Digital Detox Techniques for a Stress Free Life
There’s no denying the fact that we’ve become a more introverted society who lives in portable digital world that we carry around with us wherever we go.
There are countless real-life stories of people who have met with accidents while driving because they were busy looking at their mobile phones while on the road, instead of focusing on the traffic ahead.
Step outside your house and you can’t go anywhere without bumping into people walking like zombies as they keep their eyes glued to their mobile phone screens oblivious to their surroundings.
This is a very real problem in society and it leads to stress without us even realising it.
Have You Encountered These Symptoms?
While using your mobile phone might seem like a relatively innocent activity, it actually has some insidious side effects that many people are unaware of.
These are some of the most common symptoms you’ll face if you’re addicted to your mobile device:
1. Insomnia and/or poor sleep quality
2. Fidgety and constantly need to check your phone every few minutes
3. Stress and anxiety – but you have no idea why
4. Obsessing over likes, shares, etc. on social media
5. Anger and irritation over arguments/debates on social media
6. FOMO – A Fear Of Missing Out, if you don’t check your phone often enough
7. Feeling depressed if you don’t get enough validation from others on social media (likes, shares, etc.)
8. Overwhelmed from the constant barrage of negative events/news online
9. Find it difficult to concentrate at school/work/etc.
10. Have lost interest in social activities in the real world and prefer to just be online
These are just a few of the symptoms, but they’re the most common ones. It’s not the mobile device per se that causes the problem…but the apps, notifications and social media that are the culprits.
How Do Digital Devices Cause Stress?
When you’re hooked to your phone because of all the social media sites you’re on, what you truly crave is attention and validation. You seek to be accepted by others.
This can be highly stressful because you’ve placed your self-worth in the hands of others. If you get lots of ‘likes’, you get a sense of elation. If you’re ignored, you feel depressed and worthless.
The truth is that neither of these scenarios are realistic because most of the people you know online are people you’ll never get to meet in real life.
Why then do people rant and rave at strangers over politics, vaccines, veganism and other polarizing topics online?
That’s because when you’re passionate about a topic that means something to you, you feel a need to get the other person to agree with you. You’re placing unnecessary stress upon yourself for nothing.
Millions of people who get online don’t wish to be educated or to think and see reason. They just want to be negative, to hate, to judge others, to virtue signal…and do everything else but listen to your arguments and see if you’re right.
The end result are fights, name calling, people unfriending each other and so on. What’s interesting is that in most cases, you’re dealing with people in a digital world…but emotions are as real as if you were arguing with someone standing right in front of you.
Your takeaway from this: spending too much time in a digital world can be stressful and toxic, if you let it get to you – and most people let it get to them.
The Effect of Dopamine
In simple words, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your body that makes you feel happy. Every time you receive a notification on your phone/social media, you have a small dopamine release.
Since social media notifications are sent in real time, you get immediate feedback the moment you post something online. Constant notifications mean that you’ll keep getting little dopamine shots throughout the day.
Next thing you know, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle where you need these notifications to keep you happy…and if you don’t get them, guess what you do?
Yup! You keep checking your phone regularly to see if you missed out on anything. This is also known as the ‘fear of missing out’ aka FOMO.
You worry that you may have missed something important or fun if you don’t check your device often. The truth of the matter is that you’ve missed nothing of any importance.
Subconsciously worrying yourself out over what you may have missed is another way to stress yourself out.
Why You Need a Digital Detox
Music is the space between the notes. Taking a break from your digital devices can be a wonderful way to relieve stress without you having to do much.
So, what is a digital detox?
Basically, it can be defined in 2 ways:
1. Total avoidance of all digital devices for a few days
2. Keeping your usage of digital devices to the bare minimum
There are no hard and fast rules here.
Some people may decide to take a short trip overseas or go camping outdoors for 3 days and they do not bring their mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc. with them. This is a more ‘hardcore’ way of doing a digital detox – but the end results are fantastic.
The second way is to only use your mobile device when absolutely necessary. This will probably mean for phone calls or text messages – just like how phones were used back in the day when we were smart and phones were dumb.
Whichever method you choose to go with, it’s important to know what you hope to achieve with the digital detox. Knowing your end goal is of paramount importance.
• Do you wish to reduce stress?
• Do you want to quit your addiction to your mobile device?
• Do you wish to experience life more instead of living in a virtual world?
Whatever the case may be, knowing what you’re hoping to get out of the process will help you to stay focused on the task ahead…
And if you’re addicted to your phone…this is going to be a Herculean task.
But you can do it. Let’s get started!
Digital Detox Techniques You Should Try!
If you’re doing a full digital detox where you avoid your mobile phone completely for a few days, the tips below will not apply to you.
Complete avoidance of your digital devices takes a scorched earth approach to all the downsides of using said devices, and will remedy the problem in record time. It’s a much tougher protocol, but the rewards accrue faster.
If you wish to take the slower approach and minimize usage of your phone without eliminating it altogether, just follow the pointers below and you’ll do just as well too.
The more pointers you adopt and comply with, the better your results will be.
Timeboxing is a simple time-management technique where you set allotted amounts of time for specific tasks.
In this case, checking your phone for notifications, etc. should be ‘timeboxed’. What that means is, you’ll set aside about 20 minutes (maybe 3 times a day) to check your phone.
We tend to waste so much time on applications such as Facebook, Instragram, Twitter and such like, so these times need to be fixed. For example, at 9am, 3pm and 7pm. At these times you may check your social media accounts, emails, etc.
Any other time aside from the designated times is a NO-NO! Some people may even wish to limit the timeboxing to just 20 minutes, once a day. That’s even better.
Less is more.
• No Phones 2 Hours Before Bed
This is an excellent practice and should be maintained even after you finish a digital detox. Using your mobile device close to bedtime can cause sleep problems.
These digital devices usually emit a blue light that interferes with your sleep. Your mind is tricked into staying awake longer because it thinks you need it to be alert.
The less sleep you get, the more stressed out you become. Poor quality sleep is just as bad.
Avoid using tablets, laptops, mobile phones, etc. at least 2 hours before bed.
• Use an Alarm Clock
Not your phone alarm!
Get an old-fashioned alarm clock that rings like crazy at the specified time. Preferably keep it at a spot in your room where you physically need to get up to turn it off.
If it’s close to you, you may just reach for it and turn it off or smash it and go back to sleep. So, getting off the bed and walking to the clock will help you to wake up.
Too often, we rely on the alarm in our phone.
Here’s the problem – you need to look at your phone to set the alarm before bed.
As mentioned earlier, you want to avoid using your phone 2 hours before bed. You need a proper alarm clock.
• Turn Off Notifications
Phone notifications will be the bane of your life if you let them dictate where your attention goes.
Most social media sites will try to get you to turn on your phone notifications so that you can stay updated in real-time.
Here’s what you need to know – most of these social media sites are free to join for a reason. If you’re not paying for a product or service, then YOU are the product.
Your ATTENTION is the CURRENCY that keeps these sites alive. They need you to attract advertisers and to maintain the longevity of their site. Their goal is profit maximization – NOT your well-being.
You must understand this to know why notifications sent by these apps are so detrimental. These notifications demand your attention because every beep or message on your screen draws your attention.
They suck up a little bit of your time and energy multiple times throughout the day…and we wonder why feel so drained at the end of the day. Now you know why.
Turn OFF all push notifications on your phone. Nothing on social media is so important that you need to receive instant updates.
If you have notifications for emails or other irrelevant apps, turn those off too. Screen schedule a slot where you check your emails so that you won’t need to get notifications just to stay updated.
• Not at the Dinner Table
Another common practice is to keep one’s mobile device at the dinner table and check on it while eating.
Avoid this habit. When you eat, you eat. Do not bring your digital device to your meal. It’s not a meal companion. Focus on your food and enjoy the dishes.
Don’t multi-task and stress yourself out.
• Not in the Bathroom Either!
Forget the addicted folks at the dinner table…millions of people bring their phones into the toilet too. They need entertainment while they ‘drop their kids off at the pool’.
You DO NOT need your phone in the toilet/bathroom. For the love of all that’s hygienic and sane, leave your phone outside.
Do what you need to do in the bathroom without scrolling your social media at the same time.
• Disable/Delete Unnecessary Apps
One of the best ways to cure yourself of social media addiction is to disable or delete the social media apps on your mobile phone.
Very often, it’s social media that’s causing the problems. Stick to using these platforms when you’re at your computer. That’s half the problem solved.
• Aeroplane Mode is Your Friend
If you really cannot stop yourself from checking your phone, putting it on ‘Aeroplane mode’ will instantly stop all notifications, etc. from bothering you.
Another technique will be to make your phone harder to reach. If you’re at home, place it in a room upstairs or lock it in a drawer and place the keys in another room.
When you need to inconvenience yourself to access your phone, you’ll be less likely to get it. Make the path to your phone face as much resistance as possible.
• Ask this Question – “What’s the Purpose?”
Anytime you’re reaching for your mobile device to check on it, asking yourself a question before you start will help you to arrest the habit in its tracks.
This is mindfulness and it works wonders. By asking yourself this question, it forces you to think and act. You’re no longer a creature of habit following a routine.
Ensure that there’s a purpose to checking your mobile device. Maybe you just wish to see if anyone called you or if your spouse messaged you.
The same applies if you choose to use social media. Instead of debating politics with strangers on Facebook and getting angry, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the purpose?”
Very often you’ll realise that there’s none…and you’ll quietly put your phone away.
At the end of the day, addiction to your mobile devices and social media is nothing more than ingrained habits that can be broken.
The best way to do that is to replace a bad habit with a good one…
- Filling The Void
When avoiding your digital devices, it may suddenly seem like you’ve a lot of time on your hands now. Since an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, here are a few ways to occupy yourself productively.
- Start Reading A Physical Book
Yes…a book that you can hold and which has pages to flip. Those still exist even though Kindle readers and PDF books are all the rage these days.
- Try Cooking
If you can already cook, try whipping up new dishes. If you can’t cook, it’s time to learn. This is the one of the very few activities on the planet that engages all five senses at once.
- Get In Touch With Nature
Take a walk in the park or go hiking…or spend a day at the beach….Aaaaand….Leave your phone at home.
- Give Decluttering A Try
It can be cathartic and you’ll feel a sense of relief when you get rid of ‘stuff’ which have been physically and emotionally weighing you down.
- Exercise Daily
Once again, leave your digital devices at home. If you wish to listen to music, just use a pair of earphones and avoid looking at the screen.
These days, most gyms are equipped with state of the art treadmills that have internet and TV screens, etc. Keep it simple. Avoid these and just listen to the music and focus on your breathing.
- Take A Short Travel Break
Go somewhere you’ve never been to before. The new sights and sounds will be great for your mind and soul.
Seal your phone in a Ziploc bag and place it in your luggage, just in case you need it in an emergency. If not, don’t look at it.
- Stretch and/or Meditate
Spending time stretching and meditating daily will help to relieve your stress further and calm your body too. When combined with a digital detox, you’ll feel much more relief than you normally would.
- Try New Activities
Gardening, martial arts, journaling, scrapbooking, juggling, rock climbing, colouring books, etc. are all interesting activities that will engage your mind and body.
You’ll discover that there are activities in life that are far more satisfying and rewarding than anything you could find in a mobile phone app.
A digital detox is NOT a complicated process.
It’s not the keto diet where you need to monitor your ketone levels.
It’s not a business plan where you need to create charts and planners to help you to figure out the process and systematise things.
You don’t need to do any of that.
You only need to go on a ‘digital fast’ – either by avoiding these digital devices completely or only using them when absolutely necessary.
How long you choose to detox is up to you. Anywhere from 3 to 7 days is usually sufficient to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
You’d be amazed that the feeling of lightness you feel is almost tangible.
Our digital devices keep us hooked to an invisible world that keeps yanking at our strings like a puppeteer controlling a marionette.
The digital detox you embark on will cut these strings and you’ll feel a renewed sense of freedom that you didn’t even know you lost.
You’ll feel happier, more at ease and a lot less stressed out. You’ll only enjoy these rewards when you put down your phone and get on a digital detox.
Being offline is a luxury that anyone can afford.
Give it a try and you’ll probably end up doing it once every 2 or 3 months. The benefits to your heart, mind and soul are priceless.
“There is no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection.” – Anonymous