Is it time for a Digital Detox: Is your Screen Time taking over your life?

How much time do you spend on a screen? I realise that unless someone printed this out for you, you are likely viewing it on a screen right now. Are you aware of how much time you spend on digital devices? Do you feel you have a healthy digital diet?

Just like our food diet, varied consumption of digital media is more manageable at different levels for each individual. Smartphones have taken over our lives in a huge way and our consumption of all these screens around us can distract us from living a more harmonious life. This post is going to focus on what you can do – Digital Detox.

Decreased attention span, poorer sleep, eye strain, disconnecting from others and self are all things that can occur from too much screen time. Not to mention the comparison of seeing what others post online. Or reading the news all over the world. In terms of our evolution, our bodies still think we are living in ancient times and we aren’t meant to know the hardships and news from all parts of the globe all the time.

Like a lot of things in our lives, we know what we would like to do. What the ideal would be, but have we stopped to evaluate just how much of our precious time we spend in the digital world?

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you able to control how long you spend on your screen?
  • Do you get less sleep because of your screen usage?
  • How do you feel without your device?
  • What could you be doing more of without spending so much time on your screen?
  • Would that improve your life?

Perhaps you have seen the documentary titled The Social Dilemma on Netflix. And you might have already got a glimpse into the mastery behind the social media issues that we often face unknowingly. For an in-depth look at how the algorithms work with our brain chemistry and the effects on our health, I would recommend that watching a documentary such as this or doing a little more research yourself. You may want to research more about the ‘why’ these devices are so addictive.

In short, dopamine centres in our brain are activated by many things from our smartphones and devices. Which makes sense why we often unconsciously and out of habit reach for our phones and other screens. It, unfortunately, has become the norm with our faces in our phones and the minutes whizzing by unconsciously. I know in the past I have opened my phone to “check the time or the weather” and end up scrolling on some app without even realising it.

Hot Tip: rearrange the location of your apps regularly so that it isn’t automatic clicking from muscle memory.

A note for children the limit on digital screens can have a lasting impact into adulthood. It is recommended that social media be not used by kids especially under the age of 10. These notifications activating the dopamine centres in the brain show that the older the better as their prefrontal cortexes are more developed after age 10. Many big names in the tech world do not let their own children have tablets and smartphones and even put their kids in tech-free schools.

Some say it can be a harder habit to kick than drugs, but don’t let that discourage you! Instead, realise the pull that it can have on you. And….what to do?

Try a Digital Detox!

4-6 weeks is the recommended amount to detox yourself from devices. A digital detox like a food detox doesn’t mean you never go on the screens again, it more means detoxing yourself will allow your adrenals and nervous system to re-regulate themselves and get into a more balanced state. After the detox slowly and gradually adding conscious screen usage back into your life and evaluating how that makes you feel is an excellent approach.

We need to stop this desire to be continually stimulated. Downtime (ie waiting in line at the bank) and just observing your surroundings rather than pulling out a distraction is rarer than ever. Just “being” is an important part of being a human and at times we have lost this. It’s the yin and yang; finding a balance between doing and being.

During a digital detox, you may try different activities to occupy your time instead. Without all these devices you may not be able to think about what you like as it has been so filled time on a screen. Try a ju-jitsu class, ride a bike, paint, draw, dance in your living room, read a book, go for a walk or watch the leaves in the breeze on trees. Think back to what activities you enjoyed when you were a child and try to reconnect to yourself finding things you enjoy as an adult.

Hot tip: Don’t keep your phone on your nightstand.

Although cold turkey detox is ideal, if that seems too daunting you can try a tapering method to avoid withdrawal, gradually reducing the number of hours. It’s all about finding what is achievable for yourself.

Helpful hints:

  • Set blocks on your social media (I use the ScreenTime app on the iPhone and have another person know the password so I don’t have access to it), there are other Android apps available)
  • Use an extension called Stay Focused to have time limits on websites
  • News Feed Eradicator blocks News Feed from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.
  • Make a no-tech time slots (eg. dinner time + after 9 pm + not before 10 am)
  • On Netflix turn off ‘automatic next episode’ on your account – only through desktop!
  • Look at analytics and be aware of how much time you do spend on your screens and see if those amounts feel suitable to you
  • Designate actual other activities to do instead (write an actual list)

I had a detox during a 6-week course which I abided by for the time. This month I allowed for a maximum of 1 television program every other day. So set what feels right to you! I also recently moved into a new home and the only phone use allowed in the bedroom is messaging if necessary but no browsing and this has been so beneficial.

So get off this screen right now and feel into what’s right for you!

Kristyn Wagner – CCM Graduate, Kinesiologist and Mind Body Medicine Practitioner. 

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