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Unplug to Reconnect with What Matters

Our devices are creating real problems in our health, in our communities, and in our families. Before you jump to conclusions, let me be clear that this is not a one-sided rant against technology. I love my iPhone. The design is elegant, and it enables a level of flexibility in my life that simply was not possible in a pre-smartphone world. I can travel and still do the work that is important to me, and I am keenly interested in our ability to leverage the power of mobile apps and fitness devices to make the Habits of Health even more accessible to more people.

However, an old saying goes, “Everything in moderation.”

Our devices have a huge potential for good, but our infatuation (and some cases outright addiction) to phones, tablets, computers, and televisions is causing measurable harm in our lives. We need to learn how to take back control of how we use our devices and ultimately how we interact and engage with the world around us.

We already know that social media use (largely done from mobile devices) has been correlated to a number of poor health consequences and we have talked extensively about how screens can impact sleep, but let’s frame our conversation around what we stand to gain by adjusting our device habits rather than focusing on what we lose.

What if I told you that using your phone less could improve your relationship with your child and perhaps improve their behavior?

Anecdotally, we know that smartphones make us less social, meaning we spend more time looking at our screens than we do engaging with the people there with us. But new research suggests that “heavy parent digital technology use” correlates with poor parent-child interactions which may lead to problem behaviors later on. The study authors, publishing their work in Child Development, dubbed this phenomenon “technoference.”

Granted, this research is new, and the study authors are quick to note that much more research needs to be done to fully understand this link and its impacts, but think about it. If you are on your phone, you are not giving your family your attention. We simply are not effective multitaskers, and it is not much of a stretch to imagine how months and months of dividing your attention between your screen and your family can water-down your relationships with the people you love most.

For me, optimal wellbeing is the key to unlocking more memories with my wife and my daughters. Habits of Health give me the longevity I need to stay an active part of their lives and to be present for as many moments as possible, big and small. Those moments are the ultimate reward.

Again, I’m not suggesting that you destroy your devices and move to a secluded cabin in the woods. Instead, practice being more mindful of your choices and introduce more designated “no screen” time into your life. Start with turning off your devices for family dinners and shutting everything down an hour before you go to sleep.

If you look away from the screen, there is a whole world full of people who would love your attention. Be present with them.

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