Cell phones and other digital devices can be a great way to keep up with the news and stay connected with friends and family, but using one excessively can increase your stress levels, negatively impact sleep and limit the amount of quality time you spend with your significant other.
Research shows the average American spends more than four hours a day using a smartphone. If that’s you, it might worth considering a digital detox, something many health experts recommend and a practice that’s becoming more popular in the digital age.
A digital detox is a period of time when a person refrains from using digital devices such as smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets and social media sites. Experts say digital detoxes can translate into more enriching interactions with others and a healthy reset of your inner psyche.
“Spending too much time on mobile devices can be a form of procrastination and a distraction from the things that matter most to us,” says Heather Partridge, a behavioral health counselor at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach. “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘What are you missing out on during those four hours that you’re on the phone every day?’”
Tech devices have been linked to an increase in stress and anxiety, and research shows using such devices at bedtime can result in shorter sleep cycles and increased bouts of insomnia.
A digital detox can improve mental well-being, relieve stress and help strengthen bonds with others, Partridge says.
Is it time?
Consider a digital detox if:
- You’re “phubbing” (snubbing by using your phone) family members with phone in hand when you could be spending quality time together.
- Your phone is the first and last thing you see on a daily basis.
- You freak out when you’ve forgotten your phone during a trip away from the house.
- You turn to your phone when you’re bored and spend time mindlessly scrolling through social media.
- You’re staying up late surfing the Internet on your smartphone and compromising quality sleep time.
- You’re obsessive about checking your phone for texts and the number of likes a social media post has received.
Completely detaching for a period of time may not be realistic for people whose phones are important to their livelihood, but some separation could be beneficial. It’s about setting healthy boundaries and using the device in ways that enhance both emotional and physical well-being, Partridge says.
“Moderation is key,” she adds. “Set limits and boundaries. There is a great benefit to regularly doing a digital detox.”
Here are some ideas for a healthy digital detox:
- Focus on self-care, such as treating yourself to a long bath or meditation instead of spending time scrolling, swiping and browsing.
- Practice mindfulness; be fully present in every moment and recognize and appreciate everything around you.
- Replace the time you waste on your phone with learning a new hobby such as playing the guitar or painting.
- Create boundaries such as limiting the amount of time you spend answering work emails once you’re home.
- Commit to no electronics at the dinner table.
- Keep the phone out of your bedroom and instead try reading a book or magazine in the minutes before you drift off to sleep.
- Use an alarm clock to wake you in the morning rather than depending on your phone.
- Join your kids outside to shoot hoops, play catch or ride bicycles.
Detaching digitally might make you feel uneasy initially, but it can be a refreshing and rewarding experience when it’s all said and done. It can help you improve your mental health, become more personable, deepen relationships and sleep better.