We live our lives almost entirely immersed in technology.  Whether we check our email as the kids get ready for school, return a text in the middle of a grocery store or huddle around the television at night, we are rarely without some gadget competing for our attention.

This is not to say that the digitization of our society is bad.  It can, however, distract us from living a truly full and fulfilling life.  Too many of us interrupt an in-person conversation with a friend to check social media or ignore our families in the evening while we sit in front of a laptop.  It’s easy to see why people grow apart and we all struggle with face-to-face communication.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, conducted a study that yielded the following sobering statistics:

  • We consume three times as much information on a daily basis than we did in 1960.
  • 61% of respondents cannot ignore their device if they’ve received a text, email or call.
  • 81% are willing to interrupt conversations and meals to check their devices.
  • 61% of people feel jealous, depressed or annoyed after checking social media updates.
  • 73% of participants feel that technology contributes to their stress.
  • 3 out of 5 people spend more free time on their computer than with their spouse.

There are some real benefits to unplugging, even if it’s just for a little bit every day.  Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Create a Technology-Free Zone

Designate an area of your house that is completely free of smartphones, televisions and other devices. Make it a comfortable place where someone can go to relax. Consider adding some books, cushions, a yoga mat and/or soft lighting to enhance the peacefulness of the space.

Pay Attention to How Social Media Affects You

Are you constantly shaking your head over things that upset you on social media sites?  Do you argue with your friends or followers over things that really shouldn’t matter? Are you annoyed by the non-stop stream of oversharing (from baby pictures to details of a recent bout with the flu)?  Next time you find yourself compelled to visit a social media site, take inventory of how you are feeling before, during and after.  If the experience often leaves you feeling irritated, angry or frustrated, consider reducing the amount of time you spend on those sites or deactivate your profile for a while.

Resist the Temptation

If you’re in the middle of a chat with a friend and find yourself wanting to reach for your phone, fight the urge. Not only is it incredibly rude but it’s also usually a waste of time. Chances are, the cat memes you just laughed at are far less important than the moments you’ve missed in real life.

Commit to One Tech-Free Day a Week

So many people freak out at the idea of giving up their gadgets for an evening but, really, what does that say about us?  Can we not find ways of entertaining ourselves?  Is real life so terrible that we must spend all day, every day avoiding it?  Brave souls might consider going technology-free for just one evening a week. Get some board games, go bowling, read or write in a journal (gasp – with an actual pen and paper!). Take this time to connect with yourself and others.

Find a New Hobby

While we’re making changes, why not find a new hobby?  Try to stick with something that keeps your hands busy so that you can’t check your phone too often (if at all).

No matter what approach you take, finding ways to minimize the amount of time you spend glued to technology will likely lead to improved relationships, more free time and reduced stress.