Is your screen time depressing?

ScreensAre you willing to try an experiment? Find something to take notes with. Choose one day this week. Mark the beginning and ending times whenever you find yourself with a screen in front of your nose. A screen could be a TV screen, computer screen, iPhone screen, or tablet screen. How much of your day did a screen absorb? On a scale of 1-10, where would you rate how satisfying and fulfilling your day was?

It is estimated that 340 million people worldwide suffer from depression. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine reviewed 11 other studies and found a significant correlation between sedentary behavior – like watching TV and surfing the internet – and depressive symptoms. Seven of eleven studies found that higher levels of sedentary behavior corresponded to higher risk of depressive symptoms. Two of these seven were noted as being of high quality research. Of the four that differed in their findings, two were of low quality. Now it should be noted that just because sedentary behavior and depressive symptoms seem to be linked, it is not necessarily the case that the one causes the other. It could be that depressive symptoms and sedentary behaviors simply go hand in hand. However, the authors of this study cite literature suggesting that even low amounts of physical activity have a positive effect on mental health.

couple watching tvWhile technology has beneficial sides to it, every positive innovation can have harmful aspects as well. Couples often report that they have low amounts of quality time together – and even time spent together tends to be focused on a screen. It is common in our culture to be doing one thing while also having the TV on, a movie going, the radio on, or their smartphone out. What would happen if only one primary activity was the focus of one’s full attention? While a moderate amount of passive entertainment can bring an enjoyable element to life, it also has the ability to suck the life right out of life!

Here is the second part of the experiment. Find your notes from before. Choose another day this week. Conscientiously find alternatives to placing yourself in front of a screen. Mark the beginning and ending times whenever you find yourself fully engaged with another person, spending time outdoors, or exerting energy in physical exercise. On a scale of 1-10, where would you rate how satisfying and fulfilling your day was? How did it go?

We would love for you to share your results with us in the comment section!

If you think you have depression or depressive symptoms, check out the following articles by the National Institute of Mental Health:

Teychenne, M., Ball, K., & Salmon, J. (2010). Sedentary Behavior and Depression Among Adults: A Review. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 17, 246-254.

Scott Rampy, M.MFT, LMFTA

Resident Therapist at Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute

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