Digital Detoxing? Things To Do To Not Just Survive, But Thrive
These days, phones are an extension of people. No one will go anywhere without their screens. Whether it be over coffee, dinner or even just getting from A to B, everyone’s eyes are glued to their precious 5” displays.
In 2017, an American analytics company ran a study and found that the average adult spends just shy of 3 hours on their phone every day. Tallied up against a lifetime, that totals to 5 years and 4 months… looking at your phone! If your first thought was “Yikes… But I definitely spend over 3 hours a day on my phone”, then DOUBLE YIKES! If you’re concerned about your phone usage, you might want to look into doing a digital detox.
Now, in this day and age, going digitally ‘cold turkey’ can have major repercussions. Realistically, you need these screens for work, play and everything in between. So, when we say ‘detox’, all we’re talking about is reigning in your usage and finding a happy medium. It’s time to say goodbye to those phantom notifications, random finger twitches and mindless scrolling – here’s how.
As they say, the first step to combating an addiction is accepting that you have one. While it’s easy to palm off the idea of being addicted to something as menial as your phone, don’t. Track your usage via an app (e.g. Moment, SPACE, etc.) or for those with newer smartphones, activate your ‘Screen Time’ feature in your phone settings. Now, for a few days, don’t limit your usage. This might sound a bit bizarre, seeing as we’re trying to curb your usage but use your phone as you normally would and then let your jaw drop as you review the results.
Lean in to the shock and horror, you’ll need to use it to feed your discipline! Don’t beat yourself up over it though – these apps are specifically designed to reel you in. The hours of mindless scrolling are a result of little drops of dopamine sent straight to the brain every time we see a ‘digital reward’ like a meme or new post. But don’t fret, we’re going to flex and train your self-control and in no time, you’ll be saying “new phone who dis” to your old phone.
Now that you are brazenly aware that you have an addiction, before you get onto the road to recovery… you need to know what it’s doing to you. Yep, I’m going full scare tactic on you.
These seemingly harmless stints spent on our screens are rewiring our brains. Think of your average web page or Facebook/Instagram feed. It’s littered with ads, links, bodies of text and images, these all require short bursts of interaction like scrolling, swiping or clicking. Looking at a landscape like this trains our brains to become accustomed to a state of ‘focused distraction’. This immediately affects our memory and ability to concentrate, and its’ effects are long term. So, if you feel like you can’t remember things or concentrate as well as you used to – we may have found the root to your problem (and it’s probably in your hands right now).
This one shouldn’t be as much of a surprise to you, but if you use your phone right up until you go to sleep, the blue light that your phone projects is increasing the time it takes for you to fall asleep (as the light from your screen activates your brain) or decreasing the quality of your sleep. Another reason to reduce tech time… studies show that 7-8 hours of good sleep per night can also help regulate your metabolism! So, if you love some good shut-eye, it’s time to love your phone, tablet or laptop a little less.
There’s also a string of psychological effects linked with phone addiction. Depression and anxiety can be onset or worsened due to this ‘over-connection’. Relationships can be strained, or end as a result of phone prioritisation. Imagine having to explain to people that you’re single because: memes > bae
Other side effects of an over-dependence on your phone are more physical.
- Eye strain can cause headaches or lead to a deterioration in your vision
- ‘Text neck’ AKA a stiff or sore neck from looking down at your screen
- Increased illnesses – 1 in 6 phones have FECAL MATTER on it due to all that toilet time spent with your phone in hand (ew!)
- Pedestrian/Car Accidents – bumping into a stranger who’s also looking down at their phone might seem funny and harmless, but change the context to cars/roads and we have a very serious problem
ROAD TO RECOVERY
Detoxing will be hard but at the end of the day, it’s your wellness at stake so try your best and if you fall off the wagon to wellness, just try again! Here are some steps and measures I’ve been taking to find a happy medium with my phone.
Tell your friends and family about your digital detox. Other than spreading the word and encouraging them to detox too, it makes you accountable. It gifts them with the ability to call you out on your over-usage if they happen to catch you falling victim to the mindless scroll.
Limit your screen time. Try to avoid looking at your phone for the first and last hour of your day. If you use your phone as your alarm clock, use it as JUST your alarm clock! Don’t let it bleed into your morning ritual. If you aren’t using you’re your tech to be productive or get ahead, put it down. Start and end your day right, not by liking social media posts from people you don’t even like. Doing this will also improve your sleep and metabolism, what more could you want!?
Use your tracking app and limit your social media browsing, I’ve set my limit to 1 hour. This one was a doozy for me and if I’m honest, I just used this to increase my awareness of this addiction. You’ll be surprised (or at least I was) at how early in the day the timer goes off for your browsing time. After your initial timer goes off, you can either comply and get off it, or extend your limit for 15 minutes at a time. It was at this point I realised how much extra time I was sitting on the explore page just watching slime videos… another ‘yikes’ for me.
Disable your notifications – if you can. If you’re waiting on an important call or if work requires you to be connected (on-call doctors, please don’t do this), just disable what you can. Having those dings and buzzes constantly beckoning you throughout the day makes detoxing hard, and it’s almost impossible to moderate your phone usage without this step. In a recent study, almost 70% adults admitted to reaching for their phone, only to realise they’ve imagined the buzz. Eliminate the phantom notification and prioritise the real world over your digital one.
Don’t charge your phone every day. Admittedly, this one might be best for the ones with newer phones (let’s be real… those pesky iPhone 5’s and 6’s can barely last an hour these days). But by charging your phone every 2 or 3 days it will force you into frugality. You’ll think twice before opening up an app and all that extra time on your hands will be yours for the taking. Use this newly freed time to recharge yourself instead of your phone.
Get out there and live your best life in 2019
Need some ideas on what to do when ‘recharging yourself’? Get yourself away from the memes and in to nature. Go for a walk, have a dip in the pool or get your heart pumping with some more unique and adrenaline inducing activities. I recommend stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, rock climbing or abseiling – visit Riverlife for the whole shebang. These will get your heart pumping and will replace those dopamine hits with adrenaline and endorphins.
If you’ve got a few days on your hands, take a cruise or go on a holiday. There are so many deals about and you’ll really thank yourself when you’re basking on the sundeck of a P&O Cruise or snorkeling the amazing wrecks out at Moreton Island. Don’t think that just because you’re detoxing, you can’t whip your phone out to take some happy snaps. The key to achieving a balance is moderation and mindfulness. Make the most of your digital detox and fill it with some exciting moments with people you care about. By doing this, you’ll associate being away from your phone with fun times!
If you find yourself flirting with the borders of addiction again, remind yourself of the negative effects vs everything you have to gain. Rebel against the feedback loop and reject the machine learnt algorithms that try to tell you what you want and need.
Now go forth and good luck finding your balance!