We may not all admit to spending too much time on our electronic devices, but for most of us, this is probably the truth.
Of course, this isn’t entirely our fault. After all, we live in a digital age where everything from our work to social life to entertainment can all be found on our phones, laptops and TVs. The distinction between the digital realm and the real world has progressively faded over the years.
Despite the indispensability of digital devices, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a break from them every now and again. This is what has become known as a digital detox.
What Are The Benefits Of A Digital Detox?
Essentially, a digital detox involves proactively your amount of screen time, sometimes even cutting it off altogether, to shift focus to other aspects of life and improve mental well-being. Despite scepticism about the necessity of such detoxes, many individuals unknowingly develop dependence or addiction to their devices.
When asked in a 2024 American study, 47% admitted they’re addicted to their phones, with 44% of adults confessing to experiencing anxiety if they are ever without their phones, according to Exploding Topics, underscoring the impact of device dependence on mental health.
Excessive screen time can lead to feelings of isolation, disrupting real-life connections and hindering physical well-being by discouraging outdoor activities and exercise, crucial for maintaining mental health. Moreover, spending too much time on social media can contribute to low self-esteem, with individuals comparing themselves to online portrayals, as well as opening us to risks such as cyberbullying which can adversely affect our mental health.
Overuse of devices can also interfere with sleep, as exposure to artificial light and late-night phone engagement make it challenging to unwind and achieve restful sleep. A study by Mattress Clarity found that people were 2.5 times more likely to experience mental distress with less than 6 hours of sleep on average compared to those who slept longer.
How To Do A Digital Detox?
Different steps can be taken in the pursuit of a digital detox. After all, this can be a daunting endeavour and many of us may have thoughts such as: “How am I going to live without my phone!”
But there are several straightforward methods to undertake a digital detox, ensuring that it never feels like an insurmountable task. Some simple steps include turning off notifications to stop you from reaching for your phone, deleting all necessary apps to prevent your endlessly flicking and switching out your mobile alarm for a real alarm clock so you don’t start your morning with a scroll.
But one of the most effective steps is to download apps specifically tailored to help you ditch the endless screen time and build better long-lasting habits. Key features of these apps include:
Key Features of Digital Detox Apps
- Lock Screen – To help cut you off cold turkey from your digital devices, several apps have a lock screen functionality that can temporarily lock your device to ensure you don’t succumb to the temptation of a scrolling binge.
- Screen Tracking – Several apps allow users to track their screen time and set usage limits. By tracking your screen, you can identify your device usage and decide on an appropriate amount you’d like to reduce this to encourage better habits.
- Challenges and Rewards – Some apps will provide incentives to help you digitally detox. By setting challenges and giving rewards to users who achieve them, users are motivated to lower their screen time usage.
Top 10 Apps To Help You Digital Detox
The Forest app is a platform to curve users’ temptation to go on their phones so they can remain focused on their tasks. The Forest app will plant a virtual tree and, once a timer has been set, this tree will start to grow. If you disrupt the timer and go on your phone, your tree will die!
This free and easy-to-use app helps users digitally detox with the Pomodoro Technique – this is when you work or focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break to help promote concentration and healthy phone usage.
Feed your avatar with time you are not spending on your phone to keep it happy and track your progress via detailed statistics.
With Flipd, users can track their productivity, motivating you to curb phone habits, limit distractions, and become more productive.
To do this, users can set a timer for the time they’d like to study or complete a task. As soon as you begin, the Flipd timer will start counting your minutes. If you leave Flipd during the active session to check your phone or open another app, you’ll receive a warning notification asking you to return to Flipd or the timer will end.
At the end of the session, you’ll get a summary of your progress and can also review the session on your calendar. Flipd also includes thoughtfully designed features that support & motivate your productivity journey, like a community leaderboard, lofi background music, and milestone achievements.
AppDetox helps you reduce your mobile app usage, and take a digital detox. You are able to set your own rules for your apps and notifications to detox from some heavy usage and stop procrastinating.
Better yet, this allows you to take you digital detox into your own hands! According to your own rules the use of some apps will be forbidden, you will see temptations when you tried to launch an app against your rules in a log and you will also see a statistic of your daily app usage as well as total usage time and number of launches for your apps.
According to Opal, 4 hours is the average time you spend looking at your phone a day. Opal has a comprehensive solution to curb this habit. Opal lets you measure your focus, block distractions, automate your days and more with a combination of app restrictions, real-time feedback and rewards.
Users will subsequently receive a focus report where they can measure their progress and check their focus level at any point throughout the day. They will also get a report on your progress every week.
To operate, it’s important to note that Opal uses Apple’s Screen Time API technology, though this will only be done after you have given your permission.
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OFFTIME has the sole aim of ridding users of the habit of constantly checking their phones. Available on iOS and Android, the OFFTIME app allows users to set timers for relaxing (or literally, “off time”) when you can block your phone to help resist the temptation and, in the words of the app, “recover what your phone has taken from you”!.
In essence, by getting off your phone for periods throughout the day, you can shift your focus to pursuing other things in real life, such as exercising, socialising, or reading with OFFTIME.
Users can then review a daily, weekly and monthly report to review their productivity and identify areas for improvement.
StayFree allows users to block apps and websites that keep them hooked to help them stay productive and, quite literally, “Stay free”. Users can review all the apps they use, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, or YouTube, and identify the apps they spend the most screen time on. Then, users can choose to block these apps at certain points throughout the day and set usage limits, settling into Focus Mode instead.
Then, upon unwinding for bed, StayFree also offers a Sleep Mode for your phone to stop those late night scrolls.
A highly rated app, Offscreen lets you track your screen time and set up a subsequent screen time goal to stick to. Users can get daily insight on their progress, including seeing the average amount of times they picked up their phone, used it while walking, used it before bed, and more.
After identifying areas for improvement, users can set themselves challenges to stay motivated such as the Screen Time Challenge, Pick Up Challenge and Sleep Challenge.
9. Microsoft Launcher
Everyone has heard of Microsoft, but not everyone may have heard of the Microsoft Launcher app.
This is a home screen experience that encourages Andriod users to become more productive. With this app, users can unlock a platform which represents a personal feed of their calendar, to-do lists, sticky notes and more.
Simply set up the Microsoft Launcher as your home screen and have easy access to your productivity board to help keep you motivated throughout the day.
10. Social Fever
The Social Fever app helps you break phone addiction by monitoring your phone usage. Whether this is typically spent on social media, watching funny cat videos or playing music, we can all agree this can probably be spent doing more productive things.
So, ditch the unproductive scrolling sessions and download Social Fever to track your social media usage. Once this is represented visually, you may feel an incentive to limit your phone use.
Not only can this aid your productivity, but giving social media a break may also aid your mental health and well-being. Try it and see.
Is A Digital Detox Worth It?
So, is it really worth digitally detoxing?
Ultimately, for anyone who feels they are struggling to quit the scrolling binges or keep finding themselves checking their laptop, a digital detox may well be worth it.
Particularly if you sense a negative impact on your mental health, find it challenging to overcome digital overdependence, struggle with work focus, experience sleep disturbances, or desire to reconnect with real-life relationships, a digital detox might be the solution.
Brief breaks from digital devices can effectively disrupt the cycle of constant phone checking, relieving stress, dependency, and even depressive symptoms, promoting improved sleep.
However, it’s important to note that taking one short digital detox and not returning to the practice will probably not help you in the long term. This needs to be a consistent and sustained commitment.
To ensure this commitment is kept, consider utilising one of the mentioned apps to establish enduring habits that will support your ongoing digital detox efforts.