Where’s your phone right now? Chances are you just instinctively reached for your pocket or purse to check for it. Or, maybe you’re using it to read this article right now. For most of us, our phones remain within an arm’s reach for the greater portion of our days.
This attachment to devices, paired with an endless stream of beeps, buzzes, and vibrations, turn us into a classically conditioned Pavlov’s dog, trained to immediately respond to calls, texts, or notifications. With Americans checking phones an average of 46 times a day, a digital detox has gained popularity as a mental-health must.
The worldwide web grants us unlimited access to information and connects us with people all over the world in an instant. It also plays a role in improving business growth, keeping us up to date with news and events, and provides us with hours of entertainment. It makes our lives better with education offerings and tailored fitness and nutrition plans. As an app-based company, we embrace the benefit of the internet, but with anything, too much can be a bad thing.
With the world’s internet users passing the four billion mark, and the number of network-connected devices expected to reach an average of 6.5 per person in 2020, it’s no wonder we’ve become a nation of digital addicts. A recent study found that parents spend an average of nine and a half hours per day in front of a screen (smartphone, computer, TV), with about eight of those being for personal use.
Dose up on dopamine
Games and apps are designed by people who want you to be dependent on their product; most gaming companies now have a psychologist on board. Apps are designed with colors that make our brain light up and the games themselves allow us to win and pass levels with ease, giving a strong sense of satisfaction. These accomplishments are experienced as mini rewards in our brains, releasing the neurochemical dopamine and tapping into the same system involved in addiction, reinforcing our actions.
This digital dependency brings about mental and physical health concerns. Recent studies have linked high social media usage to depression and decreased effectiveness, communicating in person. Physically, it further contributes to sedentary lifestyle concerns, with sitting being coined the “new smoking.” In addition to headaches and sleep issues, we can get what’s called tech neck, putting 60 pounds of pressure on our neck.
FOMO: Not me, no
So maybe you want to entertain the idea of a digital detox but are worried that you’ll miss out. In Time Magazine’s special edition on mindfulness, Dan Bova’s article, Power A.M Routines, Tested, quotes, “Many billionaires say the first thing they do each day is meditate and seek answers to the big questions in life.” Sir Richard Branson wakes up to sunlight as an alarm clock and Michelle Obama exercises first thing in the morning instead of spending time on their phones.
Productivity follows suit. According to research from the University of California Irvine, people switch activities every three minutes during the course of a standard workday (text, Slack, email, Instagram, Facebook) and, in doing so, it takes much longer to get back to the original task. This leads to higher levels of stress, frustration, mental strain, and time constraints. Feeling relaxed and focusing on one task, without constant digital distractions, results in optimum performance in any field.
From this, we can take note that being on our phones all the time doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity, opportunity, and success. Don’t let the fear of missing out in the digital world cause you miss out on amazing opportunities in the real world.
Digital detox: Disconnect to reconnect
We all know it would benefit our bodies and minds to take a break. Make space for restorative behaviors like a moment of deep conversation, creative thinking, exercise and cooking. Just like any new habit, give yourself time to adjust. Try a digital detox by becoming aware of your current device usage, accept it, and learn how to monitor it.
Monitor your media mood
When you reach for your phone, are you avoiding something? Do you reach for it when you feel uncomfortable at a party, bored at home, want recognition on social media, or are maybe distracting yourself from your next activity? If yes, how do you feel afterward? Keep track of how your device decisions make you feel.
Make unplugging a job responsibility
If your work requires you to be online, communicate with your team if you need to take some time without distractions to get some good quality work done. Let them know you’ll be focussing on a task for X minutes and you can respond to any queries after. If possible, set limitations for how often you check emails or messaging systems. Put your phone away or click the Do Not Disturb function. You can even customize and choose which texts are really necessary to get at work.
Take a technical holiday
Try taking one day per week (or even one hour) to shut down your computer and leave your phone at home. Maybe you go on a walk outside or maybe you simply go to the grocery store undistracted. Take in your surroundings and let yourself explore without a map or plan. You may discover something new.
Replace the bedtime story
Many of us charge our phones on our nightstands or use our phones as an alarm. This makes it all too easy to check that one last email before bed, keeping our brains active and disrupting our sleep. Get back to the old days with an analog clock or at the very least turn your phone on silent — there are settings for calls to go through in case of an emergency.
Use your phone to help you connect to your body and health. Get moving with fitness specialist designed exercises with the 8fit app.