This is no doubt the digital age, where everyone and their dog has a smartphone and zoom meetings have become the norm.
We can now do anything with just one click which has opened up a world of new possibilities, creating new channels of communication and increasing our production rate.
However, with the rise of technology also comes very real consequences to human health and wellbeing if we aren't careful
Why do a digital detox?
Most adults now own a mobile phone and it is becoming increasingly common for teens and even kids to now have their own personal devices.
These relatively new technologies have begun to take over an essential part of our day to day life and for many life has become unimaginable without them.
The problem arises when we become dependent and develop an unhealthy relationship with these devices.
Attachment to electronics has become a significant source of stress and heavy technological use has been associated with conditions such as increased anxiety, depression, and insomnia (1).
What does addiction or an unhealthy relationship with technology look like?
According to research, when cell phone or technological use becomes an addiction, the behavior becomes stressful (2).
This may look like needing to use your device most of the time, feeling unable to cut back on electronic use, constantly checking your device, using your device as a means to overcome boredom, anxiety or depressed feelings, and experiencing a disconnect in relationships.
It's safe to say digital addiction may surface when we are no longer in control of technology, but technology is in control of us.
How to do a digital detox
What is a digital detox? A digital detox is simply a time out from electronic devices. This might feel like punishment for some but really it can have a profound impact on our health and happiness. Who knows, you might not want to go back!
A digital detox can initiate an increased sense of wellbeing and connection with oneself and with those around us, helping us to become more present.
This detox may look like an entire day, weekend, week or month. It's entirely up to you!
To help make things go as smoothly as possible, let others know in advance that you will be off your phone and incorporate activities that don't involve technology such as seeing friends, spending time with your partner, reading, or being in nature. And go back to basics with pen and paper!
It may also be helpful to delete certain apps from your phone during the detox so as not to tempt you.
If giving up your screen time entirely is not a feasible option for you, that's okay! There are ways you can improve your relationship with your devices and social media:
Turn off notifications
The main thing that keeps us from achieving the levels of success we desire in our lives is distraction. And there is no limit to the distractions we may encounter from our busy world today!
One of the top sources of distractions nowadays? Our phone.
Our phone is a device that can literally contain an unlimited amount of distractions but also trigger addictive tendencies.
Dopamine in particular is a chemical that is released in our brain when we are using social media or checking notifications because it creates a feeling of connection and reward, making us go back to the activity over and over again (3).
Social media in particular can activate the reward system in the brain, much like playing slot machines.
In addition, when we are constantly being alerted by our phone or engaging in media multi-tasking, over time this can reduce proper function of the part of our brain responsible for higher level thinking and decision making (4).
We have enough distractions as it is without having our phone constantly demanding our attention. The best thing you can do to improve your focus and productivity, reduce anxiety and overwhelm, and improve your relationship with technology is to turn off notifications on your phone and social media platforms. It's up to each of us to take control of our own device, instead of letting it take control of us.
Do you find yourself constantly checking your phone and social media platforms? We can now verify the time we spend on our phone and social media which can be an alarming realization for many but a very real wake up call! Just imagine the time you could allocate instead for more productive activities or doing things you love instead of being a slave to your phone.
If you are wanting to decrease the time spent on your device, set a timer to keep you in check. You can set limits on your phone use as well as the time you spend on any application. This will help to remind you to be mindful of your time and reinforce the limit you wish to adopt when it comes to electronic use.
Schedule tech free hours during your day
Our brains are not meant to constantly be looking at a screen. And the effects can definitely be felt after hours spent on your computer or phone. What's more, science is now revealing the effects of the increasing amount of time we spend connected to our devices.
Volume loss in several areas of the brain associated with cognitive performance, reward pathways and even the ability to develop compassion towards others has been observed in subjects with addictive tendencies towards gaming and internet use (5).
Be proactive and reduce your screen time by scheduling in activities that do not involve electronics throughout your week such as outdoor walks, reading, spending time with loved ones or working around the home.
Put away your phone during meals and with others
No one likes that person who never puts their phone down, so don't be that person! The irony is that though we have never been as socially connected to one another across the globe, the prevalence of loneliness and disconnection is alarmingly high.
Though the internet has provided us with the means to connect more easily than ever before, it doesn't give us the same kind of connection as real life interaction does.
It's important that we prioritize connections in real life and honour them by being present with one another. If you find it difficult to not have your phone on you at all times try to leave it at home or in your bag so as not to be distracted, or simply just turn it off!
Keep your phone out of the bedroom
We really should be keeping things like work, food, and electronics out of the bedroom as this is a sacred space for our bodies to relax and rejuvenate. For many of us though, we pick up our phone upon waking and right up until we hit the pillow at night.
Electronics have been shown to impair sleep quality by interfering with melatonin production and the circadian rhythm. This is why implementing a bedtime routine that does not involve the use of these devices can have a significant positive impact on your health and wellbeing.
Tempting as it may be, we recommend making it a habit of keeping your phone, TV, and computer out of the bedroom and adopting new activities instead.
Be selective with what you choose to consume
Social media, the news, TV... what we choose to consume can also consume us. Though it may seem like we are constantly being bombarded by messages from all sides, ultimately the power of choice is in our own hands.
Do you feel overwhelmed and anxious after using electronics? Then it might be time to do some spring cleaning!
This may look like unfollowing people on social media, avoiding over consumption of the news, and also being mindful of the kinds of conversations you find yourself in.
They weren't wrong when they said we become the 5 people we spend the most time around, so make sure these are the type of people who bring out the best in you!
Establish routines without technology
Routines can make a world of difference! Though many of us start and end our day surrounded by electronics, it doesn't have to be so.
It's all about changing your habits! We know that habits take time but once reinforced they become more automatic and by no time you will realize that your routine has completely changed!
So instead of waking up to your phone, start your day with a more mindful approach such as gratitude journaling, meditation, or a yoga session. Even just a few minutes of silence before you start your day can make a world of difference.
During your lunch break instead of scrolling through your phone or watching a video on YouTube, go out for a walk or spend some time getting to know your colleague instead.
in the evening before it's time to go to bed, try implementing rituals that are relaxing and bring you joy. This could look like taking a bath and reading a good book or simply catching up with your partner with a cup of tea.
The key is to make your new habit as simple as possible while also making it enjoyable. Just wait and see what this can do for your overall health and happiness!
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.