Step away from the smartphone.
As much as we love being glued to our iPhones, the truth is that they’re not always as good for you as you’d think.
Yes, your smartphone makes you more productive (sometimes) at work. Plus, it gives you a handy way to communicate with friends and colleagues via text, audio, video, and email.
However, just like sugar or nicotine, smartphones are also incredibly addictive.
All you need to do is pick up your smartphone to clear an alert from the screen, and before you know it, you’re three hours into an Instagram binge session.
Having our phones and other devices constantly in our hands is making us hyperconnected, but also isolated, distracted, and overwhelmed.
While we might be attached to the people and stories on our phones, we’re ignoring what’s going on in the world around us.
It could be time for a digital detox.
The Digital Detox is Trending
Look around you.
Unless you’re sitting in a room by yourself, you can probably see a handful of people right now that are disengaged from the moment, staring at a device.
This is a problem that’s causing work issues, family issues, and even relationship problems.
The issue is so significant that even leading tech companies are encouraging employees to take digital detoxes of their own – with regular breaks from tech.
Heck, even new technology is appearing to address the smartphone addiction epidemic. You can now sell your old phone and trade it in for a simpler, more minimalist version. For instance, the Light Phone is a card-sized phone that can only make calls and display the time.
Consumers everywhere are recognizing the problem we have with tech.
7 in 10 respondents to a recent study said that they’ve tried to moderate their digital consumption in some way.
Why You Should Try a Digital Detox
In a world where screens are delivering a never-ending barrage of things to distract us, it’s hard to get out of the habit of always craving more.
However, the consequences of digital addiction are serious.
We’re a community plagued by eyestrains, constant headaches, neck and back problems, and even reduced attention spans. One-third of the consumers in the UK and US are concerned about the impact that their smartphone has on their health.
It’s not just your attention span and physical health that suffers either.
According to studies by psychology groups, technology is causing people significant stress. We’re constantly dealing with an ever-present demand to check on our smartphones and respond to texts.
The problem is so significant that it’s harming our sleep quality and quantity too. We recently covered 5 of the ways that your phone is destroying your sleep here.
At the same time, researchers are finding that in-bed electronic use is having an adverse impact on mood and sleep. 70% of people in the study checked social media on their phones while still in bed. The results found that using social media while asleep increased the likelihood of insomnia, anxiety, and shorter sleep duration.
So, how do you do a digital detox (without going crazy)?
The Step-by-Step Process for Digital Detoxing
Your attention and your time are two of your most significant resources.
Companies pay a lot of money to capture as most of those two things as they can.
It’s up to you to take control of crucial resources again.
Learning how to curate your day into a more productive and healthy experience begins with understanding how to make the most of technology, without letting it overwhelm you. Here are a few steps to help you begin your digital detox.
Step 1: Be Realistic
First things first, we all have a pretty close connection with our phones these days.
According to Rescue Time, most of us spend at least 3 hours and fifteen minutes on our phones each day. The reality is potentially much worse than that for you.
If you’re the kind of person who needs to be on their phone as often as possible, then you might not be able to get rid of your addiction completely overnight. Instead, it might be a good idea to take things slow.
Start by figuring out how often you actually use your phone. There are many apps online today that can monitor the time you spend on certain apps and tools for you. This information will give you an insight into where some of your most significant trigger areas are. Once you know how much time you’re spending on your phone, you can take steps to cut down slowly.
For instance, the Space App helps you to understand your phone usage and break your addiction by allowing you to “consciously connect” while avoiding apps that drain your attention span.
Step 2: Nix The Notifications
There are going to be times in your life when you need to keep your notifications on.
You can’t have your phone on silent when you’re expecting an important call about a new job, for instance. Additionally, you’ll want to keep your notifications on when you’re using your phone to take messages at work.
However, you don’t need to be getting notifications from absolutely everything all day.
According to a report from Oxford University, problematic smartphone use is facilitated by the characteristics of technology designed to keep us engaged. When you don’t check an app for a while, it nudges you with a notification to keep you engaged. When a new post is published on Instagram, you get a message.
While notifications help us to feel informed, they’re also extremely distracting. We get into a habit of waiting for the next notification to come through, rather than paying attention to the world around us. Head into the apps that you find most distracting and turn off the notifications for a while. You’ll be surprised how much this frees you from your phone.
Step 3: Choose Detox Moments
As mentioned above, completely abandoning technology entirely might not be an option for you.
However, you can take small steps towards healthier tech usage by limiting the amount you use your phone at certain times of the day. For instance, start by designating a single hour each day when you don’t check your phone.
According to the Nielsen report on social media usage, a third of people between the age of 18 and 24 don’t even visit the bathroom without a smartphone. If you have one hour per day where you can handle the challenge of not checking your phone, you’re already making positive steps.
A good idea could be to start with your lunch break. Focus on getting some food, relaxing, and even speaking to your colleagues, rather than checking your phone. Other times you might want to choose for your digital detox moments include:
- An hour before bed, to help you relax
- When you’re waking up
- When you’re working on a hobby or project
- When you’re spending time with family and friends
- When taking a bath
Step 4: Make it Easier for Yourself
Overcoming any addiction is hard work.
Just because you’re addicted to your phone, rather than nicotine, doesn’t mean that you should take the healing process any less seriously. A digital detox can be an exhausting experience. Make sure that you give yourself as much extra support as you need.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to this process.
You might want to try giving up all devices at once, or just one device at a time. You could also consider picking a single day of the week when you go device-free. Other strategies include:
- Concentrating on social media: If you spend too much time on social media, consider eliminating your use of a certain app for a specific period.
- A specific app detox: If there’s a certain app that you can’t stop using – concentrate on reducing your time with that tool.
- A digital fast: Consider giving up all digital devices for a short period of time – like an hour a day.
You could even consider using the “single screen rule.” When you’re watching television, start by hiding your smartphone or turning off, so you can focus on a single device or gadget at a time. This will help to reduce the number of gadgets you constantly have around you.
Step 5: Prepare for Temptation
Finally, recognize that you’re going to be tempted.
You’re used to using your smartphone every day.
Telling yourself that you can’t check your social media feed or your emails – even just for an hour, is going to be tough at first.
Make the process as straightforward for yourself as possible. For instance, have activities available that you can use to distract yourself when you’re keen to check your phone. Talk to your partner, read, or watch a movie. Go for a walk, or just take in the world around you.
It might be helpful to let your friends and family know what’s going on for you so that they can give you help and support too. You could even give your phone to your friends and family when you’re in your detox hour, so you’re less likely to check it.
The less alone you feel, the less reliant you’ll be on your phone.
Mastering your Digital Detox
Ultimately, smartphones and other devices are fantastic things.
However, as convenient and beneficial as they can be – they also have their downsides too. The more time we spend on our digital devices, the more obsessed we become with them.
If you find it hard to spend any time away from your device, now could be the time to test your own digital detox strategy.