You know it’s time for a digital detox when you regularly experience a scrolling hangover after having a screen in your hands. You know, the familiar feeling of second-guessing your wonderfully flawed life while you hold it up against others’ curated and unrealistically edited versions on socials. It’s a total set-up to compare your insides to others’ outsides, and it’s unavoidably hazardous to your mental and emotional health. But nearly everyone does it. It’s the plight of the digital age that’s meant to be connecting us to each other, but instead, can feed a pervasive feeling of isolation and a sense of lack.
With the average smartphone user checking their phone 150 times a day—almost 10 times an hour—the addictive quality cannot be underplayed. A recent study of young adults who overused technology showed similar brain patterns as those addicted to alcohol and cocaine … yikes! Going “off the grid” and totally being without technology just isn’t an option for most, but cutting back on your tech habits, and still being a functioning member of society, is absolutely doable. It’s a downright positive way to reset yourself every now and then, so you can experience a sense of freedom from your social media existence. A vital disconnect, reconnecting you to your own wonderfully multidimensional life. Here are some measurable and actionable ways you can curb your obsession to all things digital.
Instead of reaching for your phone to check out what went down in the world while you were asleep, make contact with yourself, the most important of all connections. Before you plug back into the matrix, get right with you. Breathe consciously, offer your day to something greater, set an intention for the day ahead, repeat your affirmations, or meditate. While breaking the habit of rolling over and reaching for your phone first thing, charge your phone in another room the night before, to set you up for success. And while you’re at it, don’t pick it up until you leave the house, so you can be present with yourself, your family, and your morning routine. You have a chance to calibrate, setting the tone of your day before being bombarded by the information superhighway once you turn your phone back on, after you’re out the door. You will undoubtedly have a more productive and relaxed day ahead of you.
Feeling good about you and the life you’re living is your number one priority. If following someone on social media continually triggers you to compare yourself and come up short, then by all means, delete! Same goes for people you follow who have consistently negative vibes … cut them loose! Safeguarding your serenity is everything. So next time you’re in scrolling mode, observe who rains on your parade and check your codependence at the door. You’re not obligated to continue to follow anyone and you surely don’t owe them “likes.”
Curate your tribe. As you let go of those who trigger or propagate bad vibes, actively seek out those who uplift and up-level you. Make your scrollgame so strong that those you follow shift you into an even better version of yourself. Let your socials have an aspirational quality to them. When you put your phone down and re-engage in your life, you’ll have more tools, more inspiration, and an online community that is supporting you and is living their best life in the same ways you want to live yours. That’s true connectivity for higher good!
And here’s a newsflash: you can delete any apps you compulsively check throughout your day that aren’t absolutely necessary. And if you find yourself “doing the sites,” and you have too many news or celebrity sources, pick your favorite and release the rest back into the internet ether. It doesn’t have to be one more job to get through in a day’s work. Streamline your feed and free up your precious time.
Cut down on the mindless scroll and move into more deliberate time on your device. Consciously choose to check your phone instead of just picking it up out of boredom, or when you need a fix to take you out of something that’s uncomfortable. Breathe through the urge, and stay with your feelings. Don’t use your phone as a buffer for living your life! Bringing awareness to how and why you use your phone will help put it back in its rightful place, re-adjusting its level of importance in the grand scheme.
When there are suspended moments of travel, bring that book you’ve been wanting to get through and read it, when you’d normally pick up your phone on your commute to work. Or just allow yourself to take in your surroundings, with its sights and smells. Daydream or people-watch. Give yourself permission to have downtime. Genius comes in boredom. The urge to have to be entertained or “productive” could overtake you and you might compulsively feel the itch to pull your phone out, to log on. In these revealing moments, just observe how strong your bond to your phone has become. It’s your own magic portal that can take you out of the perfect present. But remember that life at its best is happening right in front of you, and by staring at that small screen, you might miss it.
Make a commitment to leave your phone at home when you go out to dinner with friends. Notice how other people put their phones on the table, even face down, subliminally sending the message, “I have someone more important than you I’m waiting to hear from.” So, at the very least, keep your phone tucked away on social occasions, both out of courtesy to your fellow companions and also to draw that invisible line for yourself, so you can be with what’s happening. And actively find other times you can leave your phone behind, such as when you go for a walk or grocery shopping, so that you’re fully engaged in what you’re doing, even if it’s seemingly mundane. It’s about unplugging in the small ways, so you can wrestle control back by crafting these deliberate moments of powering down.
Try taking a weekend off. Maybe there’s no socials or work emails—no matter what. And plan your weekend of digital detox accordingly, by keeping busy and getting out there living life and not thinking about capturing any of the moments to upload for others. You then become all about your experience, shifting your focus from trying to filter it through someone else’s eyes for approval. You’ll be so much more available to what’s unfolding moment-to-moment without the pressure of documenting it. And by taking the weekend off, you might even feel that elusive sense of freedom from the realm of technology, which you didn’t even know you were seeking. Many get a taste of that limitless potential, and they then choose to permanently switch off on weekends altogether, as a rule.
If you want more support to hold you to your commitment of cutting back, there are some great apps that can help you unplug successfully. Sometimes first getting a baseline of what your own daily average use is can be helpful, so you know what you’re up against. The Moment app is like having a phone/life balance coach as it tracks your device usage. It allows you to set limits with specific apps, tweak your habits through practicing expanding your time off, and keeping you accountable. It can even flood your screen with annoying alerts when you try to extend your screen time. And the app Offtime helps you detox by blocking distracting apps and filtering communications, to access only what’s necessary by turning your phone into a “dumbphone” that just talks and texts. Speaking of that, the fully-ready-to-let-go-of-their-tech-enslavement can just do away with their smartphone altogether and go old school, relinquishing the internet in the palm of their hand, by only using a “talk and text” phone: #techgoals.
While contemplating the various levels of disconnect, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions around your digital mindset:
Why do I need to be so reachable and available? How much more information do I need? What am I afraid of missing out on if I disconnect from time to time? What am I avoiding in my life that I feel like I always need to be connected to technology? What would I be doing for myself to grow and build a great life if I weren’t so tied to my devices?
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real psychological disorder that can take root in people as they bear witness to all their friends’ fabulously well-documented experiences, and their own lives come up short. In the same vein, it might also feel slightly terrifying to let go of your hold on your socials. Disconnecting for periods of time can bring up a fear of losing followers, people’s interest, momentum, and presence. Fear of losing what you’ve spent time building online can keep you locked on the hamster wheel of regularly posting and responding to comments, as well as the Herculean job of staying on top of liking others’ posts in return. Anytime fear is a chief activator, you’re not in your highest self. Instead, your insatiable ego, your lower tendencies, and insecurities are running point, and that all breeds deep-seated unhappiness and anxiety. It helps to remind yourself that there’s a big world out there and the internet is but a small piece of it. Recognizing if pervasive fear is running point around disconnecting for a time, that might just be what’s needed next for your overall well-being. A self-imposed tech intervention is at hand.
The global connectivity technology offers us is a huge blessing as we share information and interesting parts of our lives with each other. But remember that digital benefits have their place in the grand scheme of our individually beautiful experience of living. Disconnecting from the noise and reconnecting to yourself every now and then helps you take back ownership, create balance, and become more present in your living, breathing life.
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