Like it or not, we are entrenched in a digital age. Using a device of some kind is part of our everyday lives. Incorporating some form of electronic device into our daily routine has become inevitable. Phones and laptops, in particular, have become indispensable tools most of us struggle to do without.
Despite the undeniable significance of these devices in enhancing our lifestyles from the way we work to how we socialise, the allure they hold can quickly transform into a genuine issue.
Struggling to quit the scrolling binge on your phone? Keep finding yourself checking your laptop? It may well be time for a digital detox.
Why You Need A Digital Detox
We may not all readily admit it, but most of us could probably benefit from taking a digital detox. In fact, most of us are likely far overdue.
As the New Year unfolds, common resolutions often centre around themes such as spending more time outdoors, prioritising mental well-being, or trading in hours of screen time to read books. These resolutions invariably tie back to one thing: To put space between us and our phones, laptops, and other devices.
Getting off your devices is what has become known as having a digital detox. Essentially, it involves proactively your amount of screen time, sometimes even cutting it off altogether, often to redirect focus to other aspects of life and enhance mental health.
While some might perceive the notion of a digital detox as excessive or unnecessary, the reality is that individuals can unknowingly develop a dependence or even an addiction to their devices.
When asked in a 2024 study, 47% of Americans admit they’re addicted to their phones, with the average American checking their smartphone 352 times per day, according to Exploding Topics.
71% of the study went on to admit to spending more time on their phone than with their romantic partner, with 44% of American adults confessing to experiencing anxiety if they are ever without their phones.
Not only do these statistics underscore our excessive dependence on our devices, but the focus on feelings of anxiety also sheds light on a crucial aspect of why occasional digital detoxes are essential – to support and enhance our mental well-being.
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How Digital Devices Affect Mental Health
Digital detoxing is important for several reasons. It may boost our productivity at work, help us be more sociable in person, and even help our posture, giving our neck and eyes a break. However, the central rationale is often to proactively aid our mental health.
Excessive device usage can cause issues such as difficulty and disrupted sleep. Constant exposure to artificial light and persistent engagement with phones, particularly late into the night, can hinder our ability to unwind, making it challenging to achieve restful sleep.
According to Mattress Clarity, a study found that people were 2.5 times more likely to have mental distress when getting less than 6 hours of sleep on average compared to those who slept longer, emphasising the importance of getting out of the habit of those late-night scrolls.
Countless other studies have also found more direct links to excessive device usage and mental health issues.
For instance, research by Kaspersky revealed that teenagers and adults who spent more than 6 hours looking at screens were much more likely to experience moderate to severe depression than those who spent less time with their screens.
Excessive screen time may foster feelings of disconnectedness and isolation, diverting individuals from crucial real-life connections and immersing them excessively in virtual activities. This impact extends to our physical well-being, as too much online time may distract us from getting out and about and engaging in exercise – a crucial element in maintaining mental health.
In particular, spending excessive time on social media can contribute to low self-esteem as individuals often compare themselves to online portrayals. Moreover, the virtual realm exposes individuals to new risks such as cyberbullying, all of which can adversely affect mental health.
Ways To Do A Digital Detox
The idea of a digital detox may feel daunting, especially if you haven’t done one before. Thoughts will probably enter your mind such as, “How am I going to live without my phone!”
Don’t worry. A digital detox doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey on all your devices. There are several straightforward methods to undertake a digital detox, ensuring that it never feels like an insurmountable task.
To sustain your commitment to a digital detox and ensure you stick with them moving forward, it’s important to explore ways to detox that resonate with you so that the experience becomes a rewarding and enjoyable one.
Here are some simple and easy ways to get started on your detoxing journey:
1. Turn Off Notifications
This is one of the easiest ways to stop you from reaching for your phone. Turn those notifications off!
Customise your settings based on your priorities – you may want to keep work email notifications on while turning off all social media alerts. If you prefer a gradual approach, start by muting notifications.
Even seemingly innocent alerts like weather notifications can be distracting. As soon as you hear that ping, checking the weather can soon become a half-an-hour scroll on social media if you’re not careful, so it may be beneficial to simply turn off all unnecessary alerts.
2. Tech Free Time & Blocking Apps
Effectively reducing your screen time may involve carving out tech-free hours, such as during meals or just before bedtime.
If this proves challenging, there are numerous apps available to assist. These apps can restrict your device access during specific periods or at designated times of the day. Alternatively, consider turning on aeroplane mode to stop you from wandering onto your phone.
This deliberate disconnection from your device can encourage you to, for example, chat with friends and family at mealtimes or dedicate time to reading before bed. Over time, these activities can become more enjoyable and you may not even need a blocking app to get you into better habits.
These can subsequently become long-lasting habits, making it less likely for you to revert to endless scrolling once you’ve experienced their positive impact.
3. Clear Out Apps
Over time, individuals may find themselves increasingly reliant on their phones or laptops, turning to them for every conceivable occasion due to the plethora of available apps.
It’s time for a digital declutter.
Review all your devices are remove apps you don’t use regularly. Better yet, consider removing apps you frequently use but wish to take a break from.
Deleting apps can limit the platforms you endlessly flick between and can reduce the need to reach for your device every time you need something.
Challenge yourself and seek real-life app alternatives. If you rely on apps for recipes, consider exploring a physical cookbook. Instead of scrolling through music apps, try tuning into the radio for your musical needs.
Simplifying your digital landscape can encourage a healthier balance between the virtual and real world.
4. Don’t Take Your Phone To Bathroom
This may sound TMI (too much information), but a lot of people are guilty of this.
Not only can this be an unhygienic habit, but it can also be an effective way to limit our free time. Not to mention, it can help reduce the risk of getting your devices wet in the shower or dropped down the toilet.
Simple tips like this can break the habit of needing to be constantly accompanied by an electronic device. Give yourself time to switch off and get some space from your screen throughout the day.
5. Get An Alarm Clock
One useful advantage of phones is the built-in alarm clock. However, this convenience may lead to using the phone right before bedtime to set an alarm and first thing in the morning to turn it off.
Initiating and concluding your day by staring at a screen is not an ideal practice. Late-night phone use can disrupt sleep, and starting the day with screen time can set a negative tone. After all, we should start the day as we mean to go on. Consider substituting screen time with a more mindful morning routine.
Invest in a real alarm clock instead. These are available at affordable prices and can assist in breaking the habit of relying on the phone for bedtime and wake-up routines.