Your phone dings, you open it to clear the notification, and all of a sudden you’re scrolling through social media for an hour. We’ve all been there and it’s no secret that the digital time drain is real.
From our phones and laptops to tablets, we’re not only hyper-connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but also hyper-distracted. Technology definitely has great benefits, but when we spend hours a day staring at screens it can take a toll on our mental health, sleep quality, and productivity levels.
However, there are steps you can take to help cut down your screen time and create a healthier relationship with your devices, such as taking a digital detox. The word “detox” can feel daunting at first, but the idea is to help you let go of unnecessary stress that stems from constant connectivity by temporarily forgoing your digital devices.
“A digital detox is an intentional period of time without using digital technology (i.e. no use of the internet, social media, email, etc.),” says digital detox expert Tanya Goodin, founder of Time To Log Off and author of My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open. “It’s a time to connect with the world outside your smartphone, to rest, clear your head, reconnect with friends and family, and maybe do some of your favorite analog activities.”
Loosening your grip on your devices doesn’t need to feel difficult. Continue reading to learn about the benefits of unplugging for a period of time and tips on how to do so.
Why you should try a digital detox
There are plenty of reasons why you might want to take a break from technology.
“Consistently people talk about experiencing an improved quality of sleep, strengthening their closest relationships, spending time outside in nature, and taking part in hobbies and interests which make them feel healthier and happier,” says Goodin. In addition, “taking a break from being permanently ‘on’ gives our brains the downtime they need from constant stimulation to function properly. Some people have even found regular digital detoxes have made them more creative by giving them a bit of the ‘headspace’ that’s needed for problem solving and creativity.”
Tips on how to unplug
For many of us, being immersed in the digital world is just a part of daily life. And with the majority of work being done on computers and phones these days, giving up all screen time is simply impractical. Luckily, you don’t have to completely break up with your devices to do a digital detox.
“It can be first thing in the morning or not using electronics for an entire weekend,” says New York and New Jersey-based psychotherapist Kimberly Hershenson. “It helps you to reconnect with yourself and with people in real life.”
It’s important to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to cutting down your screen time, it’s more about setting boundaries that work for you in your own life. Instead of cutting yourself off cold turkey, focus on finding ways that benefit, rather than harm, your emotional and physical health.
Here are some tips to get started:
Set boundaries and curfews. “Set clear boundaries for places and times when you use your phone, such as ‘no email after 8pm’, ‘no smartphones in the bedroom’, and/or ‘no scrolling after midnight’,” says Goodin.
Designate focus times. “Try turning your phone on airplane mode or leaving it in another room while with others,” suggests Dr. Hershenson. “Just a few hours without the phone and the desire to check it can help break the cycle.”
Turn off notifications. Luckily, some phone companies have created features that allow you to put your connected devices on “do not disturb” mode and help you set limits. If you have access to this feature, give it a try. “Not having the constant pings helps reduce mental stress and makes you feel more in control of the day,” says Dr. Hershenson.
Put your device in a drawer during quality time. We all want to be present and give our full attention to our friends and family when spending quality time, however, our devices can be a distraction.
“Establish tech-free zones,” says Dr. Hershenson. “Create rules around events or places, and enforce them with every family member or guest. For example, don’t bring your devices to the table, and don’t take them out of your pocket or purse when you’re dining with friends. If you have family movie nights, phones and tablets must stay in bedrooms. The break may feel like a fight at first, but soon, everyone will appreciate the opportunity to withdraw.”
Leave your phone somewhere safe while running errands. “Make a habit of going out for a walk, a gym trip, or just popping to the shops without your phone,” says Goodin. This gives you a quick technology break and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
Choose a couple days a week to not wake up to your phone. If the first thing you reach for is your phone, break the habit by leaving it in another room when you go to bed. “Invest in an alarm clock, and don’t touch your phone for the first hour after you wake up,” says Dr. Hershenson. “If an hour seems too long, start with 15 minutes and work your way up.” Try it just on the weekends and allow yourself to sleep in if that works for you.
Reward yourself. The best way to stick to a new habit is by rewarding yourself! “Each day, give yourself an hour of ‘you time’,” says Dr. Hershenson. “Treat yourself to a manicure or a coffee from your favorite place.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.