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As we settle into the colder, darker months of the year, seasonal depression is beginning to affect many of us. During this time, it is especially important to take care not only of your physical health by following public health guidelines, but also of your mental health.

Amidst the stress of midterms, most university students spend countless hours behind screens. Studies show that this can take a toll on a person’s mental health, specifically women.

According to Statistics Canada, women aged 20-34 who maintained or decreased their screen time over the course of the pandemic felt an overall improvement in their mental wellbeing. In turn, women who increased their screen time reported feeling worse than before.

In 2021, it seems as though we are constantly working and socializing in the online world. While these advances in technology are wonderful and convenient, they fail to leave enough time to live a happy life outside of the virtual universe.

Perhaps I sound like a parent, scolding you to “Get off that damn phone!” However, I believe the older generation may have a point. A life that is not documented on Instagram is still worth celebrating, maybe even more so. 

Presented below are five benefits of reducing your screen time, as well as some alternative ways to fill your spare hours without getting too bored. 

Seeing an overall improvement in your mental health is probably the most beneficial part of limiting your screen time. As I mentioned, there is research that supports this claim. Rather than spending every free second of your day scrolling through TikTok, try picking up a novel instead. (Don’t know where to start? Reach out to me. I have so, so many recommendations.)

Promoting a stronger balance between your work and personal life is another benefit to decreasing your screen time. Not only is our school work done on our computers, but with online versions of textbooks and journal articles, we’re spending more time than ever working online rather than with physical books. Stepping away from the screen during your free time and using the time to pursue a hobby, such as  painting with watercolours, will allow you to separate your work life from your personal life. (Keep in mind that you don’t have to be good at something for it to be a hobby. For reference please see my bedroom art wall.)

Leave yourself time to be bored. In today’s world of overstimulation, boredom is a luxury. My next tip is quite simply to chill out. I know many of us Type-A’s feel guilty when we aren’t being productive, but screw that. Let yourself relax, lay in bed and DO NOTHING. This may be exactly what you need.

Allowing for a productive life outside of work is another benefit to decreasing one’s screen time. Getting lost in mindless scrolling is a problem too familiar to many. By consciously devoting time in your day which does not involve being glued to your phone, you will have the opportunity to take care of all of your newfound adult responsibilities. Keeping up with housework can be overwhelming, but making time for it is half the battle.

Getting a better sleep. Establishing a nighttime routine that limits time spent on your phone nor staring at a tv gives your brain time to shut off completely, allowing for a better night’s sleep. My bedtime activity of choice is journaling, but there are many things you can do to wind down. Reading, colouring or simply counting sheep before bed will help you unwind, as opposed to being stimulated by your invite to the Lululemon buy and sell on Facebook.

I know that many of us are struggling with adjusting to the so-called “college lifestyle.” Our lives have drastically changed, pandemic issues aside. My purpose in composing this article was double-sided. On one hand, the older I get, the more drawn I feel to life outside of the internet, away from prying eyes and external validation. On the other hand, I feel my big sister instincts kicking in, wanting to make sure the people I care about are looking after themselves. One of the things I admire most about Gen Z is how unapologetically we speak of mental health. My parting advice to you is to talk to someone about your mental health, face-to-face, phones tucked away and out of sight.

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Angèle Hatton

Dalhousie '24

Angèle is a second year journalism student at the University of King's College who has always dreamed of being a writer. In her spare time, you'll find her listening to audiobooks, watching Gilmore Girls (again), or scouring the internet for rare squishmallows. In her opinion, you can never have too many.
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