The digital age is an interesting paradox – we are constantly connected, yet more disconnected than ever. While it’s tempting to bemoan the rise of the machines, we have to accept that they’re here to stay. So, how do we strike a healthy balance? If you spend hours staring at a screen and twitch at the thought of losing your phone, it might be time to try a digital detox.
Before deciding to (temporarily) ditch your devices, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions to assess your level of dependence – this will help you to create a game plan:
- Do you check your smartphone first thing in the morning?
- How often are you on social media?
- Do you find yourself mindlessly surfing the internet just for something to do?
- Have you ever had more than one screen open at a time? (e.g. television, computer, phone, iPad etc.)
- Have you ever panicked when your device’s battery runs low?
- Do you think you could last a day without digital technology?
Being constantly ‘plugged in’ affects the brain at a chemical level, creating an unsustainable reward cycle of instant gratification that has to be continually fed. Neuroscientists, psychologists and the medical community at large have documented the consequences of this trend, finding that it can:
- discourage conversation and social engagement
- reduce concentration, memory, attention span and productivity
- suppress empathy and emotional communication
- influence poor sleep patterns, headaches, anxiety and depression
Nasty stuff, right? While you may not be ‘addicted’, you will still likely find value from a tech break. However, proceed at your own pace – if you’re heavily dependent, try cutting back instead of going cold turkey. Here are some of the benefits of a digital detox:
1. Remember how to be ‘present’
With such constant stimulation, our brains don’t get any downtime. It’s no wonder we then experience cognitive problems. Try going for a walk, sitting in a café, riding the train … All without distraction from your default device. Just be in that moment. It’s a great reminder to be observant and engaged with the world around you.
2. Improved sleep quality and brain power
The bright light from digital devices affects the brain’s melatonin levels, which makes it difficult to fall asleep and achieve adequate rest. This has a roll-on effect to daytime concentration and energy levels. The solution? Switch off at least half an hour before bedtime. However, if you need to wean yourself out of this habit, try an app that filters the blue light from your screen at night.
3. Rediscover the art of conversation
Sometimes you just don’t feel like talking, and smartphones provide a convenient sanctuary, but there’s no substitute for a great conversation. Set yourself a challenge to talk to one new person for the week – in person – even if it’s only brief. You’ll feel better for it, and you never know who you may meet!