Could you live without your phone for one day or would you be plagued with anxiety? Would you worry over the fact that you don't know what's happening on Instagram? Would you be lost without Google helping you with the simplest of tasks like learning how to fry an egg?
Nowadays, most people are so reliant on technology to guide them through the most menial of tasks that common sense forcefully takes a back seat.
How has technology affected users’ concentration and productivity?
The prime culprit in hijacking attention spans is the smartphone. According to a study conducted by Ofcom, the average British adult spends over a third of their day on their devices – around 8 hours 41 minutes (1). That’s more than the average night’s sleep of 8 hours 21 minutes! Americans, on average, touch their phones an astounding 2,617 times a day, according to market researcher Dscout. Checking phones has become so prevalent that more than 40 percent of consumers said they look at the devices within five minutes of waking up (2).
We might argue that a lot of that time is spent doing work-related tasks, however, there are some pretty important reasons why you should do a digital detox and take a tech break once in a while. Technology addiction can be a crutch when it comes to maintaining optimum brain function – affecting our sleep, stress and anxiety levels, not to mention our eyesight, posture and nervous system to name a few symptoms. Research has shown that the advancement of the 'swipe' generation of social media has made generation Y slowly lose their ability to concentrate, affecting their long-term memory, whereas millennials with younger brains are more adaptable to the quick switches in concentration (3).
Reasons and benefits of doing a digital detox
Founder of Sana Wellbeing and resident Chartered Psychologist Christopher Wacyk says, "These days, it's critical for people to do a digital detox. It helps us become more aware of our environment. Remember, an ever-increasing number of accidents and fatalities worldwide is caused by individuals who are distracted by their digital devices. Humans need to experience genuine calm and stress reduction and being 'plugged in' to digital technology encourages us to be in a state of constant alertness, ready to respond. And what is the most important element of a digital detox? To be truly present for friends, family and lovers. People get addicted to tech because the most important driver in digital behaviour is the desire to feel that we 'belong’ and are accepted by others. Other important drivers are group or peer pressure, demands for 24/7 availability from employers, the desire to feel in constant control, often associated with unhealthy perfectionism and sometimes competitive drives."
We are never more than a few feet away from our phones and spend most of our working days glued to a computer screen, so breaking the habit and ignoring the continuous pings doesn't come easy. However, digital detoxes can help you reprioritise things in your life rather than concerning yourself with what everyone else is up to on social media. And you don't have to lock your phone away permanently – there are practical, simple and effective ways you can take mindful breaks so that you can give your mind and body a good chance to feel it's best. Here are 10 tips you can try today to create a healthy digital detox without feeling like you've isolated yourself from the world.
Everyday ways to do a digital detox
1. Use an alarm clock rather than a phone
Using an alarm clock (and preferably not keeping your phone on the bedside table) means you will be less likely to reach for your phone first thing in the morning and use it to check emails and social media. Also, you could try wearing a watch throughout the day rather than using your phone to check the time.
2. Change your morning routine
Rather than checking your phone as soon as you wake up, ban technology for the first 30 minutes of your morning. Shower, get dressed, beautify yourself and enjoy breakfast in peace. Your morning routine will take significantly less time without the distraction of your phone!
3. Ban phones in bed
We now have notably less sex than we did 20 years ago. Experts blame this on the digital age – we are now more inclined to take technology to bed than a partner. Not only are our sex lives suffering, but screens are distracting us from much-needed sleep, and scientists have proven that technology is a major cause of insomnia and poor sleep patterns, especially if technology has been used just before bed (4).
4. Limit web-surfing procrastination
Apps such as Freedom and Self Control act as anti-procrastination tools on your phone or computer. You can limit your web browsing to a certain timeframe, and ban sites such as Facebook and Twitter that are prime culprits for time wasting.
5. Get a little less social and a little more sociable
Rather than spending hours texting or messaging friends, arrange to meet up. Humans are designed to interact face to face, and you will find yourself feeling much better for it. Organise coffee with friends, or go to visit family for dinner.
6. Once in a while, write letters rather than emails
There is nothing quite as exciting as receiving a good, old-fashioned letter. It’s also quite fun writing them. Letters are more personal than emails and mean a lot to those who receive them. Start sending them out, and you’ll probably receive a fair few in return!
7. Organise a games night
Have friends over for a digital-free, fun-filled evening playing charades or board games. The laughter will abound and you will be able to connect and get to know each other better.
8. Ask a stranger for directions
Google Maps is a life-saving app – but every now and then, try asking a stranger for directions. This forces us to engage in direct human connection, and could result in some extra tidbits of knowledge about the local area. Ultimately people love helping others out, and it could bring a smile to your face, and theirs.
9. Read a book
Not on Kindle, e-reader or phone, but an actual, physical, paperbound book with real pages.
10. Get some fresh air
Make the most of the great outdoors and spend a day in the fresh air. Go on a long walk and leave your phone at home. Being uncontactable for a few hours can feel incredibly liberating. Enjoying natural surroundings and green spaces work wonders for your health, reducing stress and clearing the mind.
Technology addiction is serious, so make sure you live your best self by doing a digital detox once in a while to reconnect with yourself and loved ones, and avoid increasing bad habits like poor sleep patterns and stress levels – it's a win/win detox!
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1. Ofcom: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/105074/cmr-2017-uk.pdf
2. Dscout: https://uk.businessinsider.com/dscout-research-people-touch-cell-phones-2617-times-a-day-2016-7
3. National Institute of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403814/
4. NYU Edu: https://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/waoe/miakotkol.pdf