How to Do a Digital Detox

If the last time you heard a bird chirping was a recent twitter update, it may be time to consider a digital detox. What’s a digital detox? It’s a break from screens, phones, social media, smart devices — all things connected. A digital detox helps you refocus on interactions with real people, in person. It helps you unplug and find peace in the present moment. A digital detox can help bring you back to a more simple, meaningful and abundant life.

A recent study by Premiere Global Services showed that the average person spends more than 12 hours a day looking at screens. After sleeping for eight hours, and all that screen time, it looks like many of us are spending a mere 4 hours a day not staring at screens.

Whether you fall into the 12-hour-a-day camp and you need to change your digital habits drastically, or you’re a casual tech user, and you’d like to take a little break from daily screen time, we’ve got a digital detox plan to fit your lifestyle and help you get your priorities in order.

Digital Detox #1 — For the Gadget Addict

If you check your phone right before bed, take it to the bathroom with you, open your social media apps in the middle of the night and wake up with a scroll through Instagram, you may be considered a digital addict. If you decline personal interaction in favor of being online or feel restless and irritable when you’re not able to use the internet — that indicates a problem.

When friends and family have shown concern regarding your tech habits, and your attachment to gadgets has begun to interfere with your relationships, it’s time to get serious about making a change. We’ve got some good advice on how to turn things around.

Engage with Nature

If you’ve got a couple of vacation days, consider planning a family camping trip or a hike in the nearest forest with friends. Plan to leave your phone, tablets, laptops and all smart devices at home. You may even find a place that has no cellular service or Wi-Fi. This radical move to give up your gadgets completely for a couple of days will force you to connect with other people and enjoy your natural surroundings. It won’t be easy at first, but after a few hours without connectivity, you’ll begin to adjust to life without devices.

Consider a New Phone

Having a miniature computer in your pocket at all times may be too much of a temptation. For a while, it may be wise to downgrade to an old-school flip phone or slider phone that allows you to make calls and send text messages only. Believe it or not, you can still buy phones like these brand new. But, ask around — a friend may have one lying around in a junk drawer. Downgrading to a low-tech phone has an added benefit as well. It will cost you much less every month to go back to a simple call and text plan without data.

Find a New Hobby

Learn to crochet, join a running club, become a scout leader or get a puppy. Commit yourself to something that will consume you, then dive in with all you’ve got. When you have plenty of real-life activities to keep you busy, you are less likely to fall back into bad habits with technology overuse.

Set Up Some Accountability

Talk to your close friends and family about your struggle. Then, ask them to help you avoid overusing technology. They’ll likely be more than happy to help you — and they’ll get your undivided attention when you’re together.

Digital Detox #2 — For Moderate to Heavy Tech Users

You aren’t quite addicted to your tech, but you know you overuse your gadgets. You are sometimes distracted by your phone in social settings, and you tend to relax after stressful situations with a little mindless internet surfing. While your tech habits may not be causing a noticeable problem in your daily life, it may be time for a digital diet.

Be Intentional About Socializing

Make it a point to schedule at least three in-person meetings with people each week. They can be merely social or business meetings. However, these meetings should require you to spend time interacting with others without glancing at the phone. Have the neighbors over for dinner. Grab a co-worker and enjoy lunch together, or meet a friend for an early morning hike. Stay connected with friends and family in real time.

Designate Certain Things to Do Before You Check Messages Each Morning

To ensure that your phone screen is not the first thing you lay your eyes on when you wake, designate a few tasks to complete each morning before you check your phone for alerts and updates. Some good activities include making the bed, reading a few chapters in a meaningful book, drinking a full glass of water or engaging in 20 minutes of meditation. If you decide to complete a handful of tasks before you enter cyberspace each day, you’ll start your day off on the right foot.

Leave Your Phone at Home on Short Trips

Untether yourself from your smartphone once in a while by leaving it at home. It’s a great feeling to leave the phone behind purposely and drive away. This is particularly good for short, daytime errands. Try leaving the phone at home once a week or more.

Digital Detox #3 — For the Bored Scroller

You don’t actually have a problem, but you find yourself aimlessly swiping and scrolling when you know you should be doing more productive things. It’s a good idea to get your online act together before you begin to develop unhealthy digital habits.

Take a Book with You

When you know you might be in a situation where you’re waiting, pack a book with you. When you’ve got a book to read, you’re less likely to turn to your smartphone when you need to kill some time. Avoid pulling out your phone when you’re looking for something to do. Be prepared with reading material or a crossword puzzle.

Set a Timer

When you’re tempted to settle in and scroll social media because you want to avoid other work, set a timer for 15 minutes. See how much work you can get done in that 15 minutes. During that time, don’t respond to messages, answer phone calls or do anything but the work. Then, give yourself 15 minutes to scroll through social media or surf the internet. You’ll be surprised at how much work you can complete in 15 minutes when you’re not sidetracked by status updates, text messages and emails.

Don’t Load Social Media Applications on Your Phone

When you’ve got an app on your phone, it’s just too easy to use it. If you have to go to the website and enter the address, you’ll be more intentional about it and use it much less. Delete your social media apps and don’t be tempted to load any others.

Consider Limiting Social Media Scrolling to One or Two Days a Week

A couple of friends of mine have tried this technique, and it works well for them. One of them checks her social media accounts only on Fridays. She changed to weekly because she found herself spending too much time throughout the week scrolling through posts and updates. Once a week may not work for you. However, checking only twice or three times a week could help to limit the time you spend scrolling through other people’s vacation photos.

When a DIY Digital Detox Isn’t Enough

If you’ve tried to kick your digital addiction and still find yourself struggling, it may be time to enlist a professional. Most mental health professionals worth their hourly rate recognize digital addiction as a serious problem. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an excellent way to treat digital addiction.

Digital Detox Camps and Retreats

All around the world, there are retreats and camps where you can get away from all forms of technology to reconnect with people and nature. From a one-day workshop to week-long retreats, tech-free resorts and programs offer a respite from our digital world. Resorts have no Wi-Fi, no screens, allow no wearable technology and most require you to leave your watch at home. They offer art classes, crafting lessons, dancing and all sorts of real-life, technology-free entertainment. You’ll be transported to a simpler time with more interpersonal engagement and activities.

Technology is all around us. Many of us work online or rely on computers or smart devices to make a living. It’s imperative that we know how to operate computers and use technology to our benefit. But, it’s even more important for us to make sure we don’t get sucked into a virtual world of digital addiction.

Take measures to ensure that you’re not spending too much time online or chained to your smart devices. Whether you’re just beginning to connect to others on social media and have bought your first smartphone, or you’ve been connected so long that you’d be lost without your gadgets, make sure you take some time to get outside, breathe fresh air and engage with other people regularly.