Like most, the alarm on my phone wakes me up most mornings. Without fail, I robotically click through all the icons that have crowded my notifications bar over night. At least ten minutes have passed before I become consciously aware and catch myself scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed without being fully able to recall what it was I just ‘interacted’ with seconds earlier. Sound familiar?
What spurred a digital detox:
My evenings might be spent lounging by the TV, binging on the latest popular show, eating dinner and catching up with my boyfriend’s day in work. This in itself is not a concern of course, in fact I thoroughly enjoy the fantasy and drama of a good show and musing over the possibility of an upcoming twist together. The problem occurs when conversation runs dry or becomes secondary to glancing at the tv screen between scrolling through your newsfeed on your phone. I was not necessarily giving anything my full attention just mindlessly burning hours away.
With my increasing digital addiction, I noticed I was using my brain less and less too. I would see and actor on one of my shows and rather than trying to figure out why they were so familiar, I would just Google it. My spelling began to deteriorate due to autocorrecting my messages. If I was trying to solve a simple maths sum, such as splitting a bill, I would click into my phone’s calculator. Instant gratification is strong in this one! But my problem solving skills, as a result, were not.
Social and problem-solving skills aside, I found myself getting antsy when I was without my phone. The vibration of a new notification was enough to wake me from my slumber at night, fearful of missing out on something ‘important’. I trawled through accounts of old classmates with a slight taste of venom in my mouth, secretly hoping they weren’t doing better than me in life – yet here I was wasting hours away, feeling sorry for myself. Times I posted something new on Instagram I would obsessively click my phone out of sleep mode as soon as the backlight went off, falsely linking the numbers to my own value.
There are a multitude of studies linking digital addictive behaviour to anxiety, depression as well as various other mental health concerns and I was starting to feel the pressure of my online presence too.
Enough was enough and it came time I needed to detox my mind from the screen and get back to the real world again. Here’s how I did it:
1. Develop a Morning Routine:
My morning routine involves making my bed after I wake up, sticking on the kettle while I clean last night’s dishes, yoga while my green tea cools down, drink my green tea and have my breakfast while I write up my to-do list for the day, then brush my teeth and floss. I don’t allow myself to use my phone or laptop until this routine is complete. The only exception is if I put on a podcast to listen to from the other side of the room while I eat my breakfast.
Bonus Tip: To make this a little easier for yourself, buy an alarm clock and leave your phone in another room at night.
2. Install a Facebook Timeline Blocker:
A friend of mine recommended this to me and it has completely upped my productivity game, as well as showing the somber reality of how often I used to mindlessly flip onto Facebook. The ‘News Feed Eradicator for Facebook’ Chrome extension completely hides your timeline on your laptop or PC browser and replaces it with a randomised motivational quote or you can add your own.
Bonus Tip: Unfortunately, I have yet to find a similar solution for my phone but if you work a lot from your laptop this is a must for your digital detox from a social media standpoint. Turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode while you work to avoid the temptation of browsing on your phone instead.
3. Out Of Sight out of Mind:
I recently went on an Instagram detox for the whole month of May. To do so, I uninstalled the app from my phone. This meant I wasn’t getting sucked back in by an automatic trigger finger when I opened my phone. I deleted Instagram, but of course this can work for all social media apps.
Bonus Tip: Since Instagram is designed to be used on mobile, when you sneakily try use it on your laptop it totally sucks! The whole effort of trying to write a comment was a nightmare for me especially, so this helped to kick my bad Instagram habits.
4. Healthy Replacements:
Let’s think of why we started this digital obsession in the first place. Boredom and curiosity spring to mind. When you are trying to detox from your digital crutch, the toughest situations will be when your feel like winding down, tackling the boredom of your active mind, or you’re just looking for something new and intriguing to scroll through. Times like waiting or travelling on a bus, your lunch break, sitting at home in the evenings, etc.
The best way to get over these trigger times is to find a healthier replacement that gives you the same effect. Try adding just 15-20 mins of reading to your lunch break and/or night time routine before going to bed. Go for a stroll and explore your area in the evenings after work. Start listening to music again and practice being content with just closing your eyes and enjoying your favourite jam. Feeling creative? Take up a new craft such as knitting, wood carving or painting.
Bonus Tip: Reading is probably the easiest option to start off with as it is almost as portable as your phone. I get most of my books from a local second hand book store where I can ask for recommendations, or on Amazon where I can read the book’s blurb and reviews from other buyers.
5. Practice Awareness:
One of the most upsetting realisations for me was how controlled I had become by my devices, and my lack of awareness towards it. They were like sirens on the rocks, and I was the poor sailor being foolishly lured in by their charm to the demise of my real-life involvement in social activities.
Mindfulness does not always mean sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed. The purpose of mindfulness is to increase your awareness of your thoughts and surroundings. To acknowledge your thoughts, then let them go just as freely as they have arrived in your mind. By practicing mindfulness, I have been able to train my mind to accept doing ‘nothing’ as being just as important as being productive. Remember, it’s all about balance.
Bonus Tip: Journalling is a great form of mindfulness. It helps clear your muddled thoughts while keeping your awareness and consciousness present.
6. Fresh Air, Don’t Care:
Whenever possible, get outside and leave your phone at home. Bring your pooch for a trip to the local park, go take a leisurely walk, picnic by the lakes or push yourself and do a full day hike with some friends. Not only will this take your mind off of your digital world, but it will get you fit, active and social again while fill your lungs with all that sweet fresh air! Win win!
(If you want to know even more benefits of hiking with your furry friend, check out 5 Ways Dog Adventuring Can Fuel Your Soul.)
Bonus Tip: If you absolutely must bring your phone because you are hiking and need it for safety, turn off all push notifications from all your apps and stick it on mute. If you are just bringing your phone for photos, turn it on airplane mode throw it in your backpack out of your reach.
7. Let’s Get Social:
Of course, the biggest downfall of the digital age is the lack of real connection. Go out and have a coffee with friends, go on a dinner date with your partner, bring your parents to see a local theatre production and just talk to people – in real life. Genuinely, truly and deeply connect with these people on a personal level. Ask them about their day, practice your listening skills, laugh about old times and gush about your future goals. You won’t even notice the time away from your phone flying by.
Bonus Tip: Make these activities a “No-Phone-Zone” so the conversation doesn’t veer back to watching a video of a cute, sleepy kitten trying to stay awake for 20 minutes.
8. Imma ‘Be’:
If you are like I was, and your phone is an extension of your arm, this tip might be a toughie. The idea is to not revert back to your phone when you are alone and to just ‘be’. If you are on a train, observe your surroundings and the landscape as it whizzes by. If you are having a coffee on your own, people watch. If you are going for a walk, listen the sounds around you. Remind yourself there is a whole world already around you and you are missing it’s beautiful, subtle interactions by the minute when you are glued to your screen.
Bonus Tip: This is the toughest of them all but I find it the most fulfilling. Try and resist the urge and in time it will be second nature. You will be pleasantly surprised by the magic you find in the every day.
9. Device Declutter:
Lastly, unsubscribe from unwanted emails subscriptions and archive your social media notification emails, better yet go to settings on your social media accounts and turn off email notifications altogether. Organise your laptop or PC desktop into aptly name folders so your time on-screen is quick and efficient.
Bonus Tip: Dedication a few hours (or a day if necessary) to completely delete files, photos, music etc. you no longer want or need. Not only does it free up space on your device, but it gives you a mental boost too. Not only that, but it prevents procrastination compared to doing it in unscheduled dribs and drabs.
Ready for your own digital detox?
Does the thought of ditching your phone seem a little frightening still? Well luckily, you don’t need to move into a cave and live off the grid to have a digital detox. Instead, try to carry out at least one of these tips every week to give your mind (and eyes) a rest from your digital overload. Time away from your phone will become easier and your dependency to social media will slowly fade too.
If you do decide to rein in your device usage by taking a digital detox, I would really love to hear how you get on. Maybe you are struggling and need some support? Feel free to drop me an email. Perhaps you have recently done a digital detox and have some more tips to share? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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