Get Well

5 Ways to Do a Digital Detox

by Sonali Karmarkar

It’s no secret that we are all addicted to our phones. Social media aside, we depend on these little black boxes not only for communication, but for directions, the news, our calendars, finances…the list could go on. With how robust smartphones have become, it has grown increasingly difficult to do a digital detox given how entrenched they are in several different facets of our lives.

Author Blake Snow in his book Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting writes about finding offline balance in a growingly online world. He states there are four burners in life: your family, friends, health, and work that can wreak havoc on your well-being. A phone signifies connectivity to these burners, so phone notifications often cause us stress by imagining some type of emergency from one of these burners. Removing these type of alerts and distractions can help with your peace of mind by not making you feel constantly pulled by your friends, family, and work.

Research actually shows that working more — à la being tied to our phones — does not actually correlate with being more productive. For high-sustained productivity, Snow suggests trying the rule of thirds: eight hours for work, eight hours free, eight hours of sleep. Free time and rest are necessary to allow our minds to wander and then come back rejuvenated and recharged the next day. This is where phones get in the way. Oftentimes, our phones hinder us from keeping our free time actually free because they allow us to “always be on.” Even passively checking work emails during your free time can take a toll on you because you’re never really disconnecting and allowing your brain to get that full necessary break to be your most creative, productive self.

While these closely-loved little black boxes offer us thousands of opportunities and connections behind their LED screens, like most loved ones, healthy breaks can improve our relationship with our phones and ourselves. Here are some tips on how to do a much-needed digital detox.

Put Your Phone Away During Meals

Regardless if you’re dining alone or with friends, putting away your phone during a meal allows you to be more present, appreciating those around you and the meal you are consuming. Even having your phone at the edge of the table face down, as we often do, psychologically keeps your phone at the top of your consciousness because the phone never escapes your peripheral gaze. This makes it easier to turn to that reflex of checking it during a lull in a conversation, preventing you from escaping the pull of your phone. Physically putting your phone away (out of sight, out of mind!) offers a period of time for you to cleanly detach and be present.

It even affects your happiness — in a study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, when participants used phones while eating, they demonstrated less enjoyment during the meal. So put your phone away, and get carried away in the flavors of the food and the conversations with your friends and family. It’ll make you happier!

Create Tech-Free Zones

The easiest place to begin this is in the bedroom. For many of us city-dwellers living in small apartments, this “bedroom” could just be the area surrounding the bed—literally. Whatever amount of space you have, make sure to clearly define it, so your brain knows the separation. Having phones next to us in bed enables us to endlessly scroll Instagram right before going to bed and picking up where we left off the moment we wake up. Creating this phone-free-separation zone allows us to step into a tech-free oasis and completely detach for a restful sleep and increased intimacy with our partner.

However, managing your relationship with your phone is not only healthy for you mentally, but physically, too. Many studies have been conducted based on the health damage that’s linked with consistent exposure to cell phone radio frequency that results from sleeping next to your phone. So, it may be time to invest in an old-school alarm clock to wake up in the AM, and leave your phone somewhere else.

Carve Out Phone-Free Time

Author Blake Snow states that him and his family take weeklong “technology fasts,” and boasts the innumerable positive benefits that follow after the cleanse. While this may not be realistic for most of us, even a few hours here and there will offer some clarity. I like to go phone-free for my workout classes. Even that short bit of time after you’ve put your stuff in the lockers before the class begins allows some me-time without my phone to reset my mind. I let my mind wander, and this usually ends up being a peaceful (and sweaty!) hour of just being focused on the present exercise and myself. You can also put that phone away during creative activities such as cooking, drawing, reading. These activities can become almost meditative and you can get lost in the beauty of them by forgetting the constant pings of your device. Lastly, it is very rewarding to ditch your phone when around friends and family, allowing yourself to get swept away in conversations of the moment. Yes, we love capturing pictures and posting them of all these aforementioned activities, but sometimes sacrificing the photo for the present can be refreshing.

Try Some Helpful Apps & Settings

All these digital detox outlets are easier when written than when put into action. Luckily, phones do offer great technology to paradoxically help us detach from them.

One simple feature native to most devices is “Do not Disturb”—it will mute all calls, texts, and notifications, so your phone will not light up and distract you. This feature is great because even when you want to have your phone around you, not being constantly inundated with notifications will make it easier to detach and forget about the pulls of all your “burners.”

Mute is a third party app available both on the iOS and Android app stores. The app tracks your phone usage throughout your day to help you break these habits. It gives you daily and weekly stats with metrics such as daily screen time and frequency of checking your phone. You can even set detox goals, where it will alert you when you’ve gone over your set phone limit.

Meditating is another great way to detach from both the digital and physical world. Headspace is a popular semi-free meditation app, which offers guided meditations and exercises to help you train your mind. While you’re technically using your phone to help escape from the pull of the digital world, this app may help you reframe your perception for some much-needed zen time.

Do Instagrammable Activities IRL

This may sound silly, but go outside! The big, exciting world is out there full of quirks and hidden gems to discover. We don’t always have to Instagram ourselves doing cool things, but should also do them for ourselves sans device. It is actually so cathartic to explore while completely detached. Go immerse yourself in the gallery halls of a museum or read a book in a park — enjoy the moment and forget about that little black box, that is, until it beckons you the next day…

Featured Image via Vanessa Grande

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