Log Off, Feel Happier
Why it's time for a digital detox
Production Amy Abrahams
When it comes to digital dependency, we are well and truly hooked. The average user checks their phone up to 150 times a day and a study by Deloitte found that 55% of us pick up our phones within 15 minutes of waking up, and 79% check them in the last hour before bed. “We now spend more time on screens than we do asleep,” says Tanya Goodin, digital entrepreneur and founder of itstimetologoff.com, which runs workshops and retreats to help you digitally detox. “Screens haven’t just become part of our lives, they *are* our lives.”
But is this a problem? In short, yes. While there’s no denying technology brings with it all kinds of perks, it turns out our tech addiction can also affect everything from our sleep to relationships and mental health. That’s why when it comes to your wellness regime, finding time to log off is crucial. However, you don’t have to hide out tech-free in a cave for weeks on end to reap the benefits – cutting down each day or at the weekends still counts. So here’s why a digital detox is good for you and how to make it work in your life.
1. You’ll sleep better
According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, we are experiencing a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic” – not helped by blue-light-emitting screens that impact melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. A 2017 study by Haifa University found that not only does blue light delay our sleep, it affects the quality too, causing us to wake up more during the night. To detox, practise better sleep hygiene: don’t look at your phone for two hours before bed - instead, unwind by running a bath or reading a book. Plus, buy an alarm clock and charge your phone outside the bedroom. Out of sight = less scrolling, more sleeping.
2. It will improve your self-worth
If you’ve ever looked at Facebook or Instagram and felt like everyone else seems happier than you, you’re not alone. “We are in the grips of a comparing epidemic brought about by the power couple of social media and technology,” says comparison coach Lucy Sheridan (proofcoaching.com). “This is causing us to rank what we have and what we are doing compared to others, which affects our relationships offline as we make assumptions about how we might be falling behind. This affects our confidence and ability to move forward in our own lives because we are so caught up with what others are posting online.” Sheridan recommends learning how to manage the overspill of digital life. “Our awareness is vital in getting on top of our habits.” She suggests these tips:
- Turn off all notifications: “That way I am in control of when I catch up.”
- Don’t check your phone before finishing your morning routine: “No pre-wee scrolling!”
- Ensure the last thing you look at online is uplifting: “I love interiors on Pinterest right now.”
- Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel overwhelmed or trigger comparison: “Instead, flood your feeds with content that educates and entertains you.”
3. Your relationships will benefit
Downing your digital devices and devoting more time to human interaction is key to creating lasting, loving connections with people – but how often do we find ourselves out for dinner sat in silence looking at our phones? According to a survey of 75,000 married couples by marriage-health app Lasting, 79% admitted that technology distracted them from connecting with each other, and only 22% reported being satisfied with how much “intentional” time they spent together. So for date night, take a walk or hit that hip new restaurant – but make a pledge to leave the phones off the table and ideally at home (or on airplane mode for a couple of hours, if you really can’t part from it completely).
REMEMBER… A digital detox is like a workout - with practice you’ll get stronger
“You need to exercise your digital detox muscle,” says Goodin. “Start small and begin by putting your phone away in a drawer at home for an hour and see how you feel. Then try an errand to the corner store without it, then longer trips out for shopping or even a meal. Before long you’ll be pretty relaxed about regularly spending half a day to a day off-screens.”