What are you looking at right now?
Is it the blue sky? The friend that is sitting across from you? Your lunch?
You’re looking at a screen, filled with pixels and beaming blue light. Having constant access to knowledge, entertainment and friends-who-are-not-here is wonderful. But having too much screen time has a price.
This constant urge to respond to digital signals has disadvantages for your mental and physical health. A regular digital detox however will give you clear focus and positive energy on the things you find important in life. To reach those goals you never thought possible. To simply feel better.
If you want to learn about the how and why of a digital detox , read on. However, for the more visually geared, watch this awesome speech by tech junkie Tanya Mulry for TEDx:
Disadvantages of always being connected
These are some of the downsides of being ‘on’ all the time, recognize some? Time to switch off!
Lack of attention
Due to the continuous diversion of multiple digital media, there is a risk that you approach everything with a shallow, fleeting concentration. Your mind is divided through multi-tasking and no subject, task or person gets the attention that is needed.
Less appreciation for reality
You are less present in the moment (mindful) which makes you experience things less intensely. In addition, there is often a tendency to share special moments on social media.
What do I mean by this? Devaluation of reality works like this:
On the one hand, you transform your direct experience into that of an indirect cinematographer or a photographer: a distant spectator. Instead of going through the experience, you’re observing it.
On the other hand, you value special moments only after you have shared them. How often do you or does someone else ask, after or while something is happening: did you share it on Facebook? For example, if your kid does something kick ass, your first thought might be a negative one because you do not have your phone to shoot and post it. You won’t allow yourself to simply enjoy the moment as it happens.
Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” describes the effects of constantly shifting our brain from one medium to another. This unrestricted behavior he associates with superficial thinking, weak concentration, reduced creativity and increased stress levels.
If you’d like to know more about how the Internet is affecting your brain, grab your copy here (Amazon bookstore).
Less physical exercise & body awareness
The more we are behind screens, the less we move. Not just less exercising, but also sitting motionless in the same position is very unhealthy. We go to the toilet late, drink less water, breathe superficially and do not blink with our eyes. Various factors that adversely affect our health, and further remove us from being aware of our body.
Although there is no conclusive evidence, there are indications that excessive exposure to radiation from WiFi and mobile phones may be carcinogenic. The studies on this are still ongoing and the long-term effects still need to be shown, but you can imagine being close to digital devices can not be healthy.
Why a digital detox?
Fortunately, all devices have an off button. It can be very healthy to minimize all digital stimulation and distraction for a week. Not only because it promotes your physical and mental health, but also because it is good to take a break and think about your life.
By following a digital detox cure, you detoxify from reacting to all the digital signals that lead to a fragmented mind. To what extent your life after digital detoxification is still being dictated by your phone, laptop or tablet, lies with you.
Before you begin your detox:
Take control, set your intention
Take a minute of silence before working on your computer or using your phone. Look at your face in the mirror of the screen, and become aware of how you will use this technology today. This is a different starting point than when you immediately turn on your computer and let it lead you.
Talk about your digital detox
Share your detox plans with your family, friends and work. Ask what impact digital media has on their lives, and how they experience your behavior. Ask if someone wants to join you for extra motivation. You will soon notice how difficult it is to ditch your phone when your loved ones are constantly busy with their own smartphones.
Set goals for things you’ve always wanted to do, but never got to. Through a digital detox you will be surprised at how much time you have left and what you can achieve in that time. For example, think of sports, reading, music and art or visiting someone who you have neglected for too long. You can also look beyond your own interests: Help your children with a project, do a chore for your partner or do volunteering.
Your digital detox plan
Basically, a digital detox can be hard to do, but it’s very simple: disconnect all digital media for seven days. No mobile phone, no internet, no social media, no text, no TV and no WiFi. You decide if you want to close off everything, or only partially. Below are some tips to make it easier.
Data OFF, Life ON
Take care to avoid all digital media during your detox. There is a danger that you will be tempted by a tweet, or something you want to look up. Before you know, you’ll be back online again in full force. Some people don’t even read newspapers or watch television anymore during a digital detoxification period.
So turn off all digital devices, unplug your modem and let a friend change your passwords. There are also apps that temporarily block your access to internet or social networks. How far you want to go with your digital detox is your own choice. A great way to start is to create tech-free area’s in your home.
If you want to keep in touch with your family, do not check a work related email. Turn off your business phone and turn off all calendar notifications. Turn off all notifications of business apps on your phone and tablet.
If you do need to keep working, do not log in to social networks or your personal email . Turn off your private phone, and let family call a landline when needed. Remove all social apps from your phone and tablet.
Take a holiday
If possible, plan your digital detox during a vacation period. An American Express survey, however, found that 83 percent of vacationers expect to be connected digitally during the vacation, and 64 percent expect to check their work email daily.
If you allow your free time to be infiltrated by work and social media, you dramatically limit your chance to really relax. Therefore, take advantage of your free time for a complete stop on all online activities. You will notice that your vacation is much more intense without the interruptions and pressures of email, social media and text messaging.
You get to feel free from your normal daily life, your holiday seems longer, you focus on yourself and your loved ones, and you will return refreshed and ready to tackle life. There are many holiday providers who have digital detox packages. They often combine an offline stay with yoga, meditation and fasting.
Find quiet places
Several places of silence have been created by different companies and organizations where you can escape digital influences. For example, London Selfridge Warehouse has opened a felt-covered “Silence Room”, where you can retreat from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street without shoes and phone.
In Amsterdam, candy manufacturer Kit Kat offers zones to block WiFi signals within a 5-meter radius. “Have a break, have no WiFi” is the message Kit Kat gives the visitors.
In some catering establishments, laptops are off limits. At the Eva restaurant in Los Angeles, customers receive a 5 percent discount when they leave their phone with the receptionist.
Get in touch with yourself
Keep a diary and describe what you feel during your digital detox. Also try to describe how you want your life to look after this cure. In this way, you are super present in this period and engage in dialogue with yourself. It can be scary to not lose yourself in distractions and to expose potential pain in your life. There is the possibility that you are looking for this distraction to disregard something. But the result is a reborn feeling and new energy for the next phase of your life.
Get in touch with the important people in your life
As mentioned before, it can be helpful to do this detox with friends and family. Not just for motivation and accountability purposes. You actually get to talk. You get to do others things together. Some issues might come up, and you work through it. Some wonderful surprises might happen.
It’s worth a try
After the first withdrawal symptoms during digital detoxification, you will discover how rich your life can be without the pressure to respond continuously to all digital commands of your gadgets. You’ll find your focus back to achieve goals effectively and restore quality in your personal direct contact.
After your detox, you are more aware of your time and attention, and you can better determine which things are worth your energy. And boy, are there some wonderful things to go for in life!