Easter has passed and the weather has us spoiled! I and my partner went to beautiful York for the weekend and had an amazing experience. It is a small, but adorable city full of tourists, small independent shops and streets to discover. Beautiful buildings, rivers and greenery. Our Airbnb was centrally located, so everything was within the reach. We even did a ghost tour as apparently, York is a very haunted city, which fortunately we did not fully experience. We got talking to a few locals and you can tell they adore York. There is something about going further up north- people seem to be highly proud of the place they live in and are often so welcoming. What I love about getaways like these is that our daily routine changes for a bit. We seem to be more present, less stressed and less distracted. Part of it is thanks to our phones and laptops. My partner spends at least 8 hours a day staring at the screen at work, where I am lucky to have a job where I can run around adjusting people. It does not, however, mean that I do not spend too much time on my phone outside the practice. There are so many great aspects of technology nowadays, but some things have lost their charm, and they can even be harmful to our health, relationships and general motivation in life.
- Sleep and blue light. Harvard research compared the blue and green light effects on our melatonin levels (a hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythm) and found that the blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much. Dim red lights are also found to have less effect on the melatonin and circadian rhythms, therefore, sleep.
- Mental health. Especially during lockdowns, more stress and less access to the outside world have had a massive effect on mental health. Although there were many banana bread made, there was also a massive increase in screen use in households, including people working from home and some just having nothing to do than sitting online (especially those made redundant). Excessive screen time is found to be associated with a range of negative mental health outcomes such as psychological problems, low emotional stability, and a greater risk for depression or anxiety. There are of course some positive aspects of having online access especially when you live far away from your loved ones. Plus- I have never heard of zoom weddings before… and then my ex-course mate sent me an invitation!!
- I see a lot of parents that are trying to distract their babies with screens. I am sure I would do the same, so there is no judgement, however, there is an effect that comes with it. Patricia Kuhl, one of the world’s leading brain scientists has found multiple ways the screens affect our little ones. ”Little babies, under a year old, do not learn from a machine- even when shown captivating videos, the difference in learning in comparison to real life is extraordinary. You get genius learning from a live human being, and you get zero learning from a machine”, she says. While reading storybooks out loud gives children time to process words, images and voices, the constant absorption of on-screen images and messages affects their attention span and focus. It can even inhibit a child’s ability to read faces and learn social skills-important factors needed to develop empathy.
- Recent studies have found a significant negative association between screen time and physical activity in children/teenagers aged 10–16 years. Additionally, a study conducted among children, aged 7–12 years, demonstrated a relationship between low physical activity levels and high self-reported screen time. I remember myself at that age and I was obsessed with online games. I was waking up at night whilst my parents were asleep and staying up late whenever possible, which had a massive impact on my energy and stress levels during the day. There was no way I was excited about going outside and enjoying a little run.
There are some tips that some might find helpful:
- Avoid looking at bright screens 2-3 hours before going to sleep to improve the chance of having a better quality sleep.
- If you are a night shift worker or use screens at night-try wearing blue light blocking glasses
- Change your lights to dim red lights-these are less likely to shift circadian rhythms and affect melatonin
- Whenever possible, expose yourself more to the natural sunlight during the day.
- Take as many breaks as possible in between screen time. Give your eyes some rest.
- Limit your child’s and teenager’s access to screen time during the day. Babies are not designed for screen time, unfortunately.
Otherwise, remember, this type of weather does not last that long in the United Kingdom, so leave your laptop for a bit and enjoy a walk outside, even if it is just around the block. You will feel more refreshed.