Over the past twenty years, the digital world has reshaped the day-to-day reality of our lives. Technological innovation has enhanced our lives to a huge degree, and in doing so, made us reliant on it. No wonder people have a love-hate relationship with it.
While we can all see the benefits of the technological revolution, it’s safe to say that most people also can see its potential pitfalls, and the effect it has had on our mental health. Our brains no longer work in the same way – now accustomed to instant responses and quick bursts of information, our attention spans have shortened; we communicate differently, in ongoing text conversations with no fixed beginning or end, which we pick up and drop as we please; the blue light from screens restricts our melatonin production, which impacts our sleep habits.
And yet it would be foolish to say that overall, the technological revolution hasn’t been a net positive. Any information we look for can be at our fingertips within seconds. We can communicate with people scattered across the globe, we can work from afar, we can build networks and learn and empathize and share our lives in a way that has never been possible before. So how do we balance the benefits of technology with the problems it incurs?
Taking a digital break every so often is a great way to bring everything back into focus. Choose a time period and commit to it. Mark it in your calendar, and let everyone know that you won’t be as easily available at that time. If you have any commitments that mean you can’t completely abandon your phone for a week – and let’s be realistic, most of us do – then make sure everyone knows to contact you either via a direct call, or with an SMS. Turn off your data plan, and let your phone be just a telephone.
If you have to use the internet for work during your detox week, make sure that you’re using it for only work. If you can’t trust yourself not to idly click into your social media accounts or unrelated sites, there are apps you can download which will only let you access certain sites. Make sure that once you’re done working, you’re entirely done with your computer for the day.
Then take time for yourself. Read books, go walking, visit museums. Catch up with friends face-to-face, rather than via WhatsApp. Spend time with your family – no phones allowed! Get used to not using your phone as a security blanket.
The realities of life mean that you’re probably not going to be able to digitally detox for a prolonged period of time – and that you probably wouldn’t want to. However, it’s good to try to maintain some good habits permanently. Make sure you switch off all screens at least an hour before going to bed, and try to take some time for yourself in the morning before turning to your phone. Limit the time you spend on social media – again, there are apps that can help you with this.
Even though taking a digital break can be logistically complicated, the benefits to your overall well-being are overwhelmingly worth it. Studies have shown that taking a break from technology can reduce stress, improve sleeping patterns, and enhance concentration among many other positive results. Try it out for yourself.