Summer is here and signs are finally emerging after our cold winter. Time to get outside put our feet in the grass and enjoy the smells and sounds of summer.
Recently I attended a summit on technology called the Digital Dementia Summit and obtained some valuable information to share. Technology is everywhere. Certainly it is a valuable tool to gain access to information, connect with friends and even learn and obtain degrees. What happens when we overuse and what does our technology do to our health and relationships. Currently I see more people in my practice with anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight concerns, cognitive impairments and fatigue; so is the use of our devices contributing?
Neuroplasticity (Brain Plasticity) is a function of the brain to change in response to the body and our environment. So the effects of computer time and cell phone use can affect the way our brain molds and changes. Screen time also stimulates Dopamine which is our feel good hormone. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key factor in motivation, productivity and focus. Prolonged activities on screens especially doing things we enjoy increases Dopamine. Alternately it is increased through exercise, nutritional foods and affectionate touch. The other point the speakers made that I found profound is they are seeing increases in both Amyloid Beta 42 and the Tau protein in brains of individuals who have prolonged use of screen time. Both of these are associated with older adults who develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Prolonged use of screen time can affect health in other ways such as our posture. Many tend to sit hunched over when on cell phones or texting. Computer activities are a sedentary activity. With a sedentary lifestyle you do not stimulate brain derived neurotrophic factor which is significant in easing depression and anxiety and is a protector against neurodegenerative diseases. Sedentary lifestyle also decreases muscle mass. The overstimulation of technology even with the connections we make through facebook and similar platforms can lead to social isolation and loneliness. How many of you have heard of the term FOMO (fear of missing out). This is a phrase used where there is the constant checking of phones or messages becausethey feel they will miss an event or not be included.
Technology is necessary and the use of screen time is important in almost any job and our educational system. So I want to leave you with some tips for your health while using technology
- Stand as much as possible during computer use. Ask your employer about getting a standing desk at work.
- When using cell phones and texting hold your arms out instead of close to your body this will help with posture and keeps your shoulders back.
- Set rules in your household such as no cell phones at dinner table or in restaurants.
- While driving in the car have your family members or friends put their phones away and talk to each other.
- Create new family times playing board games, cards.
- Get outside more, practice grounding by putting your feet in the grass, take more walks hear the sounds and smell the colors.
- Summer is a great time to pick up a new family activity, going kayaking, paddleboarding, taking day road trips and camping. You can have fun with smaller children camping in your backyard.
So as we get into the summer months, talk with your family members and get them outside. Set boundaries with screen time and prevent the isolation the physical and neurological affects that are associated with prolonged use. Escape into other activities with family and friends instead of escaping into your devices.