How to do a digital detox

Enjoy more screen-free time by establishing regular habits.

Written by Cameron Williams

According to a survey of 1000 Australians conducted by reviews.org, the average Aussie will spend 5.5 hours a day on their smart phone – around a third of their waking hours. The amount of screen time grows when you add computers and television. We’re swamped by electronic devices and apps.

All this screen time accumulates and may lead to eye strain, headaches, posture issues, fatigue, lack of sleep and less physical activity. We all know it would be good to do a digital detox but is it possible anymore?

Screen-time management consultant, Emily Cherkin, told the BBC that it’s hard and the cold turkey approach may not always be the best option.

“We bank with an app, read restaurant menus on phones and even sweat with exercise instructors through a screen,” says Cherkin.

“It’s so embedded in our lives, we’re setting ourselves up for failure if we say we’re going to go phone-free for a week.”

The digital detox has become like a game of chess. Careful moves and patience are required but it’s possible if you establish regular habits.

What is a digital detox?

A digital detox is when you reduce the amount of time you spend on screens or electronic devices. A digital detox can also include limiting your use of the internet and social media platforms. 

Not sure where to start? Here’s a guide to kick start a digital detox.

The joy of being unreachable

Your time is one of the most precious resources. Take it back from the devices, apps and social media platforms designed to gobble it up. Try to become unreachable. No, that doesn’t mean on a beautiful topical island, but it does sound nice if you can swing it. 

Schedule time during the day when you’re unreachable. Step away from any electronic device for 30 minutes or more. Break it up across the day to make it manageable and schedule time in the morning, lunchtime and night. The chunks of tech-free time will steadily add up and help to establish a new habit. If it helps, organise tech-free activities while you’re unreachable like reading a book, physical exercise or meditation.

Where’s my phone?

It’s okay to lose your phone – if you know where it is. 

When your phone is in your pocket or line of sight, it’s a pesky reminder to use it even when you have no reason to be on your phone. Remove the temptation and leave your phone behind whenever you can. Find a place to safely put your phone while you focus on activities. Hanging washing? You don’t need your phone. Cooking? You don’t need your phone. Showering? You don’t need your phone.

Turn off notifications

Even the best digital detox strategy in the world can be undone by a single ping. 

We like notifications because it means we’re wanted. We feel validated. Even though most of the time a notification is from your favourite pizza place that has an amazing 2-for-1 offer. It feels like every app and computer program can send notifications and it’s an expressway to get you back on a device. 

Get familiar with the notifications settings on your smartphone and computer to manage which apps can send notifications, when and why. There are so many apps that have no business sending notifications. Another good list to review is your emails. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you’re no longer interested in or businesses that spam you with content. Remember, one of these emails could lead to a ping and the less pings from things you don’t care about, the better.

Sweet dreams 

Go without screens in the bedroom. 

The presence of screens in the bedroom may interrupt the night-time routine that helps you get a decent sleep. A television may make you stay up late and get less sleep. A laptop may remind you of work and then you can’t get to sleep. Even the alarm on your smartphone is a reminder you must wake up in 8 hours and then you drift in and out of sleep-in anticipation.

Blackout zones 

Set up places around your house where devices or screens aren’t allowed. The classic is: no devices at the dinner table. Extend the exclusion zone to include the backyard or the places where you want to be present and focussed. Use the same set of rules for social occasions like going out for dinner or attending events. Do you really need to have your phone out for the entirety of a Taylor Swift concert? Nope.

Say no-fi to the WiFi

Turn off the WiFi. Simple. Like notifications, it’s a gateway to using a screen or device. When there’s no WiFi you’re less likely to be tempted and all you have to do is flick a switch.

Establish days or times when the WiFi gets switched off, like No WiFi Wednesdays or no WiFi after 8pm. Start small and work your way into a WiFi-free routine that works best for you.

The digital detox is still possible but don’t go too hard too early. It’s all about establishing realistic habits that will win you back your time.

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Medibank Better Minds

Whether you’re unsure of what you’re feeling, looking out for a family member, or you simply need to hear another voice, we’re here to advise, guide and support you through your mental health journey.

Written by Cameron Williams

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