After several months of working from home (because what else is there to do when you’re in lockdown for weeks or months on end?!), people have become increasingly inseparable from their screens. Whether it was because of the weekly Zoom meetings, binge-watching the latest Netflix show or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram to pass time, recent research has found that daily online content consumption has more than doubled since March last year. And as it turns out, spending long periods of time on our computer and phone screens isn’t that good for you!
With us getting more dependent on our gadgets, there are growing concerns about the health implications of excessive screen time. Besides eye strain and sleep disturbances, studies have also found that our screens could be a contributor for stress, anxiety and depression.
While digital detoxes were not a thing a decade ago, the hyperconnection created from using social media, email and other communication platforms of the like, has allowed us to be constantly connected and immersed in the digital space. Have you ever felt the relentless urge to check your phone for texts and emails, or scroll through Facebook just to SEE what others are up to at that very moment? Hyperconnectivity has got us hooked on our phones! Fear of missing out or “FOMO”is an idea derived from the stress and fear we experience when we think if we’re not looking at our phone, we must be missing out on the fun other people are having. That is where a digital detox could help.
A digital detox is essentially a temporary period of time where you refrain from using any digital devices including smartphones, computers and tablets, to break out of our digital consumption habits and lead a healthier digital lifestyle that will benefit your health and work life. However, in this day and age, giving up your devices is much easier said than done. So, here are some easy-to-do steps to help get you started!
It’s not uncommon that we pick up our phones to check Instagram one more time or watch one final Youtube video as we get into bed, and end up staring at our screens for hours past your intended bedtime. We’ve all been there! But as it turns out, one of the easiest ways to kick start your digital detox journey is to stop using your phone at least an hour before bed. Numerous studies have found that the use of digital devices, particularly at night, was linked to poor quality and quantity of sleep as well as sleepiness during the day.
Tonight, try putting your phone away before you get ready for bed, and make sure it’s not within reaching distance of your bed! Replace watching a Youtube video with reading a book or a magazine as part of your bedtime routine. Without the stimulating sounds and visuals of a computer of phone screen that potentially disrupts our body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, your brain is better able to get into a resting state. You might have one of the best night’s sleep and end up feeling much more energized at work the next morning.
It might not always be realistic to be away from your phone for a full day, especially when you still have to use your devices for work. However, it is a good idea to determine times when you aren’t required to be online, and start with turning off notifications on your phone to avoid being interrupted.
On top of that, you can plan a specific time of the day where you set aside your phone or have it turned off as a mini digital detox during your lunch hour or after work. Instead, focus on the conversations with your loved ones or on the movie you’re watching together. If you’re at home alone, try to incorporate an hour of no-screen time for yourself every day. Buy yourself a puzzle or book to occupy your time, or get out of the house to have a walk around the neighbourhood. You’d be surprised by how much better you feel.
Another way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a new, better one! Trying new activities is a great distraction from being on your phone whenever you feel like you have nothing to do, and the options are endless! If you’re an outdoorsy person, go cycling or for a hike somewhere new (phone’s away until it comes time to snap a pic of the view!). If you’re more of a homebody, why not take up knitting, painting, learning to play an instrument. Those high school hobbies that fell by the wayside might just be the best way to pass time during your next digital detox!
Doing a digital detox can definitely be a challenge, especially when your friends or family members are constantly on their phones too. So, why not ask if any friends, family or colleagues want to join you! Make it a challenge to keep each other accountable while you have a device-free weekend with your loved ones or a mini-detox in the evening.
For those of us working remotely, who isn’t suffering from a bit of screen fatigue by now? Designating certain parts of the house, like the bedroom, as gadget-free zones helps to create some much needed boundaries and limit screen-time.
Like most things, digital devices are not inherently evil. In many ways, they are irreplaceable for keeping connected with loved ones, working, and making our everyday life more convenient. At the end of the day, it is all about balance and building a healthy relationship with our devices. What are your top tips for having a successful digital detox?