Wellness & Wavelengths: Your Guide to a Digital Detox
Headaches, strained eyes, overextended thumbs – you guessed right: your screen time might be interfering with your health. Tech over-use has become so pervasive that the average smartphone owner unlocks their phone 150 times a day, easily spending up to two hours and 51 minutes on them daily! There’s even a term for how dependant we’ve become on our mobile companions: nomophobia - the fear of being without your phone or without cellular service.
Too much time on your devices can overload your senses; harm your self-image and self-esteem; increase headaches and eye problems; heighten depression and anxiety; lead to a lack of exercise or neglect of overall physical health; and reinforce addictive behaviour. Every scroll or swipe sends a hit of dopamine to the same areas of your brain that respond to addictive and dangerous drugs like cocaine.
Dialling down your screen time and unplugging yourself from your devices can help you to:
- Be more present and feel more content and calm
- Maintain a better work-life balance
- Be more productive and use your time more effectively
- Boost your self-esteem and reduce your sense of FOMO
- Maintain an overall healthier lifestyle
The new year offers the perfect opportunity for you to focus on your digital wellness so that you can restart and reconnect the right way. Here’s how:
While a ‘cold turkey’ digital fast can be refreshing over a holiday or weekend, it isn’t always realistic to forgo all forms of communication during our day-to-day activities in our highly digitised world. In that case, it might be better to slowly wean your hours online - much like you would cut back on your caffeine or sugar intake.
Decide Your Detox
If you need to stay connected during the day, try doing a ‘mini-detox’ at the end of the workday, when you turn off your devices and focus on spending an evening completely free from electronic distractions like social media, texting, etc. Alternatively, you could do a short digital fast, in which you abstain from digital devices for one full day a week, or you can restrict your use of a specific social media app that’s been a major time drain.
Schedule Breaks & Set Boundaries
It’s good to abstain from your phone for certain time intervals by only checking notifications every hour or more; leaving your phone at home when you go for a walk; setting it aside when spending time with family and friends; putting it away during meal times and when working on a hobby; and disconnecting when you retire for the evening.
Track Your Time
There’s an entire app store with wonderful tools to help you track your device usage and equip you to be stricter with your screentime. These apps – and some phones’ built-in digital wellbeing features – allow you to set a time limit that you’re allowed to spend on each app per day and, after warning you a few times, they actually lock you out of the app.
Turn it Off
If you find yourself constantly checking your phone and responding to every text or social media alert as it pops up, it may be a good idea to turn off the push notifications in your phone settings. Try to allocate time (about 20 - 30 minutes) to devote specifically to catching up on your emails, checking mentions and messages, or sitting down to respond to WhatsApps.
Do a Screen Swap
You’ve ditched your phone – now what? Rather than aimlessly wandering around the house wondering what you did in the days before wifi, you can swap the time you would’ve spent on a screen for other relaxing activities. By going for a walk or hike, taking up a hobby, reading a book or getting your hands dirty in the garden, you replace the thing you’re abstaining from with something else that brings joy.
By Liesl Lamprecht