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Do you tend to feel down in the winter? Cooler temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and overall bleak weather can take a big toll on your mental health. You’re not alone if this happens to you. Seasonal depression is a real and taxing mental health concern. Let’s break down this condition and go over some ways to manage it.Continue reading
Reducing Screen Time & The Dangers of Overexposure to Blue Light
It has become common knowledge that computers, phones, and television screens are bad for our health, partly due to the blue light they emit. Yet, as a society, we collectively have difficulty reducing our time looking at screens. How do you tackle reducing your overall screen time?
Let’s talk about the harmful effects of too much screen time on our health and wellbeing and cover some practical tips for successfully reducing screen time.
Problems of Screen Overuse
Between overexposure to blue light, sitting too much, and other aspects of screen time, electronic devices increase the risk of numerous health problems.
Health Risks From Screen Time:
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Back, neck, and shoulder pain
Challenges of Cutting Down Screen Time
Many people find it challenging to reduce screen time, despite knowing the downsides. After all, there are many reasons for using electronics in modern times. Not knowing how to minimize screen time translates into people being in front of screens for a significant amount of time, sometimes totaling 11 hours per day.
Screen Time Purposes:
- Work, as many jobs involve staring at a screen
- Downtime, as many hobbies involve e-readers, video games, watching TV and movies, and other screen activities
- Social activities, as screen time helps us keep in touch with others by engaging with texts, videos, social media, and so on
Steps To Help You Reduce Screen Time
1. Take Breaks
Start simply by taking regular breaks from screen use, and make sure you’re not switching one screen for another during these breaks. Use breaks to move and stretch, standing if you can. Also, give your eyes a break from staring at a screen by at least looking away from screens every half hour and blinking regularly.
Even if you need to keep staring at a screen, you could try to counteract some of the harmful health effects that come from sitting too much by doing it. For example, consider exercising while watching TV or using a standing desk or balance ball chair while working at a computer. Also, while sitting, aim to follow proper ergonomics and improve your posture.
2. Rely on Technology To Help
Use technology to your advantage. For example, you could use an alarm to remind you to take regular breaks, wearables that show you your activity level, and apps or programs that help you track and manage your time better. You could even try functions like app usage limits on your smartphone.
3. Track Screen Time
Just as you might list everything you eat and drink for a week to understand your diet, you can track how much time you spend in front of screens toward the goal of reducing it. You may be surprised at the total amount of time spent in front of screens, especially when you add up screen time for work, downtime, and social purposes.
Try tracking your usage across all screens — televisions, computers, smartphones, etc. — for a day or week to get an idea of your usage. Also, make a note of the purpose of each session.
This information will help you note whether you spend way too much time in front of a screen and find areas you can cut. For example, if you note significant amounts of time on downtime screen activities you don’t feel rewarded by, such as mindless video game apps or social media, you may want to reduce or cut those out. Consider simple fixes like only allowing a specific screen activity for an allotted time, just as you might do for your children.
4. Replace Screen Time
Reducing time in front of a screen doesn’t have to be framed as losing something. Instead, you can find better activities to fill your time that are more rewarding and better for your health. When you find a moment of free time, instead of reaching for your smartphone or TV remote, try something else, such as:
- Going outside
- Visiting a friend in person
- Practicing meditation or mindfulness
- Making time for self-care
- Taking a nap
- Engaging in a hobby or creative project
- Trying another wellness activity
5. Try Light Therapy
Light therapy may sound counterintuitive since one of the problems of screens is the blue light they emit. Nonetheless, it all depends on the type of light you’re exposed to. Red and near-infrared light wavelengths help our cells to produce energy and function optimally.
These types of light can help counteract some of the consequences of our modern lives and using screens too much, such as fatigue, muscle pain, stress, weakened immune systems, insomnia, and mental health concerns.
The winter holiday season definitely brings moments of true joy. But let’s be honest — it also comes with its share of physical and emotional minefields. From losing sleep to having one too many slices of pie, most of us find it challenging to head into the New Year with all of our wellness goals intact. Here are a few tips to keep things healthier.
Strategize Your Party-Going
Spending a significant portion of the holiday season in other people’s homes is an almost surefire way to lose control of your healthy dietary habits. But there are still ways to make good choices.
- Stick to the relatively healthy appetizers such as shrimp cocktail or the veggies on the crudités platter.
- At a sit-down or buffet dinner, load your plate with lean proteins and lightly-dressed vegetables. Try to fill up on these, and have small servings of the stuffing and desserts.
- If the holiday just wouldn’t be the same without a specific rich dessert or buttery side dish, plan your day to accommodate that treat. Have a lighter breakfast or lunch, and try to work in some exercise before the party.
- Don’t let guilt over one bad day lead you to give up on the whole season. If you’ve overdone it with food and drink, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, work on having lighter meals and more workouts to help make up for it.
Cultivate De-Stressing Techniques
Stress can be an even bigger health risk than food and alcohol during the holiday season. With time and money in shorter supply, anxiety levels can easily be ratcheted up if you don’t get a handle on them.
The old sayings really are true: Your family will remember the time spent together, rather than perfectly-wrapped presents or lavish dessert tables. Before the season ever kicks into high gear, start repeating your mantra of choice about letting go of the small details.
Whether it’s a grouchy person in the department store line or the sister-in-law who won’t stop debating politics, there’s no question that not everyone you encounter will be filled with the holiday spirit. Do whatever it takes to let these Grinches roll off your back through cultivating mindfulness this season. Spend more time in meditation or prayer, if that helps. During a potential conflict, take a few deep breaths, count to 10 — and look forward to venting with your friends the next day.
Walk It Off
Rather than thinking of exercise as the “penance” you have to pay to make up for over-indulging, consider it a gift that can help dissipate some of your holiday stress. Don’t neglect that brisk walk or home gym session even when you’re busy. There’s nothing quite like sweat and endorphins for relieving stress and making you feel more positive about the holiday season.
Make Health and Safety a Top Priority
Each year, doctors warn us about the increased risk of personal injury, chronic pain, and serious illness that arise during the holiday season.
Be Aware of Fire Hazards
Holiday chaos and flammable objects make for a volatile combination, whether it’s the gravy on the stove, Christmas tree lights, outdoor decorations, dining room candles, space heaters, wood stoves, or fireplaces. Get in the habit of making sure everything is off or secured before leaving the room or turning in for the night.
Catch Up on Wellness Appointments
Take advantage of school and work vacations by ensuring your family is up to date on medical appointments, flu shots, and other vaccinations. Indoor gatherings and crowded malls pose more of a risk of spreading illness during winter. Needless to say, frequent handwashing is more important than ever, as are all of your therapeutic appointments.
Don’t be in so much of a hurry to reach your destination that you ignore measures that keep everyone safe. Wear your seatbelts at all times, stick to the speed limit, and, of course, call an Uber if you’ve had too much to drink. If you’ll be traveling long distances, make sure to adhere to face-covering rules specified by the airline, bus, or train company.
Protect the Littlest Ones
Toddlers and pets have a way of getting underfoot, and the holidays are no exception. Keep them safe by always making sure pot handles on the stove point inward and that any cooking devices that plug in don’t trail on the ground. Of course, keep things out of reach that are dangerous when ingested, such as chocolate with dogs, and alcohol, mistletoe, and holly for kids and animals alike.
Don’t Forget Selfcare
It’s not just “pampering” yourself when you make sure to fit therapeutic activities like TheraLight sessions into your wellness routine. Especially during the holidays, these types of wellness appointments can help ease those tensed-up muscles, soothe anxiety, and boost your immune system’s response. Talk to your doctor or red light therapy provider to learn more.
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