10 Ways To REALLY Switch Off

Natasha Wynarczyk

Always playing around on your smartphone? Spend all day staring at a screen? It could be stressing you out. Natasha Wynarczyk has 10 tips for switching off and letting your mind relax

We all live increasingly hectic lifestyles, constantly relying on multitasking and our smartphones to get the job done. But this is taking a toll on our wellbeing.

More people in the UK are suffering from stress than ever before, with 6,370 hospital admissions for stress from May 2011-2012, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. A recent survey said 10 per cent of us are even suffering from 'smartphone addiction', leaving us anxious and feeling socially isolated.

Here, we look at 10 ways to help you switch off and live in the moment.

1. Mindfulness training
A brain training technique which looks set to be a new craze. Mindfulness training can radically improve your ability to cope with stress by teaching you to stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. The technique draws on breathing exercises used in activities such as yoga to help you take a step back from your emotions and observe them from a detached perspective. Experts from the Mental Health Foundation have said their online mindfulness course, which you can download here, is proving to be as effective as face-to-face therapy.

2. Keep your phone in your bag when meeting friends
We've all been for dinner with a friend before and have sat there feeling bored and unloved when trying to speak to them and they're constantly checking their phone. We've probably also all committed this kind of rudeness against somebody too. Try to fight the urge to check your emails and actually talk to your friends when you meet up with them - a recent study showed people who interact face to face are 50 per cent happier than those who interact mainly on social media. The former also laugh more, which is a great way to de-stress.

3. Turn off your phone and computer before bed
Always tired? Find it hard to fall asleep at night? Many of us have fallen into the trap of checking our smartphones or emails right before bed. Experts saying using electronic equipment an hour before bed can disrupt our circadian rhythms and stimulate our brains making it harder to relax and fall asleep. Make a pact with yourself to turn your phone off 1-2 hours before bed and do something more relaxing, like having a bath or reading a book instead.

4. Stop alert tones
If you feel you need to respond to every single message tone or noise your phone makes, put it on silent. This may sound simple, but will completely improve your concentration and allow you to focus on what you need to do, whether it be working or making dinner.

5. Make time to talk to your partner
How many times have you tried to speak to your partner while also watching TV or browsing the internet only to find yourself getting distracted and zoning out? This kind of behaviour can damage relationships. Make sure you save time to have a proper conversation with your partner and make a point of giving them your full attention while they are speaking to you.

6. Consider how long you spend on social networks
Are you spending most of your time checking your social networks? A recent survey by OnePoll found a third of UK social media users spend over an hour a day, with 13 per cent spending over two hours checking their Facebook page - and women were the biggest offenders. Four per cent of these people thought having more friends on the site than their real life friends was important. Media psychology expert Dr David Giles from Winchester University, said: 'If all your friends are on Facebook or Twitter all the time, you risk cutting yourself off from a social life by not doing the same. So you spend several hours every day online simply to avoid feeling left out of conversations, or being isolated from your friends.' Instead make time to speak to your family, friends and partner in person and organise activities you can do together away from the computer.

7. Take breaks at work
We all can feel a bit chained to our desks at work, staring at a computer screen all day. According to BUPA, taking short, 'mini breaks' every hour can help your body relax and recover, as well as prevent a host of nasty problems such as eye strain, back pain, tense muscles and stress. They advise leaving your desk to speak to colleagues face-to-face rather than emailing or phoning them, getting up to make a hot drink or get water or taking the opportunity to use the stairs if you need to head to a different floor.

8. Have a 24-hour 'technology detox'
Trying out a 'technology detox' is a hit with tech bloggers Stateside, and it's something we could benefit from trying out over here from time-to-time. Obviously, if you use your computer at work it might be better to save this for a weekend or day off, mainly for productivity's sake. Advocates say they come out of the 24 hours feeling happier, more refreshed and lose the urge to keep checking their emails and social networks. If you really panic without your phone or internet then wean yourself off slowly, for a couple of hours or so here and there per day, slowly building up to a 24-hour-long period.

9. Meditate
Taking 15 minutes out of your day to meditate comes with a host of health benefits. The activity is scientifically proven to help reduce stress, end sleep problems and even reduce the symptoms of chronic conditions such as asthma. Meditation techniques are also used in mindfulness training, allowing you to respond to problems in a thought-out and well-considered way.

10. Allow yourself to be bored
Fear of missing out, or FOMO to use the increasingly-used abbreivation, is a type of anxiety caused by worrying about not attending social events or using our time effectively. People aged 18-33 are believed to be most affected by this, and it's only become worse the more we live out our lives on social media. However, having some time out to let yourself get bored is no bad thing, as recent neuroscience research shows being bored can actual boost creativity, as daydreamers involves the same processes that govern imagination.

You can read the article on mindfulness in the May issue of Marie Claire - out now!

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