Living the digital age, we spend a lot of time staring at glowing screens. Our mobile devices are incredible tools. Through a smartphone we have instant access to unlimited knowledge. However, spending hours each day watching funny cat videos may not be the best use of your time. Americans spend anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours each day on their smartphones. For those who far exceed those numbers, the habit is damaging to their health.
According to Psychology Today excessive screen time — defined as more than 6-hours per day — restructures the matter that makes up your brain. This restructuring affects the brain’s ability to communicate, increases cravings, and results in generally poorer cognitive performance. Excessive device usage has also been linked to a risk of metabolic syndrome: a combination of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Everything in moderation. Be selective about how and when you use your mobile device. To remedy excessive screen time, we suggest replacing the time you spend “socializing” on social media with face-to-face socializing with your friends and family.
5 Health Benefits of Face-to-Face Socialization
1. Alleviates Depression
Spending time with your friends and family in-person alleviates symptoms of depression. Several high-profile studies highlight the mental health benefits of regular face-to-face social interactions. The individuals who participated in the studies were less likely to report symptoms of depression, compared with participants who relied heavily on phone calls and digital communication for socialization. Use your phone to make plans!
2. Stronger Immune System
You can’t get a hug over the phone. Giving or receiving a proper hug, where your heart touches the other person’s heart, has numerous positive effects on your health. Hugs release Oxytocin in your brain (the happy chemical!) which alleviates depression, eliminates feelings of loneliness, and even boosts your immune system by reducing stress in your body. A hug a day keeps the doctor away.
3. Improved Cognitive Function
Loneliness is one of the most difficult feelings a person can experience. Don’t isolate yourself. According to a 2014 study, socializing can lower blood pressure and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. These positive benefits create a physiological environment that is optimal for peak brain function. More recent studies have even found a link between regular socializing and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. That’s a very powerful incentive to get out with your friends this weekend.
4. Improved Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is the most prominent byproduct of socializing. Having a group of people you “belong” with makes you feel special. This feeling of importance results in a self-esteem boost. Self-esteem doesn’t just make you “feel good,” it also improves your overall quality of life. People with healthy self-confidence are more likely to be promoted at work and earn more over the course of their lifetime.
5. Reduced Stress and Anxiety
For most people, socializing with a group of friends greatly reduces stress and anxiety. When you’re socializing, your mind is occupied with “real thoughts.” You are not left alone with your obsessive thoughts, spinning in circles, obsessing about the past, or worrying about the future. You are living in the moment. In essence, through face-to-face contact, you are reaping the benefits of mindfulness.
The same health benefits can be achieved through daily mindful meditation. You can begin your practice today by listening to this 3-minute guided meditation or attend a group meditation or workshop to reap the benefits of socializing!
Visit avsmindfulness.com to learn how more about how instructional mindfulness meditation can benefit your health. Keep an eye out for our app, slated for release in 2018!