How do you feel when you lose access to the internet when you least expect it? If “upset,” “fidgety” or “panicky” are the words that come to mind, you’re probably addicted to the internet.
As children of the digital age, it’s hard to escape this constant exposure to all things digital, but our technological dependence and overuse of gadgets are far from healthy. Peer-reviewed studies consistently show that an addiction to the internet can easily lead to physical, mental and emotional problems.
If you want to have a healthier relationship with your gadgets, it’s a good idea to take a break from them every now and then. A digital detox can help you switch off from the virtual world and, and in doing so, reconnect you with the real one.
What is a digital detox?
It’s pretty simple—you stay away from your electronic devices for a fixed and predetermined period of time. You can choose to disconnect partially—from only some gadgets—or entirely, and for either short intervals during a single day, or even over a much longer period of time.
If allowed to grow, your dependency on technological gadgets can get as severe as an addiction to any other harmful substance. You require a conscious separation from it in order to address this before it gets worse, and that’s where digital detoxification comes in.
How do you actually do a digital detox? It’s about more than just choosing to stay away from your smartphone or television. Read below to find out more.
Reasons to do a digital detox
It’s not easy to get away from your devices: between work, reading the news and keeping in touch with friends and family, there are several other reasons we feel the need to use all our gadgets. In order to examine why this is unhealthy, let’s look at some reasons to do a digital detox.
- Eye problems: Dry eyes are a very common problem associated with excess screen use, which can also lead to the deterioration of your sight in the long term.
- Disruption of sleep: Staring at your phone, computer or any other gadget late into the night can cause sleep disruptions due to blue light. Shorter sleep spans and insomnia are both very harmful and can cause anxiety disorders.
- Mental health issues: Studies show that an excessive use of social media is associated with a high risk of mental health disorders in young adults and adolescents. A preoccupation with the lives of others can often make you doubt your own self-image.
- No work/life balance: Using screens for too long in a day might also be a sign that you’re working far too hard, neglecting the rest of your life. This can result in poor interpersonal relationships and no time to pursue your own interests.
10 steps for a doable digital detox
The benefits to switching off your devices are clear, but we also know its unrealistic to cut yourself off from all your devices suddenly. How do you do a digital detox that isn’t immediately overwhelming or unachievable?
- Set a realistic goal: Instead of forcing yourself to completely abstain from devices, set time limits that are achievable. If you can only afford to switch of for 2 hours everyday, or even only over the weekends, that’s fine. Just set a goal that you can stick to.
- Tech-free time: Compartmentalising your work, family, and leisure time can is an effective method to manage screen time. Establish time limits and occasions for device usage with clear boundaries: you can allow yourself to use gadgets during ‘work time’, but during ‘family time’ they’re off limits.
- No gadgets at bedtime: Screens shouldn’t be the first or the last thing you look at in a day. Make it a habit to not use your phone in the hours leading up to bed time, and consciously stop yourself from checking your phone as soon as you wake up. Instead, try to practice a different habit: sip a cup of tea, look outside the window, and spend some time with yourself and your thoughts.
- Learn a new hobby: A lot of the time, we only check our phones or watch TV because we have nothing else to do. To break this habit, cultivate a hobby that’s exciting and engaging. Learn to doodle, solve crosswords the old-fashioned way, start DIY recycling projects, compost or set up an herb garden.
- Reposition or delete apps: If you have shortcuts to social media apps on your phone’s home screen, you’ll likely end up opening them frequently. To avoid this, relocate these apps on your phone so that they’re not immediately visible. If you’re spending too much time on certain games or social media apps, delete them for a set amount of time.
- One tab at a time: If you have to work at a computer every day, know that opening too many tabs can actually distract you and increase the time you spend on a screen. Speed up work by restricting yourself to opening just one or two tabs at a time, it will help you focus better.
- Involve family and friends: Let your friends and family know about your detox plan and ask them for their support. You can request them to not text or call you during these hours, or tell them that your responses will be delayed because you’re taking a break from your phone.
- Go slow: If going cold turkey works for you, great. But if doing that also makes you go on an unhealthy binge after your detox, you might need another strategy. Try instead to gradually reduce your time on social media or gadgets. Once you’re able to achieve this, push your detox duration to last for longer periods.
- Celebrate your progress: Even if you’ve managed to switch off for an hour, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a reward: a nice meal or a small gift to yourself to celebrate. Positive reinforcement will make you want to do more and better the next time.
- Care for your body: This is something you can do whether you’re using gadgets or not. Look away from your screen at intervals, and practice eye exercises to reduce eye strain. You could try a supplement that gives your eyes the nutrients it needs: Setu’s Eye Max supplement contains Lutein and other necessary eye vitamins to improve your vision and prevent eye strain.
1. Is it possible to be completely device free?
Being completely device free is not a practical or even preferable solution for most people in today’s world. All the same, being conscious of your overdependence on gadgets will help you maintain a balance.
2. How much time does it take to do a digital detoxification?
It takes time, you will only see results if you take small steps first. Initially, you’re going to feel a strong desire to fall back to old behaviour patterns. But if you keep at it, you will master the art of being more mindful of the things happening around.
3. What is a ‘screen detox’?
It basically means limiting screen time to a healthy amount. You should be aware of this both for yourself, and if you have younger relatives or children. It is essential for young children and adolescents to be involved in educational and sports activities over sitting all day on a tablet. As an adult, also try to do activities that broaden your knowledge-base and encourage you to think.