Do You Need a Digital Detox?

For all the allure of technology, the digitally connected culture and its always on, always connected environment is creating a lot of stress.

Our relationship with technology and social media just isn’t all that good for us, a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) has found. Everyone – 99% – owns at least one digital device. And use of social media has grown from 7% in 2005 to 65% a decade later – even higher among young adults.

And what’s happened, the survey found, is that almost half of us are “constant checkers” of email, texts or social media accounts. But not only is technology a source of stress (especially when it doesn’t work) but so is being connected all the time – think about the political or cultural arguments that occur online.

In fact, a survey from marketing intelligence firm CivicScience found that non-users of social networks are 28% more likely than users to say their lives are “not at all” stressful.

It makes the case for a digital detox – taking a break from all your electronic devices. It might be something you need if:

  • You’ve become more sedentary from being glued to your screen.
  • You are interacting less – face-to-face – with other humans.
  • Your sleep is suffering from too much before-bedtime screen time.
  • Your creative output is deteriorating.

You’ll find that some sort of break from technology makes a big difference. Some people make it more of a digital Sabbath – setting aside a regular, recurring time without a cell phone, tablet or computer, and making an effort to self-nurture and enjoy life. Others find way to lessen the digital dependency. They will curb their technology use – turning off their social media notifications or ban smartphones from certain activities.

However, while 65% of those surveyed in the APA study called that a good idea, only 28% actually do it. Here’s what happens when you do:

  • You more apt to recall things. Technology is a distraction, training our brains to ignore details that might seem insignificant. Removing technology encourages people to remember what might be obscure details, but which are key to bonding with others.
  • You sleep better. A scientific theory is that the blue light from our screens suppresses the melatonin in our bodies that influences our sleep, making us more alert and less likely to get quality sleep.
  • You gain a new perspective. Without the constant distractions of technology, we’re more free to think about important issues influencing our lives, and make meaningful changes.

If you’re among those who think a digital detox is in order, here are some ways to try it out:

  • Take baby steps. Going cold turkey is hard. Success is more likely to occur if you take it in small increments. Start with 15 minutes free of technology. Expand it to 30 minutes and then an hour without checking your social media accounts. Over time, you’ll work your way up to making it several hours without – and be much healthier for the new habit.
  • Set aside “no screen time” intervals during the day. Good places to start are during meals and at bedtime. You can also try setting aside a weekend day that is technology free. Just say no to having your smartphone or tablet at hand.
  • Limit times for emails and texts. If you only check in and respond three times a day (say, 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.) you will save a lot of time. All you have to do is turn off your alerts and push notifications, or just turn the volume off.
  • Use an old-school alarm clock. If you don’t use your smart phone or tablet to wake up in the morning, you’ll be less tempted to check your emails, texts and Facebook status when you wake.
  • Engage in tech incompatible activities. It’s hard to check your phone when you’re swimming and counterproductive to do so when you’re meditating. Keep to activities that are less conducive to technology or where its use is frowned upon. And you can involve others in your efforts by making a game of it: Whoever checks their phone first at the neighborhood bar has to buy a round of drinks!
  • Get other people on board. When you let people know you’re detoxing, you may encourage others to do it with you. But you will also be discouraging them from contacting you during your downtime.

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