Have you ever tried a digital detox? It sounds a bit new-age and millenial, until you stop to think about just how much technology you use every single day. Many of us will begin our day with our smartphones, often before we’ve even pulled back the bed covers. Then there’s TV, a tablet, laptops, a Google home hub or Amazon Alexa device.
Our parents’ generation were probably the last people who were able to finish work, come home and properly close the door on the world until the morning: no emails; no Slack or WhatsApp messages; no phone calls about things that really could have waited until tomorrow. These days not only do we have constant access to our work, our email, our Facebook notifications - most of us carry them around in our pockets all day!
This constant exposure to the digital World can have a detrimental effect on our health. We’ve already spoken about how the blue light emitted from a screen can affect your ability to sleep, but this “always-on” lifestyle where we never really disconnect from the digital World can affect us in more ways than one. If this sounds like you, then you may be in need of a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
A digital detox is where you turn off all technology around you for a deliberate period of time until your head starts to feel clearer and the urge to scroll dies down. It can be as easy as switching off your notifications or turning off your phone, just for one day a week.
How technology has affected our lives
Remember the days when if we wanted to find something out we would have to go to the local library? Or a few years later when we would have to power up a big desktop computer and wait for a dial-up connection before we could find what we needed? The days before Google and Wikipedia where if you didn’t know something you really had to want to know about it before you went off hunting for the information.
These days, we barely need to move our arms; we can pick up our mobile phones and search to our hearts’ content, often while also watching TV or carrying on a conversation. This is definitely convenient but our brains are designed to seek out information; we get a little dopamine hit when we find the information we were after, and this can be addicting - meaning that we then want to find out about the next thing, and the next and the next.
The average person touches their smartphone 2617 times per day, and 87% of us will check our phones between midnight and 5am. While email and social media have their place in society, this intrusion into our lives can affect real-life relationships as well as our mental health. How often have you half-listened to your child telling a story because your phone has beeped, and you’ve an email or Facebook notification to read?
We’re not suggesting you should stop using your smartphone completely, or that you should begin deleting apps from your phone - but a short digital detox every now and then can be great for lowering a stress level we perhaps didn’t even realise was quite that high.
Here are some tips to help you get started with a digital detox:
1. List your gadgets you want to stop using so often
Make a list of all the electronic devices you use in a day. This may only be your smartphone and your laptop - or it may become a long list that surprises you with just how much technology you use. Set a limit. It’s not really practical to remove all technology from your life for any extended period of time, but you can set a daily time limit. Whereby you won’t pick up your mobile before breakfast or after dinner, and your laptop has a similar curfew. Remember that your TV also counts as a digital device!
2. Communicate to others about your digital detox
If you’re usually available to all 24-hours a day, don’t suddenly disappear. Communicate to all necessary people that you are cutting back your technology use, and let them know how and when they can contact you. Make use of the out of office function on your email so that people will know when to expect a reply.
3. Start small if you’re an avid digital consumer
If you’re always online, always in touch, always responding, you will find it incredibly difficult to suddenly put everything down and live a zen-like existence of meditation and reading instead. You’ll probably get fed up after half an hour and give up! Instead, start with “I’m switching my phone off after 6pm” or “I will leave my phone in another room when I go to bed.”
4. Plan alternatives for your digital detox
If you’re used to watching TV in the evenings, mobile in hand to keep in touch with what Twitter thinks, you’ll find that you don’t quite know what to do with yourself. Make a list of the things you don’t get to do often, the things you’d love to do more of. With spring evenings becoming lighter you could go for walks, or you could be really retro and just sit and read for a while! Spending quality time with friends and family without distractions is also a great alternative, and something that’s all too easily overlooked in normal daily life.
5. Use something to encourage mindfulness
Often checking our phone, our social media or our email is a habit we call into; we’ll reach for our device without even really thinking about it. Mindfulness can help with this, and using something like our Focus aromatherapy balm to encourage us to stay in the moment can help.
You may well find that within a day or so of your digital detox where you limit all screen time, you rediscover a calmness that comes from not knowing or caring what other people are up to or whether they need your help or advice with something.
How a digital detox can affect your wellbeing
A digital detox is one of those things we all probably think we don’t need, or can’t really do because of work or family commitments. But it’s also something most of us can really benefit from. You might find that without twelve solid hours of screen time through your day, you’re able to sleep better. Your relationships could improve if everyone gave each other their undivided attention.
You might also find that you can be more productive in your work if not constantly distracted by notifications, and that once that need for a dopamine response calms down, you are even able to leave your smartphone in another room for extended periods of time without panicking!
Technology is so useful in our lives, but sometimes it can be nice to remember what life was like before everyone was able to contact each other, 24 hours per day.
If you’re planning a digital detox, or have done one in the past, do get in touch on social media and let us know how you got on.