Let’s face it, we’re all hooked. Whether it’s computer screens, phone screens or TV screens, we just can’t help give in to our incessant desire for new information and entertainment. And despite knowing deep down just how much a digital detox would be good for us… we just need to check that message and we just need to see what so and so’s up to on Facebook.
Spending too much time glued to a screen is detrimental to our health, there’s simply no getting away from that fact. From a physical point of view it affects our eyesight, our posture and has been linked to weight gain, which carries all kinds of further implications. But perhaps what’s more of a concern is the impact that too much screen time has on our mental health; social anxiety, depression, anger issues, peer pressure, negative body image to name just a few.
Breaking these bad screen habits entirely can be hard, but there are some simple lifestyle habits you can make that will help you out with your digital detox while still allowing you to enjoy the time you do spend in front of a screen.
Here are 5 of them to get you started:
Put Your Phone To Bed At Night
Taking your phone to bed with you each night no doubt results in relentless scrolling until you fall asleep and then it being the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Am I right?
Well, it’s time your phone got it’s own bed!
Get into the habit of placing your phone either in a drawer or in its own designated box in a different room to the one you sleep in. Ideally you should put your phone to bed at least an hour before you go to bed yourself, as this is the rough time it takes for our brains to switch off from the stimulation and effect of the blue light that is emitted from screens. Blue light tricks our brains into thinking it is daytime and this makes it harder for us to then go to sleep.
And I know what you’re going to say… “I use my phone as an alarm clock”, but that’s no excuse as there are plenty of other alarm clocks out there and you can even get some that emit a light that mimics the sun rising so that your body gradually wakens in as natural a way as possible.
Trust me, I am as guilty as the next person of taking my phone up to bed with me and I have totally used the excuse of needing it for an alarm clock, despite the fact I always wake up before the alarm goes off. That being said, I never check it first thing as usually it’s so early I’m scuttling downstairs so as not to wake the rest of the house up and I also fall asleep the very second my head touches the pillow. But if you are having problems sleeping and are also a bit prone to some late night in the bed scrolling, then one of the very best habits you can get into is to tuck that phone away long before you’re even thinking about climbing those wooden stairs to Bedfordshire!
Ban Phones From Meal Times
It makes me really cross when I go on holiday and see parents dishing out devices to their kids at mealtimes, just so that they can keep them occupied while they eat and drink in peace. It’s lazy parenting plain and simple and it’s creating some really awful habits. But it’s not just kids who stare at screens during mealtimes, no adults are at it too. I’ve seen couples in restaurants sit there and rather than actually heavens forbid talk to one another, they sit with their necks tilted downwards fully absorbed in their phones, no doubt creating some inane Insta fodder to prove how much fun they’re having on their night out. Oh really?
Mealtimes are for eating, for socialising and sharing time with your loved ones to talk about, well anything really. Food connects us and if we are distracted by what’s going on in the virtual world, how can we ever truly connect with each other?
Even having a phone out on the table is enough to distract us, as we are on the constant look out for a light or a noise to alert us to new message. And it’s just rude. Imagine if you were the one sitting there with someone who kept checking their phone when you were in the middle of talking to them. It suggests that a) they are not fully listening to what you are saying and b) that they’d rather be somewhere else than sat there with you. Plus, it’s not just about being distracted from someone’s company but also being distracted from eating. Research has shown that when we eat in front of a screen we are much more likely to eat more than we need, as we aren’t paying attention to the messages our brains sends out to tell us we are full. On top of that, we are far less likely to enjoy the food as we aren’t paying attention to the taste, we simply eat to exist…. and what a sad existence that is right?
Putting your phone away before sitting down to eat is a simple habit to adopt and a rule that the whole family should stick to. If you’re at home, phones shouldn’t be kept anywhere near the table you’re eating at and if you’re out, then keep it in your bag or your pocket. Remember children learn by your habits and so if they see you using your phone at mealtimes they will think that it is perfectly acceptable for them to do the same.
Turn Off Notifications
If you’re someone who can’t help but check your devices every time you hear a bleep then it’s time to put a stop to this bad habit once and for all! No one should be expected to be on call 24/7 so don’t make yourself available at every waking moment. The problem is that once you start responding to requests immediately, people come to expect this from you every time, and when you don’t reply immediately they may think something has happened to you or that you are ignoring them.
The best way to avoid any temptation is by turning off notifications. If you do this, your emails, messages and other alerts will still come through – don’t worry you won’t miss anything – but you won’t be disturbed by them and can therefore concentrate on the things you should be doing. Get into the habit of only checking emails at certain times of the day, or you could even set your email preferences to only check for new emails every hour or so.
And as for social media notifications, ask yourself this… do you really need to know when someone has checked into a place, what’s trending on the OOTD hashtag or what’s being moaned about on the local community pages. I think we all know the answer to that!
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Like most things in life, if we can’t see our screens then we are far less likely to think about them. Portable devices such as phones, games consoles and laptops etc. can be hidden away more easily than say a wide screen TV, especially if it’s one that’s attached to the wall. However, that doesn’t stop you from hiding the TV remote!
To ensure the kids switch off from technology we have a rule in our house that there are no devices allowed in their bedrooms overnight (my son has a TV and Xbox in his room, but he isn’t allowed the remote controls in his room overnight). They pass them over to us (admittedly rather reluctantly!) before they shower and get ready for bed and we bring them downstairs and put them away in a cupboard or drawer. I know for a fact that if they were kept in their rooms, my son in particular would be on it all night, and so the temptation has to be removed for him.
As adults we are not much better and I know that I can be as equally bad at checking my phone a million times a day, especially because my jobs involves spending a lot of time in front of a laptop and interacting on social media. My willpower is not great, and so just as I have to do with the biscuits and chocolate in the house, my phone and laptop must be hidden away out of sight if I feel as though I need to regain some form of control.
I’m not saying we should all throw away our phones and other devices, I mean that would be pure crazy, but it is 100% essential that we have a break from technology and that brings us nicely onto my final tip
Have A Holiday From Technology
As a family we have very strict rules when it comes to screens and holidays. For starters, we don’t let the kids use any screens whatsoever in the car. Aside from the fact both of them get travel sick and staring at a screen would definitely make it worse, I don’t get what’s wrong with playing some old fashioned car games like Pubs Legs, the Word Association game or I Spy. Most of the time they tend to use a car journey as a way of catching up on some sleep or we stick an audio book on or do car karaoke and usually everyone’s happy. But that’s a habit we’ve created from a young age – they don’t miss what they’ve never had.
When we go abroad, we allow the kids to use their tablets on the plane, but once we land they have to hand them over and they get locked away in the hotel safe until the flight home. And it’s the same with me and my phone. Holidays are 100% about switching off and I for one don’t want to be contactable when I’m lounging around the pool and I certainly don’t give a flying monkey about checking on what people are up to back at home.
Having a digital detox every now and again is good for us. It allows us to check in with reality, to reconnect with people and most importantly it gives us the chance to switch off from the incessant streams of information being thrown at us left, right and centre. Whether you choose to do what I do and have a longer stretch of digital detox time, or whether you dedicate some time each day or each week to disconnect the WiFi, it’s all about scheduling in that time so that you actually go through with it.
Just these 5 simple steps are enough to change your screen habits and sure you might have the odd blip here or there, hey we’re all human after all, if you can cut down even just a bit you will be doing yourself a whole heap of good.
Do you have any tips for disconnecting? Do you take regular digital detoxes? Do you think you spend too much time in front of a screen?
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