As the new year comes into firm focus and motivation still runs high as we seek to cleanse our palettes of another challenging year, a positive, healthy step could be doing a digital detox this quarter. According to research conducted by Dr. Desirée Schmuck, a psychology researcher in the realm of mass media and communications, a digital detox could well be the way to a healthier, happier new year.
If you’re thinking this could be the ticket to your own mental wellness, let’s get into the concept and a few steps to start:
What Is A Digital Detox?
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what a digital detox truly is.
Digital detoxes are periods of time during which a person intentionally avoids using devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, social media websites and other technical data. The intent behind this is to allow people to cleanse from the stress that technology creates. This is to create a healing space or break down bad habits to rebuild after the detox with healthier methods and habits around media and tech usage.
Technological addiction isn’t yet recognized as a disorder but experts do believe that overuse of tech devices and social media can lead to emotional, mental and social issues.
Now that we know what a digital detox is, let’s plunge into the nitty-gritty details on how to do your own digital detox – and how to do it well:
1. Determine your needs.
Not everyone who wants to do a digital detox can completely remove technology use from their lives for more than a couple of days. Most of us work online anymore – whether from home or in-house – and we’ve got commitments we have to keep that tie us to screens.
If you’re able to remove all tech use from your daily schedule, obviously, that’s a great thing! But if you’re like most people in the developed world, you’ll need to determine your personal needs in this. Understand why you’re doing the digital detox and what you need to avoid during this time. Some reasons might include:
- Doom scrolling (the act of constantly consuming negative news)
- Overuse of social media
- Watching too many videos or too much TV and films
- Too much texting
- Too many non-essential Zoom/Skype/Google meetings
- Too much negative news viewing
- A sense of anxiety or lack of acceptance based around the number of “likes” and followers on social media sites
- Experiences with cyberbullying
2. Start with small steps.
According to Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D., via Psychology Today, it’s important to start your detox with small steps, rather than going cold turkey. The goal of these small steps as you build into healthier habits is not to wipe out all social media and tech use, but to replace old, unhealthy habits with new healthy ones.
Jantz writes, “Give yourself permission to spend a few hours concentrating on just one thing — enjoying [a] movie or game with your family. If you’re the kind of person who needs to review email every 15 minutes, give yourself permission to check it less frequently, say, every hour. Start small and allow yourself to experience incremental victories.”
3. Replace your online time with healthy things.
As you increasingly step away from social media and technology, you’ll want to replace that time you used to spend doom scrolling with new, healthy habits. This could look like replacing your impulsive social media scrolling with a jog around the block or some playtime with your kids or pets.
When you cut out one habit without replacing it with something new, you’re likely to return to those old habits and undo any progress you’ve made in healthy improvements in your life.
Some other ideas for replacements for your tech time could include:
Taking a walk down a nature trail
Going for a bike ride
Journaling by hand
Taking a nap
Taking a bubble bath
Calling a friend or hanging out in person
Painting or other artistic endeavors
Conversation over meals instead of watching TV
Doing household chores
Tackling projects you’ve put off for a while (think: painting the bathroom, writing your novel)
4. Set your goals and timelines.
This step is critical. You need to know your goals and timelines for clarity and wellness as you work your way through this detox.
Goals could include things like
Spend no more than 1 hour daily on non-essential use of devices
Only use one screen at a time
No social media after 6 pm
No social media on weekdays
Non-essential device use only between 4 and 5 pm on weekdays
No television or movies after 8 pm
Additionally, your timelines should be clear. Goals should always have timely aspects to them, meaning you need deadlines set. For this kind of goal, you may want to consider deadlines like those below, just be sure to tag a calendar date to them to make them specific.
Purge social media use during work hours by Feb 1
Reduce screen time to 1 hour daily outside of work hours by Mar 15
Delete all social media apps from phone and tablet by Mar 1
Reduce email check-ins to twice daily by Feb 12
5. Set accountability.
Finally, as you’re taking on this detox time, make a few setting changes on your devices to make it just a little less enticing.
Turn off push notifications
Use your “do not disturb” feature, setting only critical notifications to push through (i.e., your mother, your best friend)
Turn on “greyscale” for your phone
Make your dining room and bedroom no-tech zones
Ask family members/housemates to respect these same boundaries
Finding Your Healthy Way Forward
Ultimately, your digital detox choices will help you reduce tech-induced anxiety and stress and likely improve your overall mental and physical health. So, if you’re ready to find that healthy way forward, use these steps for your detox, but pepper your life with grace. You won’t be able to kick the habits in a day. You won’t be able to kick the habits in a day. You’ll need time, space and support from those around you.