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows the eyes to rest and refocus and avoid the symptoms of digital eye strain.
Hold yourself accountable
We can give you all of the tips and tricks we can dream up for cutting down on screen time, but none of it will work if you don’t hold yourself accountable.
If you set a timer for your screen time, then you must resolve to set your phone down when it goes off — no matter how tempting the social media content is (no, “just five more minutes” … put it down). If you are quarantined with another person or people, agree to keep one another accountable and be more present.
Limiting your screen time can feel inconvenient and, in some cases, even painful. But in this time of quarantine, it’s up to you to keep your mind and body healthy and productive, and ditching the screens is a good first step.