Being “plugged in” is a normal way of life these days. If you’re like most people, your smartphone alarm wakes you up in the morning. You get ready with the TV news on, and then scan your text messages. Some people even start the day with text messages or their social media feed before they get out of bed. Throughout the day, you check email, text-chat with friends, and scroll through your social media platforms. In the evening, you watch your favorite TV shows while online shopping, checking in on social media, and possibly playing a video game on your phone. And, at bedtime, you use smartphone apps for meditation or white noise, or just play games on your phone until you pass out.
In fact, Americans spend an average of four hours watching TV, and about seven-and-a-half hours on digital devices. Every. Single. Day. Predictably, so much screen time is stressing many of us out – and we don’t even know why.
The solution may be a digital detox, which can provide relief from the pressure of constant connection to electronic devices. Research has found that doing a digital detox may even help improve your sleep, relationships, and mood.
What is a digital detox?
The definition of a digital detox is to take a break from using electronic devices or certain media for a period of time. The specifics are different from person to person. Things people avoid during a digital detox may include:
The benefits of taking a break from technology
Doing a digital detox is a great way to find out if technology is holding you back from living your best life. The results of unplugging can be far-reaching, from being more productive at work to deepening your relationships with family and friends. Benefits of taking a technology timeout include:
With frequent beeps and pop-up notifications on electronics, it’s easy to be distracted from what’s going on around you. During a digital detox, you may find that you notice more in your immediate surroundings. Your brain can concentrate much better on your tasks. Remember, life is what happens around you while you’re staring at your phone.
For some people, too much information can be stressful. For example, many people get really upset from watching hours of news. And then there’s the stress of feeling like you must look at that text that just came in, and feeling that you must reply right away. It can be overwhelming.
Better social interactions
Eliminating digital distractions creates more opportunities to pay attention to those around you. For example, without devices around at dinner, you naturally interact and connect more with your family. Or if your nose isn’t buried in your smartphone, you have the chance to meet someone new in the checkout line. And if texting is off-limits, you’re more likely to pick up the phone to chat with a friend – via your voices!
More control of your time
Ever feel an overwhelming urge to check your smartphone or pop onto social media? You’re not alone. On average, Americans check their smartphones 96 times a day and spend more than two hours on social media. For many people, checking their phone or social media whenever there’s a few free minutes is a reflex action that isn’t based on any real need. Taking a break from digital devices or media helps you combat compulsive, habitual, or addictive use.
Signs you need to put down the devices
Wondering if you need a digital detox? If using electronic media causes you to have any of the following experiences, it’s a sign that you may need to disconnect:
What can you do about it?
You have to be intentional about the use of your time. Set aside time each day to unplug or decompress. Notice the benefits and barriers you experienced during this time. What happened when you stopped watching the news for three hours straight? How did you feel when you weren’t using Facebook or Instagram? Was it easier than you thought, or tough to do? Making it a household rule that no one uses digital media during family dinners is a great place to start!
Reconnect with Nature!
Spending time in nature has been documented time and again to have healing powers. Take a day hike, stroll along a nature path, walk barefoot in a park, or create your own respite in your very own back yard. Shameless plug here for adding a living ecosystem pond or water feature by The Pond Gnome to your outdoor living space. You’d be amazed at how spending just 30-60 minutes a day away from electronics can benefit your mind and body! You don’t have to go cold-turkey for hours, days, or weeks at a time to decompress and allow yourself some relief from the techno-crazy world we live in. A little time each day can be extremely beneficial. It allows your mind to rest, away from constant stimulation.
Basically, a digital detox is about taking charge of how you spend your time and energy and what you give your attention to. It helps you realize what you want more and less of in your life so you can break unhelpful habits and create new, more meaningful ones.
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