We’ve all been there. A quick 10 minute Facebook session turns into “face-stalking” for hours. Checking your email leads to getting sucked into the world wide web, and you find yourself (an hour later, maybe two) reading an article about your next DIY project. Or an evening episode of your favorite show turns into a TV-watching marathon. Maybe you actually work on the computer for a living. Whatever the scenario, we as a culture are exposed to hours upon hours of media a day. And it’s taking a toll on us.
Did you know that the average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching television? Unbelievable! Young people now devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to daily media use. That’s about 53 hours a week — more than a full-time job. And three out of five Americans spend more time at the computer keyboard than they do with their significant other.
I’m not knocking media. I love having access to so much great information and entertainment. And I love writing for my blog. I happen to be one of those people who spends a good amount of time in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately, too much media can lead to overload. Most of us are aware that too much media is not healthy for our children. It can lead to obesity, attention-deficit disorder, and disconnection from the world around them, as well as a decrease in creativity. But too much media is affecting adults as well.
Effects of Too Much Media on Adults
- Weight gain ~ from a sedentary lifestyle
- Sleep disturbance ~ from too much mental stimulation leading to increased cortisol levels ( Read more HERE )
- Physical pain ~ from inactivity and poor posture while engaging in media
- Headaches ~ from eye strain and/or neck tension
- Warped body image ~ from unrealistic portrayals of beauty plastered all over TV and the web
- Increased acceptance of societal violence ~ from desensitization
- Other side effects to a sedentary lifestyle ~ decreased activity has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
So what are we to do about it?
Since media is here to stay, and since most of us are exposed to a fair amount of media every day, there must be a solution to decreasing the harmful affects of staring at media and the sedentary lifestyle that comes with it. And there is. It involves getting up and moving your body and as well as engaging your parasympathetic nervous system (meaning soothe the nervous system.)
Get Up and Move
Sitting in one position for too long can lead to aches and pains in the body as the muscles stiffen. We often sit in chairs or couches that do not properly align our spines, leading to sore backs and achy bodies. It’s important to pay attention to body alignment and to get up and move at regular intervals. Moving around and stretching briefly brings vital oxygen to your muscle and brain, leaving you feeling more alert and refreshed. Try getting outside once in a while to get fresh air and to give your mind and eyes a break.
Soothe the Nervous System
Most of us are familiar with the “fight or flight” (or sympathetic) part of our nervous system. It’s the part that engages in times of stress to help us run and act quickly. It also involves increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol which is associated with increased sleep disturbances, heart disease, digestive issues, and depression. The flip side of that is the parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest.” When we engage that part of our nervous system, our heart rate decreases, our blood pressure decreases, and our breathing slows down. Cortisol level also drop as we begin to feel more relaxed. This calming 10 Minute Digital Detox can help access this part of the nervous system.
The 10 Minute Digital Detox
The best solution is to limit the amount of time you sit in front of a TV or computer screen. But since this isn’t realistic for many of us, I would like to invite you to try a quick 10 minute “break” once in a while to disconnect from media, to recharge yourself, and to go back to it feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Since I am a yoga teacher, it does involve some yoga poses. It does not, however, require any previous practice. Give it a try. You may be surprised at how just a little time can leave you feeling so good.
1) Take 3 really BIG breath ~ Taking deep breaths will bring you into your body and begin to unravel some of the tension accumulated by sitting in front of the screen. Your body and mind will feel more relaxed as you draw nourishing oxygen into your lungs. Try breathing out from a wide open mouth a couple of times to release any stress in the body. Continue to focus on the breath, breathing slowly and evenly.
2) Stand up and fold forward ~ In Yoga, we call this pose Utanasana. Basically, you are folding your body in half, stretching the back body. And you are also inverting, changing the direction of blood flow in your upper body, giving your cells a rejuvenating boost of oxygen. This pose will release tension in the spine, neck, and back. And it will also calm the mind and soothes the nerves. Make sure the fold comes from the hips, not the back. If feeling tender in your lower back, bend your knees slightly and let your upper body pour over your legs. Engage the quadriceps (thigh muscles) to help the hamstrings open. Try lengthening the front torso a little bit more on each inhale. On each exhale, release fully into the bend. Stay in this posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To come out of this posture, bend your knees slightly and slowly roll up, stacking each vertibrae on top of the next, head and chin coming up last.
3) Get on the floor and act like a cat ~ In Yoga, we call this cat/cow pose. This pose relieves tension in the neck and shoulders and will start to loosen up the spine. Get on your hands and knees on the floor or on a yoga mat. Keep your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Exhale and pull in your abdominal muscles and tuck your tailbone. Pressing down on your hands, press your back toward the ceiling so your spine rounds. On the next inhale, drop the belly, arching the back and opening the chest, and gaze up. Move slowly with your breath 10 – 20 times alternating between arching and rounding your back. Continue to breath in and out slowly and smoothly, letting your body and mind unwind and de-stress.
4) Act Like a Child ~ Child’s pose is one of the most calming poses in yoga. It helps to relieve back, shoulder, neck, and hip strain. Begin by kneeling on a padded floor or yoga mat. Exhale and slowly rest your torso over your thighs so that your forehead touches the mat. Let your knees be about shoulder distance apart to allow your belly to comfortably lie between your thighs but bring your big toes to touch. The goal is to have your forehead touching the ground in front of you while your bum remains in contact with your heels. If you find it strenuous to sit on your heels throughout this posture, modify it by placing a thickly folded blanket between the backs of your thighs and your calves. Slow down your breathing and allow your mind to settle. Stay here for a couple of minutes.
5) Wring it out~ A reclined twist is a great way to loosen the spine, shoulders, and lower back. You are literally wringing your body out from the core. Lie down on your back and draw your knees into your chest and wrap your arms around your legs. Keep your knees and feet close together. Take a moment and rock back and forth to massage the sacrum. Come back to center and extend your arms out, palms facing up. Take a deep breath, and on the exhale, let your knees fall over to the right as close to your armpit as possible as your gaze moves to the left. Stay here for several breaths. With each exhale, let go a little more. Slowly draw your knees back to center and twist to the opposite side for several breaths.
6) Stick Those Legs Up in the Air ~ This pose is called viparita karani, or legs-up-the-wall pose. This pose rejuvenates the whole body. By reversing blood flow, your brain and vital organs will get a flush of new blood, leading to increased cognitive function and a calm state of mind. All you have to do is to find a place in your house where you can put your legs up the wall. Start by sitting next to the wall on the floor and gracefully lie back extending your legs up. Your bum should be as close to the wall as possible. If this is hard on your hamstrings, leave your legs slightly bent. Stay here for the remaining few minutes. Let the breath be smooth and even. An eye pillow can help you to stay focused inward and calm the mind even more.
After completing the 10 Minute Digital Detox, rise slowly. Enjoy the peaceful place you have created within. And remember to take a moment once in a while to take care of yourself.