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Is your excessive screen time distracting you from performing daily tasks or reaching your goals? Do you grab your phone a little too quickly when you hear the notification bell? Don't worry; you're not alone – many of us struggle to find a healthy balance of screen time and 'real-life'. If you’re a little concerned with how reliant you are on your smartphone, keep on reading to find some handy tips to disconnect from your crazy, online world.
We live in a hyperconnected world; we’re bombarded with news, tweets, posts, blogs, and notifications almost 24/7 through our devices. Spending too much time online can be addictive and utterly exhausting. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. We can enjoy the positives of technology, like social interconnectedness, being up to date with news, and seeing what friends and family are up to – but at the same time – mitigate the negatives associated with too much screen time.
I think we’re all aware that too much screen time isn’t good for our mental and physical health. On average, Australians check their smartphones about 85 times per day and spend a whopping 46 hours a week staring at a screen.
Why do we spend so much time online?
Essentially, we seek a quick hit of dopamine to lift our mood, either through ‘likes’ validating our thoughts or appearance, or maybe funny memes or videos. But spending too much time online can negatively impact your real-life relationships – up to 1.2 million household dinners in Australia are interrupted by smartphone use every night. Over time, this behaviour can chip away at relationships and prevent quality conversation.
It can stem from habitual behaviours, too. Do you immediately check your phone as soon as you wake up? Do you ever find yourself compulsively scrolling through social media when you’re bored?
It’s time to take a step back and consider why you need 24/7 access to your smartphone – it’s time to take a technology detox.
We’ve put together five easy ways that you can kickstart your technology detox. This is not about ditching technology altogether; this is about creating a healthier relationship with technology so that it doesn’t control you or your habits. It’s also about being able to switch off entirely from your online world. Doing so will inevitably help to improve your mood, quality of sleep, and outlook on life.
Turn off social media notifications. This is the easiest step you can take in your technology detox. You don’t need to immediately check your phone if a friend tags you in a funny meme. Checking non-essential notifications can be a considerable timewaster! Instead, set aside ten or twenty minutes every few hours to check up on social media.
Make a clear distinction between your work life and personal life. With much of our work reliant on the use of devices, it can be difficult to switch off and stop working. Establish a ‘cut-off’ point where emails and work-related notifications are switched off. You don’t need to be answering emails until the crack of dawn!
Prioritise interesting hobbies and new skills. Humans are wired to overcome challenges and obstacles – and feel good about doing it. Spending too much time online can distract us from achieving our goals. Take this as a sign to start that hobby you’ve always wanted to try! Whether it’s gardening, dancing, writing, painting, collecting, or learning a new language – make sure it’s fun, challenging, and not dependent on using a screen.
Interact with nature every day. ‘Ecotherapy’ is an exciting field of research that links the time spent in nature with reduced stress, anxiety and depression. In a 2015 study, Stanford researchers found that spending 90 minutes walking through natural areas (as opposed to urban settings) could lead to a lower risk of depression. https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/ Spending 20 or 30 minutes outside can be extremely beneficial – and combining this outdoor time with exercise is even better. Feel free to take your phone with you, but put it into flight mode so there are no distractions.
Try a 24-hour detox from technology. If you’ve properly integrated the previous steps into your life over a few weeks or so, consider taking a full day off from technology. Most of us depend on technology during weekdays, so try turning off all devices on a Saturday or Sunday. The world will not come crashing down around you! You may feel bored or anxious at first, but the feeling will pass. Treasure this time and invest in yourself, your family, and your friends – as well as your hobbies, skills, and goals.
Are you considering taking a technology detox? Remember to start small and work your way up to the fifth step. It's not a race, but your mind and body will thank you. Let us know how you go in the comments below!