Digital Detox: Why & How to Put Your Phone Down
We spend more time on our phones than ever, from emails to social media scrolling to reading the news. If you feel like you’re spending too much time on your phone, but have trouble putting it down, it may be time for a digital detox.
Let’s talk about what a digital detox is, the benefits of it, and how to do it.
What is a Digital Detox?
A digital detox is a period of time in which you abstain from using digital devices like your phone, tablet, or computer.
The constant access to information, both from news sites and social media, can be overwhelming and often leads to increased anxiety and stress. Putting everything down for a while – whether it’s a few hours or a few days – has a lot of benefits!
Benefits of a Digital Detox
Since the internet has been part of our daily lives for over two decades, we’re beginning to see the impact it has on our physical and mental health. For all of the positive impact the internet and social media have had, you could argue that it has had just as much negative impact on the health of those that use it regularly.
Let’s explore the benefits of a technology detox:
Improved Physical and Mental Health
A study by the American Psychological Association found that 18% (nearly ⅕ of survey participants) said that technology was a major source of stress in their lives. The fact that we always feel available and “on”, the 24-hour news cycle, and social media all play a part in increasing our stress levels.
Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. Some of the most common effects include higher blood pressure, irritability, muscle tension, and frequent headaches. Not to mention the eye strain that comes with looking at screens for prolonged periods of time.
Cutting down on your phone use or performing a digital detox can help alleviate these effects, resulting in a healthier, happier mind and body. When you replace screen time with a stress-relieving activity (which we’ll discuss below), the impact is even greater.
We’ve all been told not to use our phones before bed because it makes it harder to go to sleep. But how many of us are guilty of scrolling and reading after we get cozy in bed? (Answer: a lot of us!)
Using your phone in bed can actually interfere with your natural circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep-wake cycle. The blue light emitted by devices inhibits your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your circadian rhythm.
In addition to the light from the screen making it difficult to sleep, being on your phone in bed keeps your brain engaged and working, which can trick your brain into thinking it needs to stay awake.
A tech detox reduces the amount of blue light and endless information you’re exposed to at night, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Improved Brain Function
There are quite a few ways devices can impair our brain function. Researchers have found that we rely less on our memory since anything we want to know is always just a quick search away. In addition, our devices can make it more difficult to interpret nuance or think in abstract terms. It can even make it harder to empathize because we’re unable to see the body language or hear the tone of the person on the other end of the conversation.
A technology detox gets us out of the digital mindset and allows us to strengthen those cognitive abilities that may be getting weaker with too much tech.
How to Kickstart Your Tech Detox
Cutting down on your screen time can be hard, but here are some simple ways to help curb the amount of time you spend on your devices:
Create No-Tech Zones in Your Home
Start by designating a few areas of your home that will be device-free. Great digital detox zones include bedrooms (the exception being using your phone as an alarm clock), dining rooms, reading nooks, and your patio. Having dedicated tech-free spaces will make it easier to avoid plopping down on your bed or chair and scrolling mindlessly.
Turn Off Push Notifications
If you find yourself reaching for your phone every time you get a notification, turn them off for non-essential apps. This will reduce the urge to grab your phone every time you hear or see those notifications come across the screen. You might find that you don’t even miss the endless notifications!
Utilize Apps and Features to Reduce Screen Time
Most smartphones have features to help you get a handle on your screen time. Use Do Not Disturb at night and set time limits for apps during the day so you can control how much time you’re spending on your most-used apps.
Use Your Phone With Purpose
During your digital detox, try using your phone more mindfully. Are you reaching for your phone because you really need to look something up or message someone, or are you reaching for it because you’re avoiding a certain chore or task? Mindless scrolling can be fun sometimes, but most of the time, it just causes us to put off the things we need to do.
Use Paper Media for News
That’s right: going back to the newspaper is a great way to curb your phone use and keep up your tech detox. (Another great thing about newspapers is that there is no comment section to rile us up, further reducing stress!)
Things to Do to Get Off Your Phone
You’ve decided to do a digital detox. Great! Now what? Sitting in front of the TV doesn’t seem quite right if you’re trying to cut down on technology use. Here are some tech-free ideas to help you get your mind off your phone and be more in-the-moment:
1. Take a Spa-Like Bath
2. Read a Book
If it has been a while since you picked up a book, now is the time! No matter which genre you prefer, getting lost in a good book is a great way to keep your mind off your phone and social media.
3. Move Your Body
Exercise has plenty of benefits when it comes to mental and physical health: lower stress and anxiety levels, better heart health, and – of course – strengthening your bones and muscles. Whether you choose to go for a walk or bike ride, practice yoga, or play a sport like tennis or golf, you’ll stay off your phone and reap the benefits of getting active!
4. Get Creative
If you enjoy painting, drawing, knitting, playing an instrument, or another art form, a tech detox is the perfect opportunity to get lost in your art! Pick up your paintbrush, pencil, or knitting needles and give yourself permission to spend some extra time being creative. Not only will it keep you off of your devices, it can help you focus, reduces stress, and leads to feeling accomplished.
Your Mind and Body Will Thank You
Whether you completely forego technology or simply cut down on your screen time, you should start seeing and feeling a difference after sticking with your tech detox for a while. It can be difficult, but the benefits are worth it!