I’ve talked with quite a few people in recent months who are making regular time in their life for digital detoxes where they refrain from using tech devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media sites for a period of time to focus on real-life social interactions without distractions & let go of the stress that stems from constant connectivity.
The reasons, goals & methods for doing so are different, but the feedback is all the same – they feel healthier, happier, less stressed & more in control of their life & plan to do them regularly. They describe improved concentration & focus, more regulated mood, better sleep patterns, healthier relationships with self & others, reduced stress/anxiety & increased life balance.
Most agreed they felt anxious or uncomfortable in the beginning because they were so used to being ‘plugged in’ all the time, but they were intentional about it & focused on slowly creating new habits. They found they had more time & energy for doing other things they enjoyed but weren’t doing as much as they would like, such as spending more time with their loved ones, developing new hobbies, taking time for better self-care, getting out in nature more, exercising, completing projects or organizational tasks, reading a book, meditating, to just be.
The health benefits people describe experiencing by liming social media & putting a strong boundary on screen time appear to be significant & numerous. I recently experienced the great wellness benefits myself when I wound up without a cell phone for two days prompting an involuntarily detox (thanks Jane Martin!). I found it to be a wonderful experience & not at all as challenging as I thought it would be. It made me realize just how reliant I am on my phone personally & professionally, but what I quickly realized is there are other ways to get life done & some things don’t need to be addressed with as much frequency or duration, if at all. We survived life prior to cell phones & social media & we can again if we so choose.
The greatest thing I felt after not having a cell phone use for 48-hours was more relaxed & balanced. Technology puts everyone & everything right at our fingertips at a moment’s notice and that has conditioned many of us to feel we *need* to be on all the time, have our phones or tablets by our side, constantly checking news, text messages, email & social media pages.
The result of being so accessible has created very high, often unrealistic & unhealthy expectations for our ourselves & others. I once had a friend tell me she was worried about me because I hadn’t responded to her text message in 24-hours. A client once told me her friend group considers it to be “a blow off” when a text message is not responded to within an hour. I know many who think that a couple vs numerous likes on social media posts equates to lack of care & concern from others.
The one & only thing we can control in life is ourselves. While there are benefits to technology & social media, we must not let it control us or decide what works best for our life. We control who, what, when, where & why we engage or don’t engage; respond or don’t respond (and no response is a response by the way); do or don’t do. If someone doesn’t like it that we haven’t responded to them within their time frame that is their problem to solve. If we post something on social media & others don’t respond as we would like we must know that data is not a meaningful measuring tool of our own value & worth.
If you are looking for ways to reduce stress, manage time, strengthen relationships & improve your overall life wellness & functioning, then try a digital detox. VeryWellMind describes signs you may need a digital detox:
· You feel anxious or stressed out if you can’t find your phone
· You feel compelled to check your phone every few minutes
· You feel depressed, anxious, or angry after spending time on social media
· You are preoccupied with the like, comment, or reshare counts on your social posts
· You’re afraid that you’ll miss something if you don’t keep checking your device
· You often find yourself staying up late or getting up early to play on your phone
· You have trouble concentrating on one thing without having to check your phone
Some people find giving up their devices fairly easy. Others will find it much more difficult and even anxiety-provoking at times. VeryWellMind’s digital detox tips for success:
· Let your friends and family know that you are on a digital detox and ask for their help and support
· Find ways to stay distracted and keep other activities on hand
· Delete social media apps from your phone to reduce temptation and easy access
· Try getting out of the house; go to dinner with friends or go for a walk when you are tempted to use your device
· Keep a journal to track your progress and write down your thoughts about the experience
Happy New Year all! May good health & well-being be yours in 2020.
Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Foundations 4 Life Wellness & Counseling Center