According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, 85% of survey respondents said their general wellbeing has declined since the start of Covid-19. While we don’t know the exact reason for this, we know that the social isolation, worries about loved ones and the state of the world could get anyone feeling down. So, we’ve had to turn to technology to stay connected, entertained and productive (and sane!).
Why do we need digital detoxes?
Most of us already know that being connected around the clock isn’t optimal for our health, and that the constant stimulation and the often sedentary lifestyle that comes with constant connection can have negative consequences for our health. No news there, but did you know that according to a study on the use of digital screens found them to be associated with increased risk of obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and sleep disorders? Another study found that individuals with higher screen time had significantly higher risks of depression.
This is sombre news, but technology also provides us with essential connection and entertainment that we need to stay healthy while isolated from friends and family. So how can we minimise the negative effects of technology while staying connected?
Reduce stress and sleep better
Start by planning in blocks of time into your day don’t involve any devices. This could be anything from exercising, reading, cooking, taking baths, painting or walking. Movement is especially important to avoid negative health consequences. These suggestions may seem obvious, but many of us skip these things in favour of a few extra episodes of our favourite show.
Even if you’re not addicted to your devices, spending a little more time IRL will help you feel less stressed, more creative and help you sleep better. If this feels like an impossible feat, you may have a slight technology- or social media addiction and a proper digital detox may be in order!
Signs you may need a digital detox
• You check your phone every 5 minutes
• You binge-watch Netflix instead of doing things you had planned
• You regularly stay up too late because you can’t stop scrolling or watching TV
• You have trouble concentrating
• You feel anxious or stressed when you think you may have missed a notification
• You compare yourself to people online and it’s affecting your mood
• You obsess over likes and feel upset if you don’t get as many as expected
• You have a difficulty listening in meetings because your brain is overstimulated
• You feel compelled to check your phone during meetings
How to do a digital detox
Research suggests that limiting your social media use to approximately 30 minutes a day can significantly improve wellbeing and decrease symptoms of loneliness and depression. (Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 2018). While Zoom meetings for work may be difficult to avoid, reducing the time you spend on your phone or watching TV is totally doable.
• Start by activating Screen Time on your phone that limits and tracks how much time you spend on your smartphone. Set a daily usage limit for your apps and schedule down time.
• Turn off notifications for all apps.
• Remove social media apps for a certain amount of time. If you decide to download them again, only follow accounts that make you feel good.
• Limit the number of accounts you follow to avoid overstimulation.
• Have a screen-free day a week.
• Leave your phone outside the bedroom. No excuses!
• Go two weeks without watching TV. Instead of TV, focus on other hobbies. Take up reading, crafts or another activity that suits your fancy.
• If you want to watch TV, decide on a time limit and stick to it. Set a timer on your phone to avoid binge-watching. (If you can’t stick to it, go cold turkey!)
• Only use one screen at a time – don’t scroll on your phone while watching TV (we’ve all been there!).
• If you have Zoom fatigue, turn off the camera from time to time if it’s acceptable in your team. This can take some of the pressure off to appear professional through the screen.
• Schedule space in your calendar where you’re unavailable to give you some beathing space from Zoom meetings.
• If you’re invited to unnecessary meetings, politely propose that the sender emails the information instead.
• Make sure to take breaks from your computer during the workday, preferably outdoors without your phone.
• Only check your email and chats twice a day unless you’re waiting for something urgent.
With these tips you’ll get a better relationship with your devices and feel more relaxed and present. Going without your trusty devices may feel a little anxiety-inducing at first since our brains are used to constant stimulation, so be kind to yourself if you slip up! And of course, even if you’re detoxing, don’t go without speaking to your friends and loved ones, because in these times we need to stay connected.