Collectively, we know how to stop a digital addiction — just stop looking at your phone so much!! Right?! Realistically though, we all know, the answer just isn’t that simple.
The idyllic way to do a digital detox involves a glamorous retreat to a no-signal oasis with beach huts and mixed drinks, but that’s not realistic, and it might not break your habit “long-term”.
Chances are your smartphone is within arm’s reach right now, if you’re not already using it to read this. We’re spending more time than ever on our digital devices with the flood of incoming texts, emails, calls, and push notifications, it’s rare if our screens stay dark for more than a moment.
While there’s no doubt technology has made our lives easier in many ways (remember roadmaps?), research suggests that our addiction to it is real. Checking our devices activates the reward circuitry in the brain, triggering the body to release a hit of the “pleasure hormone” dopamine, which is exactly what happens when we gamble, or are involved in any type of addiction for that matter.
This vicious cycle is taking a toll on our health, mental wellbeing, and relationships. Surveys and studies have reported an association between the digital world and depression, anxiety, and decreased marital satisfaction, to name a few.
Your time and your attention are two of your greatest resources.
Companies will — and do — pay big money to grab as much of that as they can. Learning to take back those resources and create your day in a more healthful, productive way is what this is all about!
When technology no longer dictates your life, you’ll feel like you’re truly living to the fullest helping you feel more fulfilled, calm, and connected, that is-to the things that really matter. Sounds amazing, right?
So how can we stay on “social” while also staying healthy?
1. Establish tech-free zones
Create rules around events or places, and enforce them with every family member or guest. For example, don’t bring your phone to the table, and don’t take it out of your pocket or purse when you’re dining with friends. If you have family movie nights, phones and tablets must stay in bedrooms. The break may feel like a fight at first, but soon, everyone will appreciate the opportunity to withdraw. The more energy we direct toward our devices, the less energy we’re directing toward whoever is in the room with us.
2. Take a hike, and leave the phone behind
You can even unwind in the bathtub with your favorite tunes on a Bluetooth speaker. Just make sure the phone isn’t in the room with you. You might be tempted to start pinning new recipes or weekend projects. That’s adding to your to-do list, causing more to-do’s instead of less!
3. Convert to black and white
One reason our devices are so alluring is that they’re vibrant. Go retro, recommends Greenfield. Many smartphones now allow you to change the settings so the entire phone appears in gray scale.
4. Designate tech-free hours or schedule times in which you will check
Many of us feel “naked” when we’re without our devices, but taking breaks from technology can do wonders for our well-being. Start by designating a certain time each day that’s tech-free—like while you’re eating lunch. Then see how you feel after a week or so. Most people feel happy with the change, and they go on to expand it. Oh, and you’ll also sleep better. Screens’ blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime, which makes it harder to drift off.
5. Rediscover paper
If you’ve ever noticed that reading a book feels more satisfying than reading a tablet, you’re not imagining things. Not only do books offer fewer distractions, but research suggests that when we read on paper, our minds process abstract information more effectively.
6. Spring clean your social media accounts
Facebook and Instagram help us to connect with people in truly gratifying ways. But research shows that the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel. The key is to be proactive about who and what you follow!
Think about what—and who—makes you feel bad. And what makes you feel good.
Don’t be afraid to “CLEAN HOUSE” -block, mute, unfollow, or delete, until you’ve created a list of connections who make you laugh and smile and fill you with happiness.
7. Find Your Social Media Fix
Identify the sites or apps you’re spending all your time on and ask yourself why you’re drawn to them. If you’re inspired by artistic photos on Instagram, visit an art gallery with a friend. Or if fitness blogs are your go-to, organize a run or hike with your friends. And when the itch to post a photo arises, create your own! Make a frame with your fingers, and take a mental snapshot of that sunset or whatever you think would be a beautiful photo. It really can enrich your experience.
Science shows that when you engage in a moment with all of your senses, you’ll be more likely to remember it later on. The same recall doesn’t occur when you’re snapping photos and viewing the experience “third-party-style”.
8. Always ask yourself “why” when you pull out your phone
More often than we think, we use our phones to distract, to avoid, or to ignore whatever is happening right in front of us. This keeps us stuck because when we block or avoid negative or uncomfortable feelings, we never have the opportunity to grow and learn from them.
9. Be Prepared for Temptation
At the same time, don’t “invite” temptation either! A great rule of thumb…Turn off your phone’s push notifications! When you’re on a diet, it’s smart to keep single- serving dark chocolates on hand to nosh if a molten cake craving kicks in. Do the same thing for a digital detox, Have activities available to distract you when the urge strikes to check your phone or laptop. Consider buying magazines, a book, or a new nail polish, or head out for a walk and simply take in what’s going on around you. When you are fully present in the moment, you’ll feel more thoughtful, your stress levels will dial down, and you’ll develop stronger relationships as you chat with friends and family.
10. Repeat a Mantra
Now that “FOMO” has officially entered the Oxford Dictionary, we know we’re not the only ones feeling anxious about what we’re passing up. Whether you’re sitting at home and know a party’s going on, or you’re lying in bed and yoga class started five minutes ago, be okay with where you are. Tell yourself, ‘Wherever I am is exactly where I need to be.” Remind yourself that social media shows only the highlights of others’ lives. People choose the flawless photo, add the best filter, and draft the perfect caption, so of course everyone’s lives are going to look awesome-although chances are they’re not so shiny behind the scenes.
11. Get an old-school phone
Even new technology is popping up to answer the need for less technology. The Light Phone is a credit card sized phone that can only make calls, stores nine numbers, and displays the time. The cost is $150 for the phone and $5 in monthly phone charges. You can forward calls from your smartphone to the new phone, and leave behind the constant pings of social media and apps as often (or as little) as you’d like.
12. Get an alarm clock
The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Try a good-ol fashion alarm clock and see how much better you’re able to drift off.
All of these trends point to a slow but deliberate shift to stop — or at least better control — our digital exposure every day. Hopefully these tips will help you “unplug” in a conscious way, creating more health and happiness in your life.
**RECOMMEDED BOOK: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked