Technology is a wonderful thing, but do you ever stop to think about how much time you spend in front of your laptop? A couple of hours? Half a day? Similarly, have you ever picked up your phone to do something, and next thing you know, you’re scrolling through a social media newsfeed? In fact, it’s estimated we reach for our phone on over 50 separate occasions in the day!(1)
Imagine the impact this can have on your daily life, and how it contributes to stress, inhibits your sleep pattern, and saps time from your schedule. Furthermore, in a recent blog poll, a third of you listed being on your digital devices as the habit you most wanted to eliminate from your evening routine! Here’s why you should cut down on your screen time and what you can do instead to start your digital detox.
Why you should try a digital detox
Besides the obvious physical strain on our eyes from too much screen time, we’ve become conditioned to value the connectivity and social interaction that technology has provided us with. Our brain releases dopamine in response to social approval (a like on an Instagram picture, for example), but the absence of this same chemical (i.e. a lack of notifications) generates heightened stress levels. This is why you’re reaching for your phone every couple of minutes after posting/sending a message; we have an underlying need to be connected and to be liked.(2)
A digital detox aims to address this need by creating a sense of “mindfulness”. Imagine it as an active form of meditation, it’s about being aware of your feelings and emotions and living in the moment: e.g If you’re happy, you know why and if you’re having an off-day, you’re aware it won’t last forever and are able to have a more balanced perspective on your life.
What does this have to do with a digital detox? Well, living with your phone or laptop by your side distracts from this aim of living in the moment and inhibits mindfulness. It makes it more difficult to keep this balanced perspective, since we come into contact with so many outside influences when we browse social media or scan through our email inbox.
Sports and Stress
Alongside a detox from digital media, just a small amount of aerobic exercise can help us to feel less stressed. Jogging for as little as 20 minutes a day can really boost your mental state.(3)
How can you start to digitally detox and become more mindful?
1. Track your usage
“I’m not *addicted* to my phone”, “I don’t use my computer all that much at work”, you might think you aren’t in need of a digital detox, but many of us would be surprised at how much time we spend in front of screens.
Many phone/tablet/computer operating systems now allow you to monitor how much time you’re actively spending on them, but you might be equally shocked if you measure which apps you spend the most time on, and the relation between them. It might make sense for work or health apps to take up most of your screen-time, as they tend to be related to your offline-self, but if social media apps repeatedly appear to take up most of your time, you may need a detox of the digital variety!
2. Phase mobiles out of your daily routine
Where would we be without mobile phones? They’re the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we see at night, and that can be a problem. We can begin to feel anxious when we go only a few minutes without them, and they could even be impacting your sleep.
The key to “switching off” is to avoid having your phone available anytime, anywhere. Make it something you check only once you’re up and about: For example, ditch the devices on your daily commute and take a newspaper or magazine to read instead, or put your phone out of sight and out of mind in the evening by charging it outside the bedroom at night.
Staying active without your phone
Want to digitally detox but worried about logging your activity through the adidas Running app? No problem! You can leave your phone at home and add your activity manually at a later date.
3. Detox as a duo
You might be more motivated to persevere if you can persuade someone to detox with you! Whether it’s family, friends, or work colleagues, having someone around who isn’t glued to screens makes you more likely to socialize together, which is perfect for reducing stress: eat lunch together or try a new sport for two such as tennis or squash. Having a detox partner will also give you another pair of eyes to watch out in case you subconsciously start scrolling through social media again…
One way to quickly curb those notification urges when you’re with your friends: next time you’re all out together, everyone stacks their phone in the middle of the table, and the first one to cave and grab it to peak for any notifications buys a round of drinks!
4. Set limits and stick to them
It can be difficult to go cold turkey and cut yourself off completely (after all, how are you meant to use apps like adidas Running and adidas Training without your phone?), but you can make a start by designating certain times screen-free: mealtimes for instance, or consider a walk through nature where you’re not obsessed with finding the ideal Instagram shot.
It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to go days on end without checking your work email, taking an important call, or responding to a message, but don’t do more than you have to. Set aside an hour or so in the evening when people can get in touch with you, and after that it’ll have to wait — you’re detoxing after all!
5. Use your newfound freedom
As well as creating mindfulness for yourself and feeling like you don’t need to be reachable 24/7, you’d be surprised at how much extra time you’ll find in the day when you aren’t browsing your social media feeds for half an hour in the morning and at night! Now you have the chance to really reward yourself for being less digitally-dependent. Cook a delicious dinner for yourself, curl up with a glass of wine and a good book, or relax with a short stress-busting workout, such as yoga or foam rolling. You’ve earned it!
The “Online Life” isn’t always the easiest thing to leave behind but a digital detox doesn’t necessarily mean you can never pick up a phone or laptop ever again! Instead it’s about reducing your dependence on digital devices. The aim is to realize, whether it’s doing sports outside, or a walk with friends to enjoy nature, that there’s plenty more to life than a screen.