Digital Detox – Do You Need One?

Lifestyle, Mindset // Caroline Attwood

Let’s be honest: life would be very different without digital technology.

Your day-to-day would be unrecognisable: no PayPass at the supermarket till, only four stations on your telly, a well-thumbed medical handbook on your shelf (goodbye WebMD). We’ve made life a lot easier for ourselves through digital technology.

However, there is increasing evidence to show engaging too much with our own digital devices is detrimental to our health.

How? Well, the jury’s still out on this – but if you’re suffering from any of the following, it may be time to put down your phone…at least for an hour or two!

You’re having trouble sleeping

Why? Numerous studies have linked heavy phone use to sleep disturbances. The blue light from your screen suppresses the production of the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep.

Try: Putting your phone, laptop or iPad away at least two hours before bed.

You’re distracted at work

Why? Well, there’s the obvious reason: constantly checking Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook is a huge time-waster. Then there’s the more scientific reason. Studies have shown excessive screen time can shrink your grey matter and rewire your brain, making longer periods of concentration more difficult. Yikes.

Try: Having a ‘no-phone-at-your-desk’ rule for a few hours in the day. If you need your phone for urgent calls, put it on low volume in your handbag. That way, you’ll still hear it but you won’t be tempted to keep checking.

You can’t remember a single thing your partner just said

Why? Admittedly, this happens to the best of us. However, if you’re constantly on your phone at dinner, or when watching telly together, you’re not fully engaged with your partner and you’re missing out on making a proper connection. Over time, this can put a strain on even the best relationships.

Try: Consciously putting your phone away whenever you’re having dinner, walking somewhere or watching a film together. Yes, your partner may talk all the way through a Netflix binge, but at least you’re listening (kind-of).

You have constant headaches – and can’t work out why

Why? Staring at a screen for too long puts pressure on your eyes, as well as your neck and shoulders. This can result in seemingly ‘unexplained’ headaches.

Try: Aside from reducing phone time, make sure you keep your neck and shoulders straight when you’re looking at your phone. Hold the screen at eye height if you can, and minimise the ‘stooping’ when you’re thumbing through Facebook on the couch.

You feel anxious if you’re away from the phone for too long

Why? There is research to suggest indulging in too much screen time, particularly on social media, can lead to addictive patterns, which in turn wreak havoc on the natural feel-good chemicals in the brain.

For example, do you feel an inexplicable ‘high’ when your gym selfie gets a lot of likes? Or, do you get a pang of insecurity if you miss a back-and-forth chat between your friends on Facebook? It’s this kind of social validation and gratification that can lead to addictive patterns, and ultimately anxiety.

Try: Having a two or three day break from social media. Yes, it’ll be hard, but proving to yourself that you can survive without checking in on your friends’ wall will be even more validating.

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