Being plugged in and connected all the time has become a normal way of life for many of us. We wake up and it begins — we pick up our phones, check email, scroll through social media and browse the news stories. Throughout the day, we’re getting notifications and texts, shopping online, liking our friends’ posts and so much more.
A digital detox is when you take a break from electronic devices or certain apps for some period of time.
While technology can help us stay connected to friends and family, have fun on our downtime and get work done outside the office, it can also become addictive and leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
If you feel like you’re spending too much time attached to your phone or device, maybe it’s time for a digital detox.
What Is a Digital Detox?
A digital detox is when you take a break from electronic devices or certain apps for some period of time. It may include taking a planned break from any or all of the following:
- Checking and posting on social media
- Playing video games or other games on your phone
- Reading news stories or watching videos on your phone
- Checking email endlessly
- Watching TV for hours at a time
A digital detox is going to vary from person to person depending on how much time you spend on your devices and for what purpose. Your detox might include setting a time limit for certain activities. Or it might mean getting off a certain app for a week or even longer. No matter what your digital detox looks like, there are some good reasons to give it a try.
Reasons to Try a Digital Detox
- It can free up your time. If you’re spending more than an hour checking social media each day or playing online games, you can use that time to do other things, such as exercising, connecting with others face to face, doing work around the house or relaxing in some other way.
- It can improve your sleep. If you’re using your phone or device in bed at night, you’re exposing your brain to blue light, which can trick it into thinking it’s still time to be alert. This can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- It can improve your mood. Using social media has been linked to different mental health issues, such as anxiety, fear of missing out, lower self-esteem, depression, anger over certain political posts and more.
- It can help you focus. If you’re not constantly checking each ping or alert you get on your phone, you may find that you can concentrate better throughout the day on what’s in front of you.
- It can help you connect with others. You can pay attention to the people around you instead of half-listening as you scroll through your phone. You can catch up and talk instead of sitting in the same room or at the same table looking at your own devices.
- It can make you feel less stressed and worried. If you’re constantly scrolling through news stories or watching the news, chances are you’ve felt upset or overwhelmed at some point. While it’s important to know what’s going on, too much time listening to the news cycle can cause stress and worry.
- It can help you form new habits. Constantly checking in has become a habit for many of us. If we have a few minutes of downtime, we pull out our phones, check email and scroll social media — even if we did all these things 30 minutes ago. If we set up a digital detox, we can form new habits, like reading at night, walking during lunch or talking to others at dinner.
Tips for Your Digital Detox
To make your digital detox a success, check out these tips before you get started:
- Pinpoint what aspect of your technology use you want to change. Is it too much news? Is it social media? Is it memes and videos? Once you know what you’re doing too much of, you can decide how to tackle the issue.
- Gather information. Some of us have no idea how much time we’re actually spending on our devices. Chances are that your phone collects that information so you can find out. If not, you can keep track of it yourself for a few days. How many times did you check your social media pages today? How long did you spend playing that new game you just downloaded? Once you have this info, you can start to make a plan.
- Set a goal. Be realistic. You probably aren’t going to throw your phone in a drawer and keep it off all day, but can you eliminate checking it after 9 p.m.? During dinner? Can you set a time limit for certain activities?
- Eliminate as many notifications as you can. If it’s important to get notified right away if a new email pops up for work, that’s one thing – but if you’re being alerted about social media posts, news stories and more, chances are you’re spending too much time checking your phone. You can use your phone’s features, such as “do not disturb” or other settings to help you focus during important times like at dinner or late at night.
- Give yourself enough time to break the habit. You might feel worse or strange the first few days that you’re trying something new. Give yourself enough time to see the benefits.
- Reflect on how it’s going. Do you notice any improvements? Do you have more time? Do you feel less stressed? If so, consider making these changes more permanent.
- Make it harder to mindlessly use your device. For example, consider logging out of all your social media apps each day. If you have to log in each time, it gives you a chance to think about it first. Another idea is to use an alarm clock instead of your phone to wake up. This may stop the immediate scrolling and checking in that many of us do right after we turn off the morning alarm on our phones.
There are a ton of articles and info out there about the importance of reducing screen time and trying a digital detox. You can search for ideas specific to your own life, such as if you work from a computer all day, use social media for your business or want to try a 24-hour challenge with others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some great ideas for kids and parents on how to reduce screen time and get more “lean time.” You can also find some pretty alarming statistics on the hours we spend on our screens each day — like kids ages 8-18 who spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of a screen each day for entertainment!
The We Can! initiative also offers ideas on how to reduce screen time for families, including tools and resources such as a chart to track your screen time.
There’s no right or wrong way to do a digital detox. Everyone’s technology use looks different, but it’s important to step back and reflect on how your use is impacting your life and your health.