As we step into the dawn of a new year, it becomes increasingly evident that our lives are intricately woven with the threads of technology. Take a moment to observe your surroundings, and you’ll likely find a common sight – heads bowed, eyes fixated on screens, engrossed in the digital realm. Whether it’s during your daily commute, at work, or even around the dinner table, the ubiquitous presence of devices has become an inescapable reality. The constant allure of technology has turned the act of staring at our phones into an ingrained habit, a reflexive response to the quest for momentary distraction.
In this digital age, we find ourselves scrolling through various apps without a clear purpose, merely seeking to ‘pass the time.’ While technology undoubtedly offers numerous advantages in our interconnected world, it also subtly influences and sometimes corrupts our way of thinking, impacting our emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
Have you recognized the need to reclaim your time from the clutches of technology, reestablish a connection with the present moment, and foster healthier habits in the new year? If so, we offer ten tips on how to embark on a digital detox journey.
How Technology Affects Our Mental Health
Technology may make the world go round, but it isn’t the healthiest thing for our mental or emotional health. Too much of a helpful thing can make people very reliant and unable to solve certain situations themselves. It can prevent the development of the brain and simple mundane tasks and problems can seem nearly impossible to solve on our own. “Excessive technology use can take away time from activities such as sleep, exercise, and socializing, which are all important for well-being,” says Carol Vidal, MD, PhD, MPH.
Moreover, a perpetual presence on social media can induce feelings of insecurity, isolation, and even contribute to more serious issues like suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. Particularly during adolescence, when platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook can be breeding grounds for negativity, the constant cycle of comparison and envy can exert a profound impact. This influence extends beyond personal well-being, seeping into both your professional life and the persona you present on the internet.
In addition, human interaction and socializing outside the confined spaces of technology are easier and more challenging. According to the National Library of Medicine, research reviewed suggests impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep in some cases.
Everything is quick and accessible on the phone; when making new friends or relationships they can be toxic and fake. Learning to engage and be authentic with other human beings right in front of you has become a difficult task for many and shouldn’t be. Presently, when you socialize with friends in a room, people tend to go on their phones for an extended period, saying nothing; the space is just mute.
The Benefits of Digital Detox
Technology has benefits when it comes to connection/communication with far away loved ones, knowledge, and quick access at your fingertips. However, the essential benefits of starting a digital detox are:
- Enhances cognitive brain function
- Better Sleep
- Mental Health
- Emotional Intuitive
- Physical Health
- Improvement in Social Interaction
The 5 Key Steps to Breaking Bad Habits
Like any bad habit, using your phone often wherever you go is one of them. Here are 5 key steps to remember when you want to break a bad habit.
Self-awareness: Knowing that you have a problem overusing technology is an excellent step toward making a change. Noticing your habits in technology and how often you use it are awareness you can pick up on.
Visualize Success: Embarking on the journey to success in reducing your technology usage requires a deliberate start. Resist the urge to reach for your phone or power up your laptop; this process demands time and commitment. By taking gradual steps and envisioning yourself seamlessly incorporating these practices, you can cement your commitment and fuel the motivation needed to make these actions a consistent and tangible reality.
Cut out Triggers: During detox, you may realize how using your phone and other technological devices makes you feel. A habit can have unhealthy effects on your mental and physical health. Another part of being self-aware is knowing what media content makes you think. A way to do a digital detox, especially if you are starting and taking it at your own pace, is cutting out those triggers. Anything that makes you feel small, not good enough, jealous, or obsessed should not be a part of your technology usage. No one deserves a negative technology experience.
Spend Time with Those with Good Habits: You may know someone who could be more tech-savvy and is barely on the phone. Asking for advice or spending a day with them can teach you new ways to use your free time instead of scrolling and pushing buttons.
Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones: Cutting off all technology can initially be challenging; however, you can’t just stop your bad habits. You need to replace them with good ones. Other good habits to fill in that time can be self-care, reading, listening to a podcast about a topic that interests you, meditation, and more. There are a lot of active and off-screen hobbies to get into that will keep you busy.
Now that we’ve gone over how to break bad habits let’s get into the ten excellent tips for starting your digital detox. These tips are great for completely shutting down all technology or for those of you not wanting to unplug completely.
How to Start Your Digital Detox: 10 Tips
- Schedule Time Away from Screens: One of the practical steps in beginning a digital detox is slowly integrating new habits; the first is putting some time away from screens. Rather than spending your free time going on your phone or scrolling aimlessly, a much more engaging activity or another hobby you enjoy can fill that time. You can schedule an hour or two hours daily to start this ‘screens away time.’ Over time, it becomes a pattern, and you should raise the bar and not be on your phone for several hours during the day. It’s all about putting in the work.
- Turn Off your phone at a Specific Time: Ever wonder why people have difficulty getting off their phones? It’s because they are on and ready to be used for your social media needs. Another small change that can do wonders is to turn off your phone entirely at a scheduled time or when you are not using it. When the screen is blank, no light or sound notifications tempt you to go on it for whatever reason. Scheduling time to turn off your phone, for example, when you are at work, when you are going to bed, and when you are finishing a task can help curve your screen time habits.
- Turn Off Push Notifications: Another reason we are tempted to look at technology is that the screen goes bright whenever we have notifications on for all our apps. Turn off Push Notifications for specific apps that you do not use. This will prevent any incentive to go on your phone. Scheduling notifications when you want to go on your phone would be beneficial. Instead of letting notifications interfere with your professional, social, and emotional life experiences, you can schedule it so you will have a time gap to not focus on technology.
- Put Your Phone Away During Meals: Because our brains are waiting for our phones to light up, leave phones off the table for more opportunities for interaction and enjoying the silence and the meal overall, especially in social situations.
- Don’t Begin or End Your Day Checking Your Phone: One of the habits most people have is to look at their phone the first minute after they wake up when the brain cannot process information yet. Our brain needs around 30 minutes to wake up from sleep inertia, and we only reach full recovery in one to two hours after getting out of bed. The same happens before going to bed. Your brain needs time away from screens to delve into sleeping mode because the blue light affects our sleeping behavior. That’s why we are complaining that we can’t fall asleep early. Scrolling on the phone or laptop and immediately going to bed will keep us awake longer, affecting our sleep hours and daily schedule. That contributes to our overall tiredness, too.
- Spring Clean Your Social Media Accounts: This tip will help you learn about yourself and what content you are consuming. Think about what makes you feel bad whenever you are online. Has a follower or an account ever posted specific content that makes you feel insecure, sad, angry, jealous, violent, worthless, or any negative thoughts? It’s best to unfollow, block, and restrict these accounts because they are mentally and emotionally not serving you. Following people you look up to make you feel good and inspire you, and a passionate interest or craft can change how you spend your time online. The goal is to be independent of technology; having the right headspace when you engage on social media is just as important.
- Delete Apps: To follow up, part of a digital detox can be deleting apps that don’t benefit you. Having unused apps cluttering your phone or consistently encountering the same apps that you seldom use can evoke a sense of negativity within yourself. Deleting these apps is an essential step for your mental and emotional help. All that free time can be spent on the betterment of your well-being than scrolling for hours. No app that makes you feel bad about yourself deserves your time and attention.
- Read More: You may enjoy using technology to read, such as a Kindle, iPad, or phone screen, returning to hardcover and paperbacks can be a great way of keeping an interest without the bright lights of a screen. A review published in 2019 in the Journal of Research in Reading, suggests that, when we read on paper, we are more efficient and aware than when reading on a screen.
- Physical Activity: Implement physical activity in your daily routine. Even if it’s just ten minutes during the day, moving your body can increase endorphins and help relieve stress, anxiety, and pain. Physical activity can improve your overall lifestyle and mental health.
- Digital Sabbatical: This is an extreme way to pull the plug on technology. Taking time away from using your phone completely can help you reduce the time you use technology. It is up to you to take it a step further and get rid of your computer/laptop and not watch TV. You can set your time limits on electronic devices or go cold turkey and not use any at all. This is an effective way to monitor your self-control, reflect on your usage, and see if you are too reliant on technology.
Initiating a digital detox poses a formidable challenge, especially given our dependence on technology for work, education, and social connections. Yet, like any ingrained habit, it can be reshaped and replaced with healthier alternatives. The journey begins with a shift in mindset, decisive actions, thoughtful planning, strategic substitutions, and unwavering consistency.
Progress may be gradual, but as with any transformative endeavor, taking it one step at a time proves to be the most effective approach. In this contemporary era, let not technology overpower the essence of your life; instead, strive to find a harmonious balance that enriches your experiences and restores your connection with the present moment.