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5 Steps To A Successful Digital Detox

Screens are hard to escape from nowadays. Whether it's a smartphone, a desktop, laptop, TV, tablet, or e-reader – you're constantly connected.

The pandemic has only made this worse. Research shows, in the UK, adults' screen time has shot up 31% since the pandemic started.

In this article, we'll walk you through the how and why of a digital detox.

Is Excessive Screen Time Harmful?

Smartphones and social media are amazing inventions that have made life infinitely easier. They've revolutionised how we work, shop, and keep in touch with friends – you're reading this on a screen now.

But despite their upsides, our growing addiction to screens has a dark side.

Constant streaming, scrolling, texting, and 'liking' causes reward centres in your brain to release dopamine1, a neurotransmitter that gives you all sorts of good feelings.

The dopamine rush is addictive – it's the reason you check Instagram at dinner and reach for your phone first thing in the morning.

Some of the risks of being constantly connected include:

  • Insomnia
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Stress and anxiety from social comparison
  • Reduced attention span
  • Less empathy
  • Fewer (real-life) social connections

Luckily, reducing your social media can improve your mental health and general well-being2.

How to Do a Digital Detox

Quitting screen time "cold turkey" is unrealistic for most people. However, changing your habits and implementing a "mini detox" is achievable for most people.

Here are five tips to help you set digital boundaries:

1. Turn off Notifications

Notifications for text messages may be necessary – but not all notifications are urgent.

Ongoing "pings" and buzzing from your phone and other devices can set off your body's stress response – the fight or flight response.

So, turning off push notifications for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, news sites, and emails helps you unplug and get back in touch with what really matters. This removes the temptation to check your devices several times per hour.

2. Delete Social Media Apps off Your Phone

Deleting social media apps off your phone and only checking these accounts on your computer can drastically reduce the number of times you check your phone each day.

Plus, it will minimize the risk of getting sucked into a Twitter or YouTube rabbit hole!

3. Schedule Time for Emails

Are you guilty of checking your emails late at night or tweeting when watching a movie with the family?

Having emails on your phone and tablet and checking them at all hours of the day and night can create stress and anxiety.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside 2-3 "windows" during the day to read and reply to emails. You can adjust your settings to only receive emails once every hour or every few hours.

It may also be helpful to set up an auto-reply telling senders to call you if the matter is urgent.

4. Use Tech to Your Advantage

Do you know phone settings, apps, and programs can help you avoid your phone or computer?

They monitor your screen time and block or limit time on distracting websites and apps to help you stay on track.

You can use the Digital Wellbeing setting on Android and Screen Time on Apple.

Other useful “focus” apps include:

Serene

RescueTime

Stay Focused

Y Productive

Set them up to block apps and websites for a certain amount of time – or use them whenever you need help to focus.

5. Set a Digital Curfew

Do you spend hours leading up to bedtime scrolling through social media, streaming series, or playing computer games?

If the answer is yes, you're in good company.

Unfortunately, this is devastating for your circadian rhythm and sleep quality3. Blue light emitted from these addictive devices makes your brain think it's daytime. It suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you wind down.

To avoid this, experts suggest setting a strict digital curfew. Starting 2 hours before bedtime, put away your devices and turn off your wifi.

Instead, spend time with your family, read a book, have a bath, or do some yoga to wind down. This will help you break your social media addiction and become more aware of your natural sleep and wake cues.

Final Thoughts…

The first step to a successful digital detox is to be realistic about your social media use. Chances are, a lot of screen time is wasted time.

Taking regular breaks from social media and implementing boundaries makes a huge difference to your self-esteem, relationships, sleep quality, and productivity. 

Are you planning on doing a digital detox? Let us know in the comments!

Resources

  • www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/brain-wise/201802/the-dopamine-seeking-reward-loop%3famp
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328838624_No_More_FOMO_Limiting_Social_Media_Decreases_Loneliness_and_Depression
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27802500/

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