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Digital Detox – How to Unplug and Why It’s Good for You

Did you know that on average, we touch our phones 80 times each day?  This adds up to 30,000 times over the period of one year. That’s pretty staggering, right? To be fair, not all screen time is equal. Many of us use our phones for streaming music, reading the news, or even for our jobs. So I decided to narrow down the numbers and look at average time spent on social media… guess what? The answer is surprising! Researchers say that we spend 142 minutes per day on social media. That’s more than two hours a day!

Let that sink in a minute. Maybe think about your own social media usage and consider, what if you were able to get back the time spent on social media and use it instead for a workout, a dinner with your husband, time with your kids?

It’s Time to Take a Break

This week, I’m going to do a digital detox.  A digital detox is a period of time – you decide how long- where you voluntarily refrain from using your phone, social media, Netflix and other digital devices – yes, that Apple watch included – and make an intentional effort to reconnect with nature.

Numerous studies have shown that turning off technology is good for mental health, physical health, productivity and relationships.

  • Calming Down: Social experiments have found that when people take a break from devices, their stress levels drop. When you’re absorbed in your email inbox or flipping through the latests stories on Instagram, you’re not living in the present.
  • Improved Sleep: Science has shown that when we look at screens before bedtime, our brains respond by not producing melatonin, the chemical which helps our bodies relax and feel sleepy. The screen time essentially makes our brains more alert and awake, which has a negative effect on sleep.  This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light emitted by our devices. Besides increasing alertness, using devices before bedtime delays the onset of REM sleep and  reduces the total amount of REM sleep, which has a negative cyclical effect, resulting in feeling less alert in the morning. Over time, this can add up to a significant, chronic sleep deficiency.
  • Improved Memory: Neuroscientists observed 35 people who were totally cut off from their devices in the Moroccan desert. The results surprised the scientists – after only a few days, the group was more likely to remember obscure details about one another. Scientists believe this is a because people were more present in conversation, so their brains were able to process and store new information more easily. When using technology, our brains are distracted and don’t register details.
  • Healthier Relationships: When people put away their phones, they tend to have better eye contact during conversation, which allows deeper connection. Being fully present and in the moment allows us to listen and be more aware of our friends, children and significant others. Interestingly, neuroscientists noticed that after three days without technology, people’s posture changed – people begin to look forward, into other people’s eyes rather than downward, into their screens. This opened up the front of their bodies, pushing back their shoulders, realigning the back of their heads with the spine. Kate Unsworth, CEO of Bekovert, a technology blog says “A wonderful side effect of this is that people’s general energy opens up. They appear much more approachable when they enter the room.”
  • New Perspectives: Having a clear mind, free from distraction of notifications and dings from our phones allows us to think about things differently. Studies have found that during digital detox, people are better able to contemplate important issues in their lives, with improved focus which results in better decision making.

How to Do a Digital Detox

In theory, it’s simple. Turn off your devices and put them away. But because our devices are so interlinked into our lives, this can be difficult. Here are a few tips:

  • Lay Ground Rules: Establish a period of time for the digital detox. Maybe it’s 24 hours. For some, it works best to detox each weekend while others prefer to do a digital detox while on vacation.
  • Be Realistic: You’ll likely still need your phone to contact family members or friends. Determine ahead of time what you’ll need (i.e. phone calls) and what you’ll ditch (i.e. Instagram and Netflix) and stick to it.
  • Have fun: Use digital detox time to journal, exercise, spend time with people you love and to unwind. Make sure you replace digital time with something that gives you peace.

Challenge Starts Now

Social media appears to promote narcissism, causes insomnia, increases stress, harms our relationships, and makes us less productive.  So I challenge you, starting now, to join me in a digital detox. Come back next week (or next month!) when your detox is over and let me know how it went! I’ll also share my findings from my own experience … stay tuned!

As always, thanks for reading!

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