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A Technical Approach to Spring Cleaning

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Screen Time Breaks

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 22:30

Sleepaway girls camp technology freeEvery summer, Alpengirls from across the country assemble in campgrounds, on mountain trails and any variety of wilderness locales to engage in adventures of mind, body and spirit - and they do it without their cell phones! They aren’t Tweeting or posting to Facebook, or sharing on Tumblr or Instagram - they are telling stories around a campfire, or quietly observing sunsets over mountain, lake or ocean landscapes - getting to know one another as they crest the top of a trail, or in sharing the triumph of overcoming challenge together. They are experiencing unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime moments with their heads up and their eyes wide. 

In honor of every young adventuress who decided to become an Alpengirl, take a break from your phone, your tablet, whatever form your screen has, to enjoy a breath of fresh perspective. Take a few figurative and literal steps back - to refresh.

Group talk at summer girls campWith the arrival of spring, Alpengirl is looking differently at spring cleaning by engaging in a media device/technology cleanse. Join us in closely observing how you use computers, tablets, devices and cell phones to determine how you can take a break from technology and reduce non-essential screen time. 

We truly live in the Information Age - an age where obtaining information and stimulation is always readily available. This ubiquitous use of mobile devices makes us subject to a nearly constant state of connection, which may produce an equally constant state of stress and pressure. Pressure to connect, to post, to update, to seek, and to respond. The benefit of nearly instantaneous access to resources that inform us, entertain us, inspire us, and educate us, increases our productivity and problem solving, not to mention, connects us with family, friends and community. However, all things in moderation, right? So, we need to seek the balance between sufficiency and excess, and this is clearly different for each person.   

Girls talking at camp without cell phonesIn order for our minds to stay fresh, innovative and creative, we need breaks from the modern ways in which we expand and challenge our brains. Hours of screen time at the office, lab, or classroom, blends into hand-held screen time and perhaps even more screen time at home; without much reprieve.  We must grant ourselves time without computers, social media, emails and text messages, so that we have opportunity for spontaneous creative insights.

Many believe that over-use of technology is adversely affecting health in ways that could create long-term concerns if not positively managed. Some of these effects include: depression and inactivity, eye strain, dry eye, and blurred vision1; social anxiety and stress2; intermittent neck pain; insomnia and poor sleep quality3; and increased aggression4 and loss of attention span. There has even been the creation of a colloquial term to identify the discomfort that may arise at the thought of losing or being unable to use your mobile device. It is called ‘nomophobia’[no-mobile-phone phobia].5 You may be a nomophobe if you experience anxiety at the thought of losing your phone, having insufficient battery, or lack of service. 

Everyone is invested in their technology, and relies significantly on its uses and tools and conveniences.  It’s easy to forget that we can actually be OK without them from time to time. We may even be healthier as a result of putting them down.  

Here are a few suggestions for curbing your use of media devices and technology: 

Sleepaway camp without technology cell phonesTry setting specific times in your day that are screen-free. Try on the weekend, or choose a day out of the week to quiet your phone or device use. Start by setting aside small periods of time without your phone. Make these achievable intervals and then expand upon them. 

Try turning off all of the audible notifications that draw your attention (and the attention of others) to your device. Instead, check relevant messages and status apps on your phone at digestible intervals throughout the day, and respond accordingly. If you think about it, very few messages really require your immediate attention or response. 

Music and campfires at girls sleep away campLead by example and make your personal communications eye-to-eye, while being fully attentive and engaging in active listening. When you agree to meet with a friend to catch up, consider how your actions convey respect as you offer them your full attention. Complete all phone related concerns prior to sitting with your friend. Put the phone away in your bag or pocket, or even leave it in the car. 

Place your phone away from your bed or at least out of immediate reach. Many people use their phones as alarm clocks. Set a waking alarm, but turn off everything else and situate your phone away from the bed. It is recommended that you disconnect from all devices at least 2 hours before bed to promote better sleep and a healthier sleep cycles3 (just google ‘melanopsin and sleep’ for numerous articles/studies).

Instead of using your phone as a proxy to appear busy, or to occupy yourself while waiting for a friend, instead, observe the space around you - be present in that moment. Just be with yourself, or perhaps strike up a conversation - make a new friend. 

Obviously - Never use your phone while driving. Many states now have strict laws (with expensive fines) that prohibit hands-on use of phones or devices by anyone operating a vehicle. If you are a passenger in the car - particularly in the front seat - the extra set of eyes you place on the road, instead of down at your phone, can increase safety.

Meals should occur without electronic interference. One of the best things we can do for our health is to be more mindful of not just what we eat, but how. Being more present during the moments when you are taking in nutrition and sustenance can have lasting effects on your health. When you’re putting food in your mouth, put the devices away. 

Alpengirl summer camp staff technology free

Mobile devices are amazing and provide great advantages and convenience to our lives, but they can distract us from truly being present in life, and can distance us from reality. As a society, we have become less socially conscious - less aware of one another. People are less likely to be participants and to engage in practices of social etiquette like polite conversation, and sincere and active listening. But we can change that. When we take a break from our devices, we become more participatory in our life. We may see the world around us through new eyes, and become inspired in new ways, so we can show up fully in the most meaningful aspects of our lives.  

~ By Contributing Writer & Former Alpenguide Kimberley Green

1 see Vision Council re small, bright screens

2 Natural News 

3 Study shows that a 2-hour exposure to light from electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22% - Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4 Centers for Disease Control Study 

5 Psychology Today