Plugged in to the max? A digital detox might be the answer
By Contributing Writer Caitlin Hall
Do you find yourself glued to your cell phone? Do you feel anxious when it is not near you? How often do you check your email or new posts on social media? Are you constantly plugged in?
If you’re like the average mobile device user you probably spent an average of three hours and 43 minutes on your mobile device daily in the last year. Some studies even suggest users checked their email every six minutes.
Often, our cell phone is the last thing we see before bed and the first thing we see when we wake up. We immerse lives in the digital-centric world.
Recently, I took a poll on my own social media account to see how often my friends use various forms of technology, including cell phones. Out of 11 people who took the poll, six stated they spend between 14 and 20 hours a day“plugged in.”
These friends also work in careers which heavily rely on technology for daily tasks and operations, but admitted after work they spend nearly three hours on personal mobile devices. For transparency, I also checked my cell phone usage which showed roughly four hours a day!
Realizing my amount of daily technology usage made me evaluate some of my life choices. Using technology for work and making a few select daily tasks easier is one thing, but am I benefiting from being so “plugged in” all the time? What am I doing on my mobile devices that is so important? Turns out, I Google Bigfoot and Bob Ross a lot.
It does not end there, however, because being so “plugged in” affects your health. I think we all know deep down sleeping with a cell phone next to your brain is not great for a lot of reasons and obviously screen time affects eyesight, but what about our mental health?
How often do people like me have panic attacks when they do not have their mobile devices because they are afraid to miss texts or emails? Or they feel like they have to be updated every 30 seconds by their friends’ activity on social media? Or they just really need access to Google Bigfoot sightings?
The negative effects
Our obsessive need to be near technology at all times can be a sign of something called Social Media Anxiety Disorder. According to research, this technology usage is associated with psychological problems including, anxiety, depression and loneliness. More and more, we as a society choose to opt-out of interactions with real people and choose a social media platform instead.
It’s not hard to see why we choose technology over personal social interactions with other humans. Social media apps make us happy. Each time we receive a notification from a text message, email or social media account our brain wakes up its pleasure center for maximum happiness. These happy endorphins reward us for our social media “check-ins” and email clicks.
Along with negative mental health effects, being too “plugged in” can also create a strain on your body from being hunched over looking at the screen or lack of movement. This physical strain can lead to horrifying physical health issues and put a damper on your beach bod. Two things I know most of us would like to avoid!
Taking a break from technology can help bring balance between our digital and real-world lives. Unplugging from technology can ease anxiety, reduce multitasking and reduce technology cravings so you can participate actively in the real world and with the people you care about.
How to digitally detox
First evaluate how often you use your mobile devices. Google and Apple make this easy with their new screen time tracking feature. Through this feature, you can track how often you pick up your phone, how long you use it and how long you are on each app. They also have features such as “do not disturb mode” and the ability to set time limits with passwords for each app.
If you’re like me and frequently get distracted by shiny things, the time limit for apps provides a great tool! I opted to use the password option and allowed my husband to create and keep the password. He can only give me the password if I’m using the app for something productive or work related. That man takes his password guardianship very seriously!
When to detox
Once you know how often you use your devices and apps, you can begin the process of detox. Detoxing from your devices at first is most beneficial when you’re not at work. During the workday, our responsibilities to use our devices for work require us to be “plugged in.” Limiting your device time at night proves easier and helps relieve the stressors of the day.
Nightly detox advocates like Arianna Huffington, recommends keeping your phone outside of your bedroom at night. Bringing our phone into the bedroom with us also brings the stress of work, notifications and to-do lists into our sacred sleeping space. These constant reminders harm our wellbeing by keeping us anxious and depriving us of sleep.
If you are like me, you use your cellphone as an alarm clock. I recently switched to an actual alarm clock with low light to put in our bedroom. Keeping the phone away from my bed allows me to relax and enjoy the bedroom as intended.
Once you have mastered the nightly tech detox, try a no-tech day over the weekend. Spending a full day away from your phone or technology allows you to fully enjoy your day off. Setting technology boundaries and reducing your “plugin” time allows you to boost your creativity and even your work week productivity.
We all have to use our phones and computers during the day, but with a little planning we can all be a little less “plugged in.”
No tech mornings
When you wake up in the morning, instead of grabbing your phone and spending time scrolling through social media or checking your emails, dedicate this time to your self-care. Consider waking up and making a healthy breakfast, doing a short meditation or yoga practice, exercising, reading a book or taking a pampering shower.
Once you get in the habit of waking up without your devices you might want to consider making your morning a Miracle Morning. Miracle Morning is a concept created by Hal Elrod who believes how we start our mornings impacts the life we create. By following a few simple steps and routine, you can create the life you want all before heading into work!
No tech lunches
Lunch provides a great time to ditch the devices for a mini detox during the workday. Use this time to gather your thoughts, do a short meditation or socialize with coworkers!
Screen time allowances
I cannot love screen time allowances enough, especially if you are ADD like me! Set a time and be intentional about the time you spend on your devices for a successful “plugged in” detox. Utilize your phone’s screen time features and set time limits to keep you on track with your device boundaries.
Do not disturb
Turn on your smartphone’s “do not disturb mode” to keep you focused on tasks you need or want to complete. This great feature can be turned on anytime and anywhere for any reason then turned off when you’re finished. I love using this feature when I am reading a book or working on a new blog post. This keeps me from having too many squirrel moments with constant notifications prompting me to scroll through my social media feed.
Many benefits result from incorporating a “plugged in” detox into your day. Whatever you find fits your life and schedule can produce amazing results in reducing your stress levels and letting your creative self free. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with your “plugged in” lifestyle, give a digital detox a try!