I sit here typing this on a screen. You sit there, reading this on a screen. We know that screens aren’t the best for us, but our lives seem to revolve around them. With more and more mental health problems, we have to consider what screens are doing to us.
I’ve read that screens can cause inflammation in the brain. We know that it affects neurotransmitters and hormones. We know it can cause self-image issues, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. We know it can cause isolation. But what else does it do from a Chinese Medical perspective?
Disturbs the Shen
The Shen in our spirit, our consciousness. During the day it leaves the Heart and lifts to the head and views the world through our eyes. Eyes are the window to the soul, remember? To sleep, the Shen roots down into the Heart to receive nourishment. When people, especially kids, are on screens too much, their Shen has a hard time rooting back down into the Heart and problems like insomnia happen. Other problems like troubles regulating emotions, trouble thinking independently, problems with grounding back into the body, and problems balancing the physical body occur. Anxiety, depression, suicide, homicide….so many mental health problems are tied with a disturbed Shen. Where attention goes, energy flows. If you’re focusing your attention outwards, you’re going to have problems within.
Fogs up the Yi
The Yi is the intellectual spirit. This is controlled by the Spleen and has a direct connection with our digestion. When we’re constantly receiving input and the MASSIVE amounts of information like we are now, it weighs heavy on our Yi. This will create issues of brain fog and memory problems. This also connects to our gut and can hurt our digestion. Especially if we eat in front of screens. Again, where attention goes energy flows so if we’re focused on screens while eating, we’re distracted from hunger/fullness signals and miss out on connection with family.
Stagnates the Hun
The Hun is the spirit of our Liver and the one that lives on after our body expires. This is the soul that contains your purpose for existence. The Liver organ is the regulator of energy flow in the body. When we get frustrated, depressed, or have other big emotions (like social media, movies, or games can trigger) then it’s job of free flow starts to stagnate. This causes a biological mess within the body and starts irritating the Shen, which eventually disturbs it. On top of all that, if we’re so focused on what’s going on in screen land, we’re ignoring our own soul's purpose which leads to all sorts of mental health problems. Humans need to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment to live a balanced and fulfilled life. If we don’t protect our precious time, it can slip away.
Super interesting, in September 2021, the Chinese government put screen time restrictions on the youth. It limits their gaming to a total of 3 hours per week. That’s one hour per day on weekends and holidays. It appears they also have modified their social media apps to only allot a certain amount of time, up to 40 minutes per day. Now I am for less government and in my opinion, this is a clear government overreach, but I believe this will put their youth at an advantage compared to other countries. Parents might want to consider why they’re doing this and put restrictions on their children's and their own screen times for the sake of their health, mental wellbeing, and their future.
What to do?
Screens are a necessary part of life. We depend on them to function in our society, for work, for school. But you get to control how often you get breaks from your screen and what you do outside of hours you have to be on them. Are you taking 5-10 minute breaks every hour of work to help your eyes, get your blood flowing, and give your brain a break? Kids get recess, you need it too! After work are you mindlessly scrolling? Researching? Watching programming? Are you making sure to get out into nature? Exercise? Connect with loved ones? Are you living a purposeful life? Are you doing things you enjoy? Start thinking of things you can do without screens. I’m sure you understand the habit of picking up your phone and checking notifications or apps every time you’re bored. Delete apps, put time restrictions on them, set alarms, whatever you need to do to change this pattern. Take a month and really restrict your time and notice how it makes you feel. Are you happier? More connected? Feeling more fulfilled? Do you finally feel rested because you’re not taking in SO MUCH information? Watch your life transform! I want to hear if it makes a difference for you or your kids!