To connect with real life, disconnect from a digital one. Here are 5 ways to succeed on a digital detox.
All of us are guilty of depending too much on social media, search engines, and the technological devices that feed them. Even if you swear that you're different from the rest and don’t need to be connected at all times, you’re in for a surprise.
Digital dependence is pervasive condition and not the kind of thing you can so easily shake from your life. Just like your body may need a reboot after a stint of junk food or holiday indulgence, your soul needs a break from technology and the general sense of connected-ness via social media. It’s not just your time and attention that is at stake – it’s your mental, physical, and social health.
The Benefits of a Digital Detox
In 2013, Kate Unsworth founded Kovert Designs, a company devoted to understanding how technology is changing people’s bodies and behaviors. In one of her research studies, Unsworth gathered 35 CEOS, entrepreneurs, and other influential people on a trip to Morocco. There, she studied participants’ behavior with and without their smartphones, including their facial expressions, physical movements and how they related to one another. Her observations were striking.
After three days without technology, participants’ posture changed. Instead of looking downwards towards their screens, they began to look forward and into people’s eyes, encouraging deeper connection. Conversation also became more interesting and creative, as people didn’t have access to Google in order to look up details to clarify a curiosity. Without Google as a crutch, participants were forced to hash out details themselves and thus stayed more present in the conversation.
Meanwhile, all participants showed more efficient sleep patterns. The blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, a hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness and thus induces sleep. Without screens, participants fell asleep faster, slept longer, and had more quality rest.
Lastly, Unsworth noticed that participants reported a renewed sense of purpose and resolve in their goals. Many decided to make significant changes in their lives, such as in their careers, relationships, and self-care. Without the constant distraction of technology, people were able to focus on the things that mattered.
Clearly, the effects of a digital detox are not minimal, but to reach the full effects of a digital detox, you have to actually engage in one.
5 Ways to Get Through a Digital Detox
1. FOMO Perspective Shift: It’s Not the End of the World
Whenever I gear up for a seasonal juice cleanse, I have to constantly remind myself that, indeed, food that I can chew and swallow in all its gloriousness will still be waiting for me at the end of the tunnel – it’s not going anywhere. During a juice cleanse, my biggest anxiety is giving up my prized dinner meal, an occasion I look forward to daily to relax, rewind, and indulge a little bit. When I skip dinner and replace it with a juice, I feel like I’ve missed out on something grandiose. I definitely haven’t, but my mind is so set in my rituals, it’s hard to shake the habit.
Same goes during a digital detox - technology is not going anywhere. It’s here to stay and after you’ve done a digital detox, you can return to your beloved smartphone and other devices without having missed out on much at all. You may even be surprised how little you miss out on by not having your phone constantly by your side.
2. Let the World Know Where You Will (And Won’t) Be
Let your family, friends, coworkers, and boss know that you will be engaging in a digital detox. That way, they won’t worry or hold you accountable if you are incapable of being reached by phone or via social media. They’ll also respect your journey by contacting you in other ways or also shunning their devices when they are with you.
With that said, engage in a digital detox when the conditions are set. If you do a digital detox in the thick of a busy workweek, you aren’t likely to succeed. A weekend or a vacation is the perfect time to disconnect.
3. Start Small: Nix the Biggest Offender First
Instead of abstaining completely from all technology (although, I highly suggest it!), try picking one or two devices or platforms that are particularly problematic, like your smartphone or Facebook and Instagram, and shun those only.
4. Distract Yourself with More Important Things
Stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Go outside and spend the day with Mother Nature, your family, your friends, and your pets. Distract yourself with quality time with others and you’ll be less likely to depend on technology to fill the gap.
5. Observe Your Reactions and Take Note
Whenever you feel the anxiety to check your emails, call list, or social media feeds, catch yourself. Why do you feel the need to do so in that particular moment? Were you bored? Did you feel alone? Need affirmation? What fuels your connectivity and what else can you do to satisfy that feeling without turning to technology? Of course, being connected is essential in this day and age, but the question we all need to answer is why we utilize it in excess.
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