Technology has improved our lives tremendously, but that has also come at a cost. We are so connected to our digital devices – Americans spend an average of 11 hours per day using electronic media – that it has become the norm to get lost in the digital world and disconnected from our real selves.
How often do you find yourself scrolling through Facebook while waiting in line for your morning coffee? Or checking your email while at dinner with your significant other? Reaching for our digital devices has become so second nature to us, that we are losing that personal connection to others and ourselves.
If you can relate to this, it might be time for you to consider doing a digital detox. A digital detox involves switching off all smartphones, tablets and laptops for a certain length of time, so you can enjoy screen–free time doing what you enjoy, recharging and even resting. Many of us (myself included) have desk jobs that require us to work on a screen for 8+ hours a day, so doing a full digital detox isn’t feasible, but we can unplug at other times, such as weekends or holidays we have off. A full 24–hour detox is ideal, but fitting it into your life when it works for you is best because it will enable you to follow through.
A digital detox has many benefits:
- You will get better sleep
- Your eyes will get a rest, meaning less dry eye, blurred vision and eyestrain
- You may have less headaches
- Increased productivity by allowing less distractions
- Have better connections with friends and families
If you need a little helping starting your detox, you can try the following action items and slowing introducing screen–free time into your everyday routine when possible:
1.) Make a list
A great way to start your detox is by making two lists:
- A list of all the devices that you use daily
- A list of all the things you enjoy doing
2.) Give your brain a break
With every 90 minutes of device use, take a 10 minute break away from technology. The theory is that the more time we spend with technology, and away from nature, the more damage we are doing to our brain.
3.) Disable push notifications
If you are like me (Type-A) you might find yourself opening your social apps just to clear the notifications, which can then lead to a half hour of mindlessly scrolling (aka wasting time) through your friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s Instagram account. By turning off those notifications, you are giving yourself permission to not check your social media accounts with every like or comment.
4.) Buy an alarm clock
It has been reported that over 50% of people now sleep next to their digital device, most likely because they use their smartphone as an alarm clock, thus inviting distraction into their lives first thing in the morning. By purchasing an alarm clock, you can keep all digital devices out of your bedroom and allow yourself 20–30 minutes of time each morning to be screen–free.
5.) Commit to changing one habit at a time
With our lives so intertwined with technology these days, it can be hard to start adding digital–free time into our day–to–day. To make it more manageable, start by changing one habit at a time. For example:
- Ban all devices during meal times
- Don’t allow your smartphone in the bedroom
- Keep your phone in the glove box while driving
- Stop checking your email after 7pm every night
- Switch your phone to airplane mode while working out
- Don’t use your phone at your desk
- Introduce Twitter–free Tuesdays
6.) Make your relationships a priority
Practice giving your friends and family your undivided attention when you are spending time with them. When you are tempted to reach for your phone, remind yourself that your energy is being focused on maintaining relationships and you can not give that energy to digital distractions.
If you are still struggling to put away the technology, take a look at these TED Talks. They might just inspire you to take a step away from your laptop and engage with the world around you.