Digital technology guides modern life to a great extent. Screens are everywhere, notifications pop up nonstop, and social media announces the important events—both personal and on a global scale.
There’s no denying that technology is convenient – indeed that is the whole point of it. It is far easier to keep in touch, to plan things, and multitask. But this reliance on technology is also changing the way your brain and body functions.
This negative aspect of technology is the reason digital detox has become such a buzzword in recent times. But what is it? And how can you use it to your advantage?
What is Digital Detox?
Digital detox typically means some form of abstinence from technology and technological devices. In the same way you might follow a certain diet to minimize the harm done to your body by bad food habits, digital detox does the same for your brain. The truth is, technology is likely an inevitable part of your life. Even if you can’t completely discard it, you can work to minimize the harmful effects it has on you. Digital detox is incorporating a planned tech-abstinence into your routine.
How to do a Digital Detox
Digital detox isn’t easy. Technology has an addictive effect on most people who use it. It’s also common to rely on it for a lot of very important things. The combination of those two elements can create anxiety. So the temptation to fall back into old habits during a detox period can be strong. Here are a few ways you can plan your detox while managing these temptations.
1. Take a tech-free vacation
One of the best ways to do a digital detox is complete abstinence for a period or time. But that might create problems for your usual routine. That’s why vacations are a great way to incorporate tech-abstinence. Choose a location that has little or no connectivity. This forces you to go without—even when you are tempted.
Be sure to get everyone’s buy-in before you head to your destination. It can be difficult to watch your spouse scroll away while you’re not. Plan activities that can help everyone on vacation stay in the present moment without relying on technology and have options to fill in everyone’s downtime. When it comes to things like taking photos, buy disposable cameras so you can still capture the special moments.
With a little foresight and planning, it’s possible to enjoy a technology-free vacation that leaves you feeling more connected, rejuvenated, and refreshed when you get back.
2. Set time aside during the weekend
If going on a vacation isn’t in your immediate future, you can plan a specific window of time every weekend to be technology-free. You’ll want to unplug or turn off any and all technological devices during that window. You can do this at any point in time, not just on the weekends, but it might be difficult to disconnect during the work week.
Depending on your reliance to devices, you’ll want to start small. Maybe just an hour to start, with the goal to build your time away every weekend. You’ll want to communicate your plans to close friends and loved ones, and have a plan for emergencies—both your own and someone else’s. While time away from devices is ideal, you don’t want to sacrifice your personal or business relationships.
3. Don’t take the screens to bed
One of the worst things you can do is bring your phone, laptop, or tablet to bed. To start, electronic devices emit a bright light that mimics the blue spectrum in sunlight. This light is strongest in the morning and stimulates the cortisol in your brain to help dissipate the melatonin that helps you sleep. By bringing these devices into your nighttime routine, you’re triggering the continued elevation of cortisol, which delays melatonin releases, and hampers your sleep.
On the other side of sleep, checking your devices first thing in the morning actually triggers your brain for constant distraction and can even elevate your levels of stress. Seeing an email or message while you’re still sleepy can spike your emotional response, which keeps you in a reactive state throughout the rest of the day.
Ideally, you want to keep these devices away from the bed and, if possible, out of the bedroom entirely. If you use your phone as an alarm, invest in an old-fashioned alarm clock. This eliminates the temptation to check your notifications as soon as you wake up.
4. Don’t look at devices while eating
Apart from being bad manners, looking at a phone while eating or keeping it on the table while you eat is bad for your body and brain. But this rule doesn’t only apply to dinner. How many times do you eat breakfast on the go, scrolling while you eat? Or work through your lunch?
Studies show that not concentrating on your food while eating affects your digestion. You’re likely to eat faster and choose foods that are easier to eat while working. Use meal times as an opportunity to connect with family and friends and give your brain a chance to reset from the demands of working.
5. Go outside
Sunlight is one of the things devices typically deprive you of. Technology makes your life comfortable, but often that means you don’t go outside often enough or get enough exercise. While enjoying some time away from technology, you want make sure to soak in those healthy rays.
You can make these excursion fun and limit your temptation to grab your device by going to areas without reception. Go on a hike, take a walk, spend time at the beach, or plan a picnic in the park. You can add the brain-boosting power by learning a new hobby or engaging in a creative activity while enjoying the outdoors.
6. Don’t use devices on your breaks
Everyone does this to some extent. You take out your phone during your ten-minute break to check your message and end up scrolling through social media until it’s suddenly time to get back to work. The problem is those feeds are still showing you information through images, videos, texts, and captions. Your overworked brain is continuing to work and process that information instead of being able to recover so you can get back to work.
It takes time to shift your brain back to work mode when you’re done. You end up needing a break from your break, and since that isn’t possible, you overwork your brain leaving you fatigued and exhausted at the end of the day. If you don’t have specific break times and end up reaching for your phone or social media multiple times throughout your day as a break, you’re training your distraction muscles instead of your ability to focus.
Instead, make sure you relax during your work breaks, no matter how long they are. Drink some water. Take a brief but brisk walk around the office or building. Look outside a window to alleviate eye strain. Or even take a power nap.
Digital Detox is not an easy habit to initiate depending on your dependence on technology. But it is extremely rewarding in the long term and also manageable if you do it in a planned manner. Whether you plan to start big or go slow, the above tips should help!
For more on how to prepare for a digital detox, watch this video: