Are you surprised by these numbers?
- 79 – Percentage of Americans who are online “several times a day” or “almost constantly”
- 5.4 – Average number of hours Americans spend on their smartphones every day
- 96 – Average number of times per day Americans check their phones
Americans are spending more time in front of screens than ever, both at work and at home. While we certainly gain a lot from our online experiences – we’re more connected and informed than ever – it’s also clear that too much screen time, especially on social media, is detrimental to our physical, psychological, and emotional health.
That’s where digital detoxing comes in. A break from screens and from consuming content might be just what you need this summer to reset and recharge. Read on to discover what a digital detox is, how to do one, and a mindful alternative to the typical digital detox.
What Is a Digital Detox?
A digital detox is a break from the use of digital devices and technology like cell phones, computers, and TVs. Digital detoxes can come in many forms – anything from reducing the number of hours spent on a particular app or activity to 100% abstinence from screens of any kind.
Benefits of Digital Detox
The benefits of a digital detox depend on how much time you spend in front of screens, what kind of digital content you consume, and how it affects you. Depending on the person, a digital detox may:
- Reduce the physical effects of too much screen time such as digital eye strain, blue light exposure, and (possibly) myopia or nearsightedness
- Give you back the time you’d otherwise spend on devices to connect with people in person, pursue hobbies, or tackle your to-do list
- Break bad habits that don’t add anything meaningful to your life, such as scrolling for hours through social media or playing games at night when you should be sleeping
- Decrease negative feelings resulting from too much time on social media like Instagram and TikTok that can cause FOMO, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of isolation and unworthiness
These are just some of the benefits that show how a digital detox can impact your physical, psychological, and emotional well-being.
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How to Do a Digital Detox
There isn’t just one way to do a digital detox. You can make up the rules of your own digital detox to achieve your goals and pick the time frame that works for you, too. Maybe you want to try it for a couple of days, or attempt a digital detox challenge for an entire month! It’s up to you.
Here are some suggestions on how to do a digital detox:
No phones, computers, tablets, TVs – no screens of any kind. Yes, this is challenging, but there’s no better time to do it than in the summer when the days are long, the weather is warm, and there’s so much to do outside to keep you busy.
Detox from one device only
If you’re spending too much time on one device, detox from that device only. Unplug your TV or computer, put your laptop or tablet in its case and out of sight, or put your phone in another room (or give it to a family member or roommate to keep it from you) to make it more difficult for you to access.
Detox from one app or activity only
What’s your biggest time suck? Figure out what that is and abstain from that. Uninstall the app that you spend too much time on or log out of your account.
Create your own limits
You can also put your own limits in place to see what works for you. Here are a few ideas.
- Time-restricted detox – Instead of putting your phone (or TV or computer) away 24/7, restrict your access at certain times. Your digital detox could allow screens during the day (a necessity for many working people) but ban screens in the evenings and/or weekends.
- Time-limited detox – Alternatively, set a limit for screen time for your day, like three hours total across all screens (outside of work).
- Location-limited detox – Instead of limiting your use of devices by time, limit use by location. For example, no devices at the dinner table, or no screens in the bedroom.
These are just some ideas and ways of incorporating a digital detox into your life. Adjust or mix and match strategies to work for you.
A Mindful Alternative to Digital Detox
Do digital detoxes work? It’s not clear if or how long the benefits of a digital detox last beyond the detox itself, especially if the pre-detox behaviors resume when the detox is over.
But if you use a digital detox as a chance to break out of bad habits and replace them with new, more positive habits, you can see lasting change. For example, you may replace two hours of time on Instagram a day with one hour of study on a language app and one hour of reading instead. You’re still spending two hours a day on your phone – your total screen time is the same – but those two hours are now adding something positive to your life. Instead of bingeing a reality show on TV, watch a documentary on something that fascinates you. Instead of playing a match-3 game, learn to play chess, sudoku, or bridge.
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This is a mindful approach to digital technology that recognizes that these devices are a part of our lives and will be here for good – they’re not going anywhere. But when we’re purposeful about how we incorporate them into our day, they can enhance, rather than detract from, our lives.