“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Anne Lamott
There’s no denying that going digital has helped most of us this year. As our worlds became smaller due to iso and lockdowns, technology enabled us to work and learn from home, meet with colleagues via Zoom, binge EVERYTHING on our streaming service, video chat with the friends and family we couldn’t see in person, travel virtually to the Louvre, listen to podcasts while we walked endlessly around our neighbourhoods and shop online (So. Much. Shopping).
But I think many of us are feeling the effects of too much of a good thing. It may be time for a digital detox. And as we come to the end of a very stressful and trying year, now’s the perfect time.
Our devices and being connected to the wider world are part of everyday life. But the constant pings, dings, beeps and notifications can get in the way of our being present in the moment. When we’ve got our heads down over the phone, scrolling through emails and social media, we miss out on so much. The world around us, conversations with loved ones, delicious meals – all the things that make our lives so rich and colourful.
This constant connectivity can be stressful. The 24/7 news cycle is frequently filled with sensationalised and grim stories. Our feeds are full of posts from people whose lives appear to be perfect – making us hyper-critical of our own lives. And we often feel pressured to respond quickly to work emails, texts and other contacts.
This constant barrage leaves little room for quiet reflection and time out. It can also affect the quality and quantity of our sleep.
So taking time to disconnect from the digital world can be a good idea every now and again. But how do you go about it?
Your digital detox plan
There are lots of books – and somewhat ironically – websites, apps and podcasts – to help you detox. But you might want to start by keeping it simple, realistic and achievable for you.
Think about how often you use your devices – all of them. Our phones are the one that we tend to blame the most – they’re with us all the time and we can do so much with them. But TVs, computers, gaming consoles, tablets, watches – we spend a lot of time on them too. How do you use these devices? Are you using them for work, connecting with family/friends, playing games, or just passing time? Only you can tell if you’re using them in a way that’s stressful or unhealthy.
So ask yourself:
- Do I feel anxious when I don’t have my phone with me?
- Do I miss parts of conversations because I’m checking my phone? Do I have to ask people to repeat themselves?
- Are the things I’m scrolling through and reading enriching my life or bringing me joy?
- Do I feel compelled to check my apps, socials or emails before I get out of bed? Or before I turn the light off at night?
- Do I find myself looking at an empty plate and wondering where my dinner went?
- Do I feel like I’ll miss out on things if I don’t keep checking in?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe a detox is just what you need.
Be realistic. Some people are able to put their phones and devices away for a month, with little impact on their work and home life. While others need to be connected to some degree most days.
So think about what’s realistic for you:
- If you need to be connected for work, set boundaries on when you’ll respond to work emails and chats – preferably during your usual working hours. Then turn off or ignore any notifications until your next working day.
- If you love being connected via your socials, that’s great. But again, think about setting limits. Avoid constantly checking your phone, or picking it up every time you hear a notification. Set yourself times when you’ll look, and then put your phone aside.
- Consider picking one day a week that you’ll go completely device free. Plan to do this with other members of your household or friends and use that day to have an adventure together – go to the zoo, hike in the hills, go on a scavenger hunt, hit the beach, play a round of golf or mini golf. Do something that doesn’t involve technology.
- Limit your time on a specific app, site, game that really drains your time. For me that’s Pinterest. Wow, what a rabbit hole! You can lose hours there! So I make the conscious decision to only access it for a set amount of time – enough to make me feel connected, and not deprived of something I enjoy. And it still leaves time for other activities.
Create work/life balance. With many people still working from home, having good work/life balance, and clear boundaries is more important than ever. So unless you’re working on something pressing or urgent, only look at your work stuff during work hours. You owe it to yourself and your family to have some downtime. You’ll be much happier for it.
Lose the distractions. And speaking of work, do you also find yourself distracted by apps when you should be working? (Asking for a friend). It’s amazing how much time you can waste when one of your apps decides to show you yet another cute cat/dog/llama video. And how much more productive you can be when you disconnect from these apps during work hours. So if you’re finding it all too distracting, turn off the notifications for any non-essentials.
Don’t look at your phone when you’re doing other things. So many people, myself included, walk the streets with their attention focused on their phone. While this is a great way to get hurt – walking into poles, tripping up curbs, falling into ponds – it also means you’re not seeing what’s going on around you. After the year we’ve had, noticing all of the incredible things around us – even in our own backyard – can bring a lot of calm and happiness. So put your phone in your pocket or bag and take a look around you. If you’re walking with other people, talk with them, and really listen to what they’re saying. It’s amazing how much you hear when you’re not distracted.
Make meal times sacred. Even if you’re eating on your own, put your phone or device aside, and turn the TV off. We tend to eat so mindlessly when we’re distracted by other things. And when you’re not paying attention, how can you enjoy your meal? Or those around you? So make these times digital-free, enjoy the food you’ve prepared, reflect on your day, and enjoy this small oasis of time.
Tips to help you detox
Detoxing from our devices can be really tough. They’ve become such an important part of our lives. So we’ve come up with some tips to help you:
- Leave your phone in one central place at home, rather than carrying it with you from room to room. This’ll prevent it distracting you and constantly interrupting your day/evening.
- Make your bedroom a tech-free zone. Charge your phone in another room. If you use your phone as an alarm, turn up the volume (the rest of the household will love that) or buy a small alarm clock.
- Turn off push notifications. They’re the automated messages and pop-ups that alert you when an app wants your attention – usually for nothing particularly important. So turn them off. Or just turn off the alerts from apps you don’t care about. If you don’t know how to turn them off, go online and search ‘turn off push notifications’ and your phone type, and you’ll find video and tutorials galore to help you.
- Turn on airplane mode. Basically this will turn off access to your mobile network, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you can’t send or receive calls, texts or emails, access the internet or socials. It stops all the distractions coming in.
- Leave your phone in your pocket or bag when in meetings or when you’re having a meal out.
- Get your family and friends involved. Tell them what you’re doing and why. At the very least they’ll know why you may not get back to their messages immediately.
- Don’t take your phone to the loo…eeeew. Apart from the whole gross, unhygienic aspect – do you really want people to hear what you’re doing? And this, the most basic thing we do every day, surely deserves some alone time?
- Use one device at a time. Do you have the TV on while you’re playing a game on your tablet, or flicking through socials on your phone? Choose one device and turn the other off. You can only focus on one at a time anyway.
However you choose to take a break from our digital world it’s a valuable thing to do. Particularly after the year 2020 has been, and the heavy reliance on all things tech.
So use the winding down of this crazy year to pause, disconnect from your devices, and reconnect with the things that are most important to you.
“Life is what happens between Wi-Fi signals”. Unknown
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