Over the last 20 years or so, we’ve seen technology become a bigger part of our lives. Now, nearly everyone has a smartphone with them at all times, keeping them locked into emails, social media, and news coverages every moment of the day. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why many people can be left feeling overwhelmed by the growing digital dimension in our lives.
We are constantly connected and contactable, with the average American checking their phone around 334 times in a single day (that’s around once every 4 minutes) and spending over 10 hours a day looking at screens. No wonder lots of people are now turning to the digital detox—a method of resetting and redefining how we interact with the digital space.
What is a digital detox?
A digital detox program is a way of cleansing your brain and body from being ‘addicted’ to digital media and your devices all together. Typically, you swap digital experiences for physical alternatives, such as meeting up with people, going to attractions like the zoo or theme parks, or venturing out into the wilderness for a while. It all comes down to what is going to keep you busy instead of your devices.
Reasons to do a digital detox
Online content like social media, streaming platforms, video games and more can make many feel that they spend more time in the digital world than the real one—or that the two are too blurred to be separate anymore. Many work on screens, then go home to spend more time watching or scrolling through them.
Breaking the cycle and disconnecting from the digital sphere can be incredibly appealing to those who feel screen time is linked to:
- General burnout (from work or otherwise)
- Overstimulation in their personal life (exhausted at being connected all the time)
- Obligated to consume and respond to online content
- Low mood, irritability, and insecurity
What are the benefits of a digital detox?
If you’re more interested in what there is to gain from doing a digital detox, here are a few of the general benefits people have found—although it’s important to note that its effectiveness and results vary from how you approach your detox:
- Reduce stress
- Less isolation or FOMO driven by social content
- Improve sleep habits (screen time before bed can be detrimental to sleep)
- Becoming less dependent on digital media for escapism/instant gratification
- More time to develop skills and hobbies
- Less distracted and greater sense of mindfulness
How to do a digital detox
There’s no one-size-fits-all method of doing a digital detox. You’ll need to set your own digital detox rules based on how strict you want to be with yourself and how big of a disconnect you want to experience.
The main aim of doing a digital detox is to break your usual habits and make purposeful changes to your lifestyle. Having a digital detox planner that sets out what you want to get out of the experience can help you stay focused and keep digital cravings at bay.
General digital detox rules
We’ve detailed some of the standard digital detox methods that people use to help curb their phone usage and screen time in their lives. You can use these, tweak them, and add in your own to find something that works for you.
- Avoid screen time before bed: Blue light from screens can mess with your sleep, so try not to use them in the 90 minutes before bed. Try to switch up your routine.
- Configure your devices: Most devices have built-in features to limit screen time, as well as Do Not Disturb settings to prevent notifications from nagging for attention.
- Set tech-free hours: Take regular breaks from your devices where you can—lunchtimes, commutes, Sunday mornings—whatever is attainable for you.
- Try the 1:1:1 method: This method encourages you to step away from your devices one hour a day (before bed), one afternoon/evening a week, and one week a year.
- Keep your device out of sight: Putting your devices in a drawer, box or other room helps take them off your mind, freeing you up to focus on other tasks.
- Set goals: Minimizing your device time can be easier if you’re using that time working towards something else. If there’s a hobby or skill you’re looking to get better at, set yourself an amount of time per day/week on that instead.
Activities for switching off
We’ve covered a few digital detox activities that break you out of the digital cycle and ground you back in the physical, but here are three key ones that can make you feel more grounded and mindful when taking on your digital detox challenge.
Take in the great outdoors
There are 63 national parks dotted around the country (not to mention local parks and beauty spots) that are easy to get to. Switching up your weekend plans to get you off the couch and into some walking boots to hike a local trail near you can lift your spirits. Plus, one little selfie while out exploring won’t hurt!
Dive into a book
Reading may have been a passion when you were younger, or it could be something you’ve never really tried. Now’s the best time to give it another go. It can be great for escaping into a story or learning a new skill to help around the home. Check with your local library to borrow a book without dropping a single cent, or see if friends would lend you their favorite.
Spend time with friends and family
Our loved ones can be a great source of inspiration as well as being generally fun to be around. See if they’d want to spend an afternoon outdoors somewhere, relax in your backyard, or head out for dinner. Maybe they’d even want to have a little get-together with a group of people. Take your interactions offline and recapture that magic of being together in the same space.
If you need a little extra help and a digital detox planner just isn’t cutting it, you can try and find a digital detox retreat in your state (or a neighbouring one) which you can disappear off to for a weekend. The Digital Detox company was set up to provide those kinds of experiences, so check them out if you want somewhere designed for disconnecting. If a retreat feels right for you, then you can knock the cost down a little with our paid online surveys to earn rewards while you’re feeling more digitally active.