There’s no doubt about it, we’re a society that is addicted to our phones. Whether it’s for work, staying in touch, or mindless scrolling, we use our phones almost non-stop. More and more, we’re becoming aware of the detrimental effects than this constant use is having on us, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Even though we’ve all heard about the negative consequences and addictive patterns that overusing our devices is causing, it can be extremely difficult to disengage. As Lexi Felix, the former co-founder of Digital Detox pointed out, “every new notification or text triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards, so you keep coming back for more."
This means it can feel difficult, or even down right impossible, to put your phone down. To help cut back on smartphone use and regain a healthy balance, many people are choosing to take digital detoxes.
Doing a digital detox can look different for everyone and will depend on your needs and lifestyle. You may choose to go cold turkey and go 100% digital free for a period of time, but this isn’t realistic for everyone. Whether you want to dial back your usage or cut it out altogether, the following tips will help you take the digital detox that’s right for you.
Find a detox that works for you.
Everyone uses their phone differently, so the first thing we recommend is defining your own boundaries when it comes to your devices. For some people, even cutting down to checking their phone hourly is a big step. Take into consideration your current usage and how and why you use your phone to determine what your detox will entail.
Does your phone ping every time you receive an email, Instagram like, tweet, or any other form of message or notification? We have incoming messages coming in almost constantly, especially if you use your phone for work, and it can be super distracting to have these alerts coming in non-stop.
Rather than receive an alert each time you get a notification, consider turning them off. This cuts down on distraction and lets you check your messages on your time, rather than every few minutes when you get an alert.
Get an alarm clock
Yes, it’s convenient to use your smartphone as your alarm clock, but we all know what this leads to: mindlessly scrolling on our phone before bed and first thing in the morning. By switching your phone out for an actual alarm clock (remember those?) and leaving your phone in the other room, you’ll give yourself a buffer and be able to start and end your day phone-free. Doing so, said Felix, will allow you to“start your day on your own terms, not someone else’s, and feel more inspired and rested, and less anxious.”
Engage in activities that don’t involve your phone.
This tip seems obvious, but it’s one many of us have forgotten to do! These days, our phones are often one of our main sources of entertainment, but it’s so important to get back to non-digital hobbies. Read a book, cook a nice meal, go for a walk, take an art class, or anything else that feels fun and inspiring.
Opt for airplane mode.
Even if we don’t want to be texting and scrolling around social media, we still often need our phones for daily tasks. If you want to listen to music or podcasts, or anything else that you can do offline on your phone, consider switching to airplane mode. This allows you to enjoy certain functions of your phone without being bombarded, and distracted, by incoming messages and notifications.
Observe the benefits of putting down your phone.
It’s always easier to stick to a goal when you can observe tangible benefits. To motivate yourself to engage in less screen time, notice how you feel when you’re off your phone. Maybe you feel calmer, clearer, or more satisfied with your life. You may notice the things it makes more time for, like spending quality time with the people around you, instead of engaging in absent minded conversations while scrolling through Facebook. Once you notice what you’re gaining, it’ll be easier to put your phone away for longer periods of time.
If you’re wanting to do a digital detox but finding it difficult to muster the motivation, consider adding in a little incentive. Set up a goal that works for you, maybe spending no more than an hour a day on your phone, or putting it away from a whole weekend, and offer yourself a spa trip, new purchase, dinner with friends, or something else that will encourage you to reach the goal.
Once you experience the benefits of staying off your phone, that will likely become incentive enough, but having some material goals can be a great way to help you get started.
Allow your mind to wander.
These days, we reach for our phones the first second we find ourselves with nothing to do. Whether you’re waiting for a friend at a restaurant, standing in line at the grocery store, or lying in bed in the morning, we tend to grab for our phones the second we have some downtime.
It's so important to give our brains a change to disengage, relax, and zone out, and when we are reaching for our phones the second we aren’t engaged with something, we don’t allow ourselves to unplug. Consider this advice from Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, in an interview he had with Delta Sky magazine:“The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. ‘Hamilton’ forced me to double down on being awake to the inspirations of just living my life.”
Letting our minds wander is when we let our creativity and inspirations arise, so give yourself the chance to zone out and day dream.
Address the real reason you’re reaching for your phone.
Being bored isn’t the only reason we want to start scrolling. Often times, we reach for our phone to distract or numb ourselves out when we’re feeling something that makes us uncomfortable. It could be that we’re feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, impatient, or any other uncomfortable feeling that we don’t want to deal with.
Blake Snow, author of Log Off: How to Stay Connected After Disconnecting, recommends asking yourself why you’re reaching for your phone to uncover any emotions you may be trying to avoid. "I truly believe that keeping our phones in our pockets is one of the bravest things that any of us can do," he says in his book. By doing so, we force ourselves to confront how were really feeling, stop using our phones as a security blanket, and address what’s really going on.
Try a productivity tool.
There are a number of apps that can actually help you cut down on your phone use. A few examples include the Moment app, which helps you track your usage and set daily limits, the Freedom app, which lets you block access to certain sites, and OFFTIME, which lets you block specific notifications.
A digital detox can help break the hold that our phones have over us and help us to achieve more peace, connection, quality time with our friends, satisfaction with our lives, and so much more. Our phones can be a great asset when used properly, but by learning to disengage from them, we can return them to their rightful place as functional tool rather than full time hobby.