Fitness Technology

Digital Detox: The Health Benefits & The How To

Do you need a digital detox? How can you even break your dependence on digital life?

If you’ve been planning a digital detox, you’re not alone. Many of us suffer from some form of internet or digital addiction, and it’s changing how we interact with the world. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Studies have shown that people who stop using digital devices for five days or more find it easier to read emotions and interact socially.

Don’t think you’re that bad with your device?

Heres some crazy stats for you…

  • The average person checks their smartphone at least every 12 minutes
  • UK adults spend 25 hours a week online on average – that’s more than one whole day!
  • 40% of adults check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up
  • 62% of UK adults hate how much time they spend on the phone and want to spend less
  • Studies have found strong correlations between screen time and mental health
  • Constant checkers are also 42% more likely to feel stress, including related to online news or social media
  • Studies have also found that heavy social media users are 5x more likely to suffer depression

If this sounds like you, it might be time for a digital detox.

Read more digital addiction facts here.

What is a digital detox?

Performing a digital detox means no access to the internet for a consistent period of time. This can be days, weeks or longer.

The longer you perform a digital detox, the more you will feel the benefits.

Some people perform short digital detoxes regularly, such as having a device free day every Sunday. Or scheduling a weekend when they leave their digital devices at home while they go away.

Personally, I try to schedule a digital detox for around a week, twice a year.

The precise definition of a digital detox can be tricky to define. Can you listen to music on your device? Can you take pictures using your phone camera? Is it OK to stream a Netflix movie on your laptop or to your Chromecast? Is using your smartwatch part of your digital addiction?

The truth is that our devices are closely linked to our lives.

My personal definition is no access to news, social media or communications such as WhatsApp. If someone wants to contact me, they have to phone me. I will also use my phone camera and listen to music.

Your definition of a digital detox might be different.

But the crucial element is to stay away from the damaging aspects of online life such as social media or anything that consumes your time.

What are the benefits of a digital detox?

Our lives are stressful enough without outside influence. And this is how a digital detox can really help your mental health.

Less exposure to bad news, social media and other irrelavences in our life can quickly change our perception and our moods.

We can all benefit from taking time to enjoy real world, tangible things like time with family and friends and getting into nature and the outdoors. Taking a walk in your local park, a local forest or along a beach, without your device, is literally a breath of fresh air.

The longer you can go without your device the less you feel dependent on it too. Although we are ever more connected to friends and family via our phones and computers, this isn’t the problem. It’s the dependence on our devices to waste time.

But being bored is a lost art. Boredom, staring into space and not having an external stimulus is actually a stimulating experience. Many of the greatest ideas and realisations in history have come in moments of quiet contemplation. Imagine in Isaac Newton had been on his phone instead of watching apples fall from the tree. Or if Copernicus had spent his time scrolling the news instead of considering the vastness of the universe.

Ebrace boredom and moments of silence.

How to do a digital detox

Going full cold turkey from your device can be difficult. So if you’re planning a digital detox consider starting with just a day or so, or even half a day. A friend of mine does a digital detox every Sunday, to spend time with his family.

Personally, I aim for one day a month at least. This is often centered around events like birthdays, days out or holidays. This means I get to focus on the event without too many distractions.

I will still use my phone for photos or if someone phones me (if I recognise the number).

You can always start small and build a digital detox into your life over time. The truth is that once you’ve done it a few times, you start to look forward to it.

To make it easier:

  • Tell people that you’re planning to do a digital detox in advance, so they don’t worry or bug you with messages
  • Give yourself something else to focus on during your digital detox, such as spending time with people or reading a book
  • Leave your phone somewhere rather than carrying it around with you. This will make you less likely to impluse check it if a notifcation comes in
  • Turn off audible and vibration notifications

Don’t beat yourself up if you slip into checking your phone. Just take note of why and how it happened so you can understand how to avoid it next time.

It’s also a great idea to build in some mindfulness or fitness to help you break your digital dependence.

Good luck with your digital detox. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments below!

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