We live in a digital era guided and controlled by technology. Most of us are so immersed in it that we usually can’t recognize the signs of overload. In fact, many people can’t go without a digital device for more than a few minutes, let alone hours.
If you’re one of those people, you might want to consider revisiting your digital habits. We’ve prepared a guide to help you understand the warning signs that you need a break from technology and how to do it most efficiently.
What Is a Digital Detox?
Broadly speaking, it means taking a break from all your digital devices and unplugging for a while. The detox can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on how much time you need to reset.
More specifically, it means avoiding non-stop texting, chatting, scrolling social media, binge-watching shows, or playing video games. The goal is to fill in the time you spend (or waste) on your digital device with a healthier lifestyle habit and limit your screen time so that it wouldn’t impact your overall wellbeing.
Types of Digital Detox
Digital detox research reveals many types of detox, depending on which aspect of technology is the most troublesome. There are some overlapping categories, but if you’re unwilling to give up your digital empire all at once, you can choose one of the types below.
- Phone detox. Smartphones are a significant cause of digital addiction. It’s hard to control yourself when the world is under your fingertips, so this is a prevalent form of detox among adults and children. We’ve prepared a guide to help you start your phone cleanse, so give it a read!
- Internet detox. While this can be equated with the social media detox, many people find different ways to spend time online. Internet detox is a good option for various online gambling or pornography addicts, online gamers, and others who spend long hours browsing the web for whatever reason.
- TV detox. Binge-watching TV shows for days on end is another major reason for a detox. If a TV show is good, you’re likely to get addicted, but you should learn to set your boundaries and watch less TV during the day.
- Social media detox. Social media can take you high and bring you low in seconds as it holds a mighty grasp over our self-image and self-esteem. This type is a recommended digital detox for students, teenagers, and young adults with fragile mental health facing various issues due to peer pressure on social media. You can learn how to do a social media detox in our guide on this subject.
- Video game detox. Next to TV shows, video games are the most addictive digital content due to their interactivity and the dopamine rush you experience when advancing through the levels. You should do a video gaming detox to stop your gaming habits from eating away your precious time.
Why Do I Need a Digital Detox?
Research shows that an average American adult spends approximately 11 hours a day using electronic devices. You’re surrounded by technology from the moment you wake up until you sleep. This constant exposure to digital overstimulation is highly detrimental to our mental and physical health, so let’s look at some of its harmful effects.
Digital addiction means dependence on any electronic device and our activities while using them. It’s accompanied by a surge of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit symptoms, and it can affect our social and emotional life. It’s arguably the most severe warning symptom that you need to take a break from technology. Here’s what digital addiction looks like:
- You multitask between devices throughout the day and compulsively check your notifications.
- You’re often caught up in binge-watching sessions on streaming services, such as Netflix, which witnessed an increase in binge-watching of 61% during the pandemic-imposed lockdowns.
- You spend hours scrolling on social media or playing video games.
- You have difficulty socializing and communicating with other people face-to-face.
- You frequently engage in online gambling or watch pornography.
- You use apps even for sleep regulation, meditating, or exercising, which are supposed to be digital-free activities.
Each time you get a like on that recent selfie, finish a level in a video game, or win money through online gambling, you trigger the release of dopamine, the neurochemical of pleasure and motivation.
The instant gratification that comes with each dopamine hit reprogrammes your brain into craving technology as the only way to get dopamine, even though it can create and release it on its own. As such, addiction is a critical sign you’re ready for a round of digital detoxing.
Irregular sleep patterns are a byproduct of our stressful lifestyles, but a portion of the blame lies on digital overload. If you watch shows at night to help you fall asleep or spend hours scrolling through social media before bed, you’ve likely developed a sleep disorder.
When overstimulated, your brain becomes restless and has difficulty unwinding, keeping you up at night. According to a survey, using a device before bedtime increases the amount of time you need to fall asleep, with iPads and tablets prolonging this period up to half an hour.
In addition, the artificial blue light our screens emit inhibits the natural release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Lack of melatonin makes you sleep-deprived, leading to insomnia, depression, and a higher risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.
Stress is a major sign you should consider a tech detox. The ever-present pressure to stay connected and check our emails and social media can deeply affect our emotional stability and mental health.
Like addiction, stress is a known cause of anxiety and depression. You may find yourself moody, irritable, exhausted, or even experience headaches from too much screen time. Tech stress can cause trouble relaxing as you’re constantly on edge from overstimulation.
General health problems
Numerous health issues constitute a sign you need electronic detox. Let’s see some common symptoms:
- Gaining weight. Your pot belly may be a sign of an unhealthy diet, but the fact that you sit in front of the computer or TV the whole day isn’t helping either. A sedentary lifestyle with frequent visits to the fridge is a recipe for extra weight, potentially resulting in obesity or type 2 diabetes.
- Vision problems. We’ve already discussed the harmful effects of blue light on our sleeping patterns, but staring at a screen for too long can overwork your eyes and cause blurred vision or eye strain issues.
- Problems due to lack of physical activity. These include decreased bone density, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Poor time management
You really need a digital detox if you spend too much time immersed in your device without doing anything productive for days or even weeks. Procrastination, doing everything at the last minute, and missing deadlines are stages of a vicious cycle that’s difficult to escape once you’ve developed a digital addiction.
When there’s no deadline, you make a habit of not doing things because there are no repercussions. The problem is that each time you procrastinate, you are one step further from any accomplishments until this becomes your general attitude towards everything.
If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it’s high time you tried a detox from technology. Keep reading to find out how!
How to Do a Digital Detox?
Putting technology on standby is not easy, but the most challenging part is to start. We’ve selected a few practical methods to help you achieve this goal, but we recommend combining them into a strategy that works best for you. Let’s begin!
Do some self-reflection
Take a pen and paper and list the reasons for each time you reached for your phone or logged on to your computer, focusing on your emotions. Were you bored, anxious, or relieved? How did you feel when you disconnected?
In addition, try to make a realistic assessment of the possible extent of your detox. For example, you can completely disconnect if your job involves computer work or online communication with clients. The best digital detox experience begins when you set a clear goal knowing all your restrictions.
Pick a time to take a break
Few people have the privilege of completely disconnecting, so if you’re not one of them, you’ll have to compromise. You can choose particular times of the day when you won’t be using electronic devices at all.
The best times to unplug are when you’re with family and friends, during meals, right when you wake up and before going to bed, and during important work or projects.
Use a digital detox app or website blocker
A good thing about this type of detox is that you can fight fire with fire and use an app to help you take time off. Various apps can monitor or block access to websites or other apps you’re overusing.
Website blockers and detox apps are an excellent way to regain control of your digital usage and stop yourself from spending too much time online. You can target specific apps or websites to reduce usage or tackle your overall digital usage.
People are social beings, so support is everything, especially in this process. Build a support network of family and friends who’ll know you’re doing a detox, and have them encourage you to keep going when it becomes difficult.
If you have a partner or a close friend who’s going through similar issues, you can ask them to do a detox together so that you can monitor and support each other along the way.
Get out of the house
Basic digital detox rules include spending time outdoors, alone or with other people. Grab a drink with your friends, spend more time with family, and go for walks or to the gym. Moving around and socializing will distract you from constantly wanting to be connected.
Schedule your usage
Instead of picking a time to take a break, you can also pick certain times during the day when you’re allowed to use your devices. Avoid early morning and bedtime, and try to stick to your schedule every day.
Try a digital fast or abstinence
Intermittent fasting is a popular trend commonly related to nutrition, but a digital fast is another way to reshape your digital habits and stay disconnected. For example, you can try giving up all electronic devices for a whole day or even a whole week. You can do a 24–hour digital detox challenge for a start and see how you handle it.
Digital multitasking is real, and we’ve all been there — you probably check your phone while watching shows or browsing the internet or have your computer and TV on simultaneously for no particular reason.
This can be overstimulating for your brain, so try to use one device at a time.
Measure your progress
Write a journal on how you did each day of your detox, and keep a usage schedule. Use the journal to decide which strategies work best for you, so when you hit a brick wall, try to revisit your approach. You can do it!
Hopefully, this article helped you realize the numerous digital detox benefits you’ll be reaping if you take a break from the digital vortex we’re all caught up in.
Such a drastic change in behavior and mindset is no walk in the park, but we promise it’s for your own good. So, disconnect, unplug, and experience the world through your own eyes — rather than through a screen.
Does a digital detox work?
Definitely. If you follow through, you will see measurable improvements in numerous aspects of your everyday life. Less screen time means you’ll be mentally present and focused, without a source of stress draining your energy and constantly engaging your brain.
You can achieve a balance between technology and the real world and control your digital devices instead of letting them control you.
What is a digital detox good for?
A detox from technology is highly beneficial for your wellbeing. Here are some of its main perks:
- You’ll feel calmer and more relaxed.
- You’ll be more productive and learn to manage your time better.
- You won’t have such a hard time staying focused, and your attention span will be longer.
- Your overall physical and mental health will improve.
- You’ll finally get some quality sleep.
What happens during a digital detox?
A detox is a progressive process that takes time and willpower because you’re remodeling your daily habits and essentially your entire lifestyle. You’re removing the stressful factor that’s keeping you preoccupied and learning to build your life around other activities.
In time, your technological dependence fades, and new spaces open up for various off-screen activities. You can also notice changes in your mental and physical health, mainly how calmer and more energized you feel, and you become more efficient and careful in prioritizing your activities.
What’s a digital habit?
A digital habit is your routine use of electronic devices and online behavior. There are healthy and bad digital habits.
Some healthy digital habits are not using your phone before bedtime, limiting screen time, cleaning out unused apps, and unplugging when you’ve had too much tech exposure.
Bad digital habits include constantly being on your phone even during social interactions, obsessively playing video games or scrolling social media, using electronic devices to help you sleep, not backing up your data, or nurturing various addictions, such as pornography or online gambling.