As someone who works in social media it’s fair to say I spend plenty of time on my phone. Between blogging, instagramming and working I pretty much have to be attached to my MacBook and/or phone at all times. To be honest, it seems like most of us are these days, whatever we do for a living. Whether it’s instagramming, whatsapping or mindlessly watching the mass of video content that gets injected into our Facebook feeds every day, it’s getting rarer and rarer to see someone out and about who isn’t constantly screen-scrolling.
Lately I’ve found myself becoming more and more aware of it. I balance out my fast-paced, screen-heavy lifestyle with yoga and meditation (it’s the best way I’ve found to keep myself sane!) and one thing I’ve gained from that is to try and be more mindful of how much I’m using a screen or getting sucked into social media. It’s funny how once you do that you notice how much everyone else isn’t! One of the ways I’ve found to become less reliant on my phone is by trying not to default to checking it in situations where it’s easy too – like on the tube, or in a restaurant or bar the minute your friend or date leaves the table for a minute. But when you’re the one not on your phone at these moments, you suddenly realise how much everyone else is. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve watched groups of friends who are all out in a bar sat around a table not talking, but all looking at their phones. Or the times I’ve almost been bumped into in London by someone surgically attached to their screen, even while walking down the street!
We’re so reliant on our phones these days that it’s waaaaay easier said than done to give yourself time off. With the constant barrage of information we all face every day from all our social channels, news, messages from friends and email alerts it’s all too easy to find yourself checking your notifications every few minutes or getting distracted from what you’re actually supposed to be doing the moment your phone goes off. I’m just as much a victim to this as anyone (in fact I just got sidetracked by instagram while trying to write this article!) and it’s easy to see how, with the abundance of content and information available to us at any given moment, and the fact that our work and social lives are now irrevocably reliant on our phones and social media, it’s getting more and more difficult for us to switch off.
I ended up on an accidental digital detox last month when I was away in the Lake District, and the effect it had on my mindset and holiday experience was so amazing that I decided to try and bring some of that mindfulness back into my day to day life. It inspired me to start writing about this kind of stuff more on my blog, and I thought that these tips might help others to kick their digital dependancy habit a little bit too!
My accidental detox happened when I had to send off my iPhone for repair, and it didn’t arrive back in time for my holiday. At first I panicked and got a rental phone but it was pretty much the equivalent of a Nokia 3310 and other than using it to send the occasional message or make a phone call if I really needed to contact someone, I was pretty much cut off from the world! After a couple of days I didn’t even bother taking it anywhere with me. Now I realise that suddenly going a whole week with no phone or social media isn’t really achievable in normal life (as well as not having the willpower to just go ‘cold turkey’ from your phone like that, you’d probably be in trouble for not keeping up with work or your friends too!) but I realised there are a few simple things that might make the biggest difference, and even better can easily be factored into your normal lifestyle! Read on for my top tips on how to give yourself a daily digital detox and hopefully you might find it’s a bit easier to switch off than you think!
1. Go outside
It might sound silly, but it’s one of the most obvious ways to make a difference to your day. We are indoors so much of the time, whether we’re stuck in an office or at home and most likely even sat in the exact same spot at a desk behind a screen for 8 or more hours a day! Getting some fresh air is the easiest (and most fail-safe way) to give yourself a pick me up. It gives your whole system a boost, wakes you up and revitalises you, with a simple walk (preferably somewhere in nature or at least with a bit of green!) having enormous benefits including restoring your mental energy, improving memory, eyesight and concentration, reducing stress, helping mental health and also giving your creativity and thinking a massive boost! I remember this rule any time I need a boost during my day (normally during my mid afternoon slump) and it’s a sure-fire way to get my brain working again and the positivity and creativity flowing! It’s a great way to check in with yourself, get some time away from looking at a screen (our eye muscles are constantly working when we’re looking at something close to us, so no wonder we feel more relaxed once we can look at a different view!) and let the fresh air do it’s work. Walking really helps me to step back from the constant digital overload and give my brain a bit of space to think on it’s own without endless notifications or distractions!
2. Schedule your Screen Time
Another simple but effective way to get back a bit of control in our info-overloaded days! What if you didn’t look to your phone or emails every time you got a notification, and instead allocated certain time slots to replying to your messages or checking your insta-feed? It sounds silly because it’s so simple, but actually giving yourself an hour’s time slot in the day when you would check and reply to all your emails (and only then), or limiting your phone use to the first 5 minutes of each hour, can really help combat the short attention spans and easy distractions that have become the norm when we’re at the mercy of our phone going off every few minutes! Switch you phone on silent, disable your notifications, whatever will help you to take control of your life and focus on the task at hand until it’s time to check them again.
3. Switch off
Hands up anyone who ever uses Airplane mode when they’re not on a plane? Anyone? Just me? Take it from me, honestly that one little button can change your life. When my boyfriend Ali and I first started dating, we started putting our phones on airplane mode so we could enjoy our night without any distractions (and our pesky friends couldn’t keep asking where we were!) and we were amazed at the difference it made….there’s something incredibly free-ing about being off the radar and being able to ignore the rest of the world, or at least control when you want to be sucked back into it and when you don’t! obviously there are times when you need to be reachable, but most of the time you even though the thoughts of it might be tricky, physically you can actually switch off without any dire consequences. After my accidental digital detox, I’m bringing in an airplane mode rule for certain times – after a certain time in the evening when it’s time to wind down for bed and there’s absolutely no need to still be contactable by work, and any time Ali and I are out doing an activity just the two of us ad there’s no need to get in touch with anyone else. Just giving yourself these brief moments of detachedness can really stop you feeling so controlled by your phone and give you time to reconnect to your actual real life instead of being too caught up in the digital one to fully enjoy what you’re doing in the present moment.
4. Small moments make the biggest difference
You know how it goes – look after the small things and the big things will take care of themselves. The same rule goes here. By taking notice of the small moments when you’d usually automatically reach for your phone as a safety blanket – sitting alone in a bar, on the tube, the moment you wake up in the morning – and not doing it, can not only help you in those moments, but also gradually help you cut down overall. It’s all about mindfulness really, and finding something else to d as your automatic response in those small-moment situations – reading a book, people-watching, just taking a moment’s breather to sit and be present in wherever and whatever you are for that short time. It’s a hell of a lot more relaxing and calming than constantly feeling the need for a hit of that screen-time, and you’re giving your brain and eyes a break too in the midst of your day, which can only be a good thing!
5. Keep it out of the bedroom
This one is maybe the hardest of the bunch, but possibly the most effective. How often do you find yourself habitually checking your phone first thing in the morning or last thing before you go to sleep? Everyone? Yeah, I thought as much. And how often do you find that doing that instantly gives you a feeling of dissatisfaction, distractedness, wired-ness or even downright negativity? I bet that’s pretty often for a lot of us too. I’ll throw my hands up and admit it, my habit is to scroll through instagram or instal-stories first and last thing every day. And do you know what, no matter what the ‘social media manager’ part of my brain tells me, a lot of the time (more than I’d like to admit) I can’t help but get sucked in and feel a sense of inferiority, negativity, FOMO, or even sadness wash over me. As much as we know in the sensible parts of our brains that instagram life isn’t real life, it’s very hard to not look at all of that and feel like our own lives don’t match up. Is that really the way you want to start and end your day feeling? Nope, thought not. Either you’re starting a day already feeling negative and like you won’t be good enough, or no matter how great of a day you’ve had, you could end it feeling like you’d still missed out, or should have done more to have the ‘awesome’ life of whoever you’re stalking on social media. No, it’s not right (we all know this isn’t a real representation of the world or people’s lives) and it’s definitely not healthy. So why not keep your phone out of the bedroom and spare yourself that negativity every day? On top of that, it will help you sleep better – no more wasting hours scrolling through social and realising your early night has gone out the window, no more getting annoyed at your partner watching ridiculous Facebook videos in bed instead of cuddling you (!), and no more screen-use just before sleep to wire up your brain and cause sleepless nights! Basically, it’s a no brainer. Go and buy an alarm clock, and leave your phones outside, or out of reach as soon as you’re in your room for the night.
So there you have it, 5 simple steps towards a digital detox that can really make a big change in your life. I know we’re all so reliant on technology that I’m sure a lot of you are reading this and thinking ‘yeah, whatever’ or ‘ as if that’s every gonna happen’ and I get it. Social media is my entire business and livelihood, so if anyone should doubt it, it would be me! But bear with me (if you’ve made it this far already…) and give it a go, just for a couple of days, and come back to me. I honestly bet you’ll feel so much better you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before.
Would you be inspired to try a digital detox? Please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments and whether you’d like to see more articles like this on my blog!