Disconnect to Connect

Connect to Disconnect – benefits of a digital detox

What’s the first thing you do when you’re standing in a queue at the checkout line? Or when you’re waiting for someone to arrive for a meeting? Without even realising it, checking our phones has become a reflex action. It’s almost as automatic as a bathroom break for most.

While we cannot deny that technology has made our lives easier in so many ways, it’s can also distract us from what’s important I’m our lives.

So when I speak of digital detox, I’m in no way suggesting that you give up all technology for weeks at a time, but there are simpler tweaks you can make. You can start by making small changes; and once you see the benefits, perhaps consider longer detoxes.

How can you tell if you could benefit from a digital detox?

  • Does your partner (or parent) complain that you spend too much of time on the phone?
  • Do you lose track of time, scrolling mindlessly on social media?
  • Do you find it difficult to end an online game?
  • Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning?
  • Do you take your phone into the bathroom?
  • Do you look at your phone during meetings/social events?
  • Do you have neck aches due to poor posture (possibly related to too much smartphone use)?
  • Are you less productive because social medial seems to eat your time away?
  • Do you suffer from FOMO due to information overload about what everyone else is doing?
  • Do you feel that there’s no time to do things that you would really love to?

So what’s in it for you?

  • Improved relationships – less nagging from your significant other about your phone being more important than they are.
  • More meaningful connection with loved ones, where you are 100% present and undistracted.
  • More time for meaningful activities – both solitary and with loved ones. Less time online means more time for physical activities that are better for your health. You also have more time to enjoy activities such as board games that allow you to really connect with family and friends.
  • You will be more productive at work if you check your phone less. We underestimate how much of time this steals.
  • You will get more done around the home.
  • You feel more positive as there is a lot of negativity and even if we’re not aware of it we unconsciously compare ourselves to others on social media – their lives may appear to be better in some way (off course everyone only ever posts the highlights) or we constantly feel that we need something just because we’ve seen it on social media (because media is meant to make us feel that we’d be happier and trending if we have x, y or z).
  • Your focus and concentration will improve as there will be fewer distractions.
  • You will live more mindfully as you will be more aware of your body and your emotions as you will not be constantly ‘filling in the quiet spaces’.
  • Your sleep will improve with once the the interference of the blue light emitted by devices is removed, as these interfere with your circadian rhythms.

So, how exactly do you go about it?

  • Start by thinking about all the devices that you use regularly. Are there any that you could completely eliminate?
  • Here’s the scary (but essential) part – work out how much of (non-work-related) time you spend online everyday. If you need help, there are apps that can help you track this. Most people who use apps such as Moment or Checky realised that they completely underestimated the amount of time spent on the phone and the number of times they even checked their phone.
  • Start small – change smaller habits and once you’ve achieved those, you can make further changes.
  • Set yourself a time limit for technology use each day and decide where and how you will spend that time online.
  • Consider how much of what you are doing online, you can do in other ways. E.g. speak to someone instead of text, write a thank you note, read a physical book, use your memory instead of Google, etc.
  • Eliminate technology during certain times or events. E.g. no technology while eating, no technology in the bedroom, etc. This fosters healthier relationships and encourages communication and connection. It may feel awkward at first, but you’ll be grateful.
  • Use alternatives that are less distracting. E.g. an actual alarm clock will prevent the need for your phone in the bedroom. Or if you love music, listen on an iPod or other appliance/media player that does not have other distractions. I’ve found this works well for many parents complaining of teens who need music to study, but get distracted by messages and social media.
  • Turn off notifications on your apps so you only see notifications when you log in. Also decide on particular times of the day to check your email and reply immediately. Do not allow your emails to download automatically.
  • Delete any apps that you have identified as time-wasters. Unfollow negative people on social media or simple hide their posts so you are not exposed to them.
  • For optimal sleep, turn off all screens at least two hours before bedtime (this includes television, smartphones, computers, etc.). Rather do something more relaxing that will help you sleep better.
  • Everything is easier if you have company…so if you decide to go on a digital detox, do it as a family.

Disconnect from the outside world sometimes so you can connect more meaningfully to those most important to you! You’ll feel so much happier not knowing what’s going on in everyone else’s lives, because you’ll spend more time enjoying your own life.

4 Comments

  1. Andrew Govender says:

    Great reading and now to action. thank you

    • Rakhi Beekrum says:

      Thank you, Andrew! Good luck with taking action. Start with small changes like not looking at your phone while stopped at a robot, while eating, waiting in line, etc. It will get easier over time.

  2. You are so right. I stop myself from looking at my phone when I’m waiting before a meeting or an interview. Even my two year old get frustrated when mommy is on the phone.

    • Rakhi Beekrum says:

      It’s become an automatic response that we are not even aware of most of the time. Remember kids are watching and learning from us as well. To truly connect, keep devices away; and if you need to respond to something urgently let him/her know it’s important and as soon as you’re done, you will put the phone away and give him/her your full attention.

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