The Benefits of Doing a Digital Detox
In today's day and age, there’s no off switch when it comes to connectivity. Modern technology has equipped us with the ability to connect at any time and for any duration, regardless of where we might be in the world. However, this constant connectivity comes with the cost of addiction, making it harder for us to turn off our devices and be present with those around us.
I, too, am one of the millions of people who are addicted to their phones. I’m not sure what moment I realized I was incessantly checking my phone for no other reason than the compulsion to do so. Maybe it was at my university graduation when all I could focus on was how many likes I was getting on the picture I posted rather than celebrating this milestone with my loved ones. Maybe it was when I traveled to Thailand, and I was obsessed with capturing every moment so my followers could see what I was up to. Or, maybe it was when I could not stop checking my work’s slack channel during my time off, afraid I was going to miss something important.
You might find yourself relating to some of these instances of screen addiction. Or you might have your own habits that are causing you to miss out on what's happening around you because of your dependency on devices. Perhaps at this point in time, you may want to consider doing a digital detox.
What is a Digital Detox?
A digital detox is when one intentionally allocates time to put away their screens. So many of us mindlessly scroll through social media or frequently check our emails, not because there's an end goal in mind but simply because it's a result of habit. Our addiction to our screens prevents us from being present with those around us and finding richness in the experiences that we may never have again. And when I say so many of us, I mean SO MANY OF US.
It was found that 61% of people believe they are addicted to their screens and that the average U.S. adult spends approximately 11 hours per day on their devices. So if you’re feeling as if your addiction to your phone is unique to you, it’s not. Programmers design apps to be addictive. News companies use headlines to get you hooked. Our devices are built to keep you on them. It's no surprise that we are addicted.
Digital detoxes are so challenging in this tech-dependant world. But you will learn in this article that it is absolutely necessary for your health and wellbeing.
The Benefits of a Digital Detox
There are so many benefits of putting away our screens and grounding ourselves in reality. I’ll name a few:
FOMO, which is also known as the fear of missing out, can be instilled within us as we scroll through endless photos of cute couples, gorgeous travel pics, and flawless selfies. The reality is, social media is a highlight reel. It's rare for anyone to showcase the bad parts of their lives online, so you are only ever exposed to the "perfect" parts. The consequence of spending so much time on our screens, especially social media, is that it distorts our perception of what is true about the lives of those around us. Many of us find ourselves missing out on these so-called “perfect lives” that we see celebrities or even our friends portraying online. By taking time off your devices, you will feel less fear about missing out and instead see the world for what it truly is: imperfect. But also remember this, a photo doesn't capture the whole picture. Online isn't (entirely) real. By distancing yourself from social media, you will experience the joy of missing out!
The constant urge to check notifications, emails, texts, etc. can be exhausting and overwhelming. At first, a digital detox may be stressful in itself because you will be going against habits that have yet to be broken. However, by practicing this disconnection, you may have a sense of relief not having to check your devices over and over again. When you choose to experience the world around you, you will find it is more peaceful and joyful.
Helps You Sleep
Research has found that devices overstimulate our brains, negatively affecting our sleep cycles. When you spend less time on your screen (particularly an hour before bed), you will notice that you will have a much more restful sleep so that you can conquer the next day!
Improves Your Personal Life
Like I mentioned before, I sometimes struggle to not work on my time off. When we are always on our phones, we may feel inclined to check work emails or group chats. To show up as the best employee you can be, you need time off to rest and have other experiences outside of the office. By putting away your computers and phones, you will be able to enjoy your personal life outside of work and return to it engaged and deliver the best results you can.
Improves Your Self-Image
You will also have an improved self-image when you are no longer caught up with what’s happening online. It’s easy to compare our lives to what we see online, making us believe that we are never good enough and everyone has it better than we do. By distancing ourselves from social media, it can allow us the opportunity to engage in self-improvement and focus on cultivating the lives we want to. Not only that, but it allows you to embrace who you are as a whole.
You Gain Back Precious Time
Spending 11+ hours per day on our devices is taking away SO much time from doing things we love. I understand that maybe a few of these hours include working or even connecting over a Zoom or Facetime call with a loved one. But there are so many hours that we spend on our screens with no purpose. By taking time off from your screens, you can gain back this time and focus on doing the things you love with intentionality and joy.
Signs You Need a Digital Detox
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of digital detoxes, it's time to determine if you need to do a digital detox. Here are some signs you need a digital detox:
- You constantly feel a need to check your phone
- You feel high stress when you are separated from your phone
- You have feelings of anxiety or depression after checking social media
- You have a hard time connecting with others in real life
- You have difficulty concentrating on work tasks or conversations with others
- You spend several hours per day on your phone (check your screen time by downloading screen time apps or in your phone's reports)
- You think about social media more than you think about real-life experiences
- You are constantly doomscrolling through negative news coverage
- Your devices create more negative thoughts and emotions than positive ones
If you feel you would benefit from a digital detox, read the next section on how you can go about doing just that.
How to Do (an Effective) Digital Detox
In this modern world, it’s almost impossible to avoid screens for a long period. A digital detox doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your devices completely. Instead, the most effective way to detox is to spend less time connected to your screens, but customize it so that it suits your lifestyle.
Before you decide how you are going to separate yourself from your screens, you need to understand that your urge to check your devices is simply a result of habit. An essential coaching principle we utilize at The Journal That Talks Back is that your thoughts drive your behaviors. So when it comes to adjusting your habits, you will need to take an inventory of your thoughts and shift them so that way you can engage in healthy behaviors with your screens.
You may have thoughts like, “I have to check my phone,” “I will get in trouble at work if I don’t respond right away”, or “I’m missing out on something important.” By becoming mindful of these thoughts you can challenge them and shift them. Ask yourself, “Are these thoughts really true?” You will most likely arrive at an answer that concludes they aren’t. When you can shift your focus to thoughts like, “I don’t have to check right now” or “I’ll get to the message on Monday and nothing bad will happen,” you can not only live in the present moment, but develop a healthy relationship with your devices.
So now that we understand our usage is a result of our thinking, here are some different ways you can effectively detox:
- Mealtime Method: avoid looking at your devices at mealtimes! This is a great way to give your mind and eyes a break and actually enjoy the meal you’re eating and genuinely connect with the people you’re with.
- One Day Off Approach: another way to go about detoxing is taking one day off per week from screens altogether. I suggest taking off Saturday or Sunday when you aren’t working so that you don’t feel as obligated or compelled to check. On this day, fill it with activities like reading, doing outdoor activities, or spending time with a family member or friend. To set yourself up for success, make sure you don’t get bored, or else you may not hold yourself accountable.
- First & Last Hour of the Day Tactic: remember when I said that screen time affects your sleep? This tactic is a great way to calm your mind before bed. It’s also a great way to kick off your day on a peaceful note. When you look at your phone first thing in the morning, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Usually, we only see bad or negative things online, or things that affect our self-esteem like Photoshopped images. By not looking at your screens during these times, you will be able to start and end your day with ease.
With any of these approaches, be sure to turn off your notifications! A fast way to do this is by turning on airplane mode. This way, you won’t be tempted to check and instead focus on taking that break.
Doing a digital detox can feel uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, and overall, challenging. But as you continue to depend less on your devices, you will no longer suffer the consequences of constantly looking down at your screens. Instead, you will be able to look up more at the world around you...and you may be surprised at what you will see.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers