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Is it time for a digital detox?

Have you just spent hours of your festive break scrolling, scrolling, scrolling? It’s a fact that spending too much time staring at the small screen can create stress, anxiety and health issues. Isn’t it time we all aimed to disconnect more from our phones and reconnect more with life, health and happiness?

We are more connected than ever, thanks to the internet and phones that let us check up on everything from anywhere. But it may surprise you to learn that a Lonergan Research study found that Australians, on average, are spending 9.4 hours a day on phones, computers or TV screens. That’s more time than we spend sleeping (an average of 7.3 hours) and works out to a staggering 143 days a year.‡

While there’s no question this has changed our lives by making communication and day-to-day tasks a whole lot easier, this constant connection can also come at a cost. Increased mobile phone use has been linked to increases in stress anxiety, depression and body image issues. So it’s hardly surprising that Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends 2020 report reveals that 44 per cent of Australians think their phone use is a problem, and want to reduce the time they spend on them.

Is it time to pull the plug?

Obviously, the answer to spending too much time on digital devices is to spend less time. That’s easier said than done. More than 90 per cent of Australians have a smartphone and most of us don’t want to disconnect completely. They’ve become essential to our daily life. The internet and digital devices have made so many things so much easier and more convenient, with benefits that we’d rather not do without. But cutting back on our use is a good thing.

Logging off for a few hours can have a real and positive effect on our lives and taking an even bigger step back and doing a digital detox can do wonders for your well-being.

Time for a digital detox

Whether it’s for an hour during the day, a whole day, or maybe even a week, there’s no doubt that regularly switching off your devices and leaving your social media unchecked is good for you.

+ Turn off the distractions

The ping of a new message, WhatsApp comment or Insta DM. Some likes on Instagram or Facebook to check. Or emails from work that come in 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Turn off the notifications and immediately you’ll feel calmer, more focused and more present with your family and friends.

There are a few ways you can reduce the distractions:

  • Turn off notifications, use Do Not Disturb or aeroplane mode.
  • Set rules like no phones at the dinner table, phones on silent when you’re with friends, no texting after 10pm and leaving your phone in another room when you’re watching the TV so you don’t end up using both screens at once.
  • Do not have your phone next to your bed at night.
  • And the simplest, just turn it off for a while.

+ Get a better night’s sleep

For a lot of people, looking at their phone is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do when they wake up. Just a quick check of your messages or socials before you turn off the light can quickly turn into a descent down the rabbit hole of TikTok cat videos. On top of keeping you up later and reducing your sleep, the screen’s light stimulates your brain and can prevent it from producing melatonin, which helps you fall asleep and regulates your body’s natural sleep cycles. You’ll find it harder to both get to sleep and stay asleep.

Not getting enough sleep not only makes you tired, it reduces your resilience which can lead to higher stress and anxiety.

The best thing to do is to leave your phone recharging overnight in another room (or at least not within reach of your bed if you use it as an alarm clock) and read a good book (or a boring one if you want to get to sleep faster) instead.

+ Forget FOMO and discover NMO

Fear Of Missing Out is actually a serious issue and a very negative effect of social media. FOMO is a social anxiety that comes from a fear that you’re missing out on something good or interesting that’s happening out there in the real or online world.

We feel we need to stay connected so that we don’t miss out. And even though we realise people only post the best bits of their lives, it can still make us feel bad that we aren’t doing something as exciting or interesting. It’s time to take less notice of what’s happening on your phone and look more at what’s around you, and you will NMO – Never Miss Out.

+ Find a healthier work-life balance

The days of leaving work behind at the end of the day have long gone. Now you have every email in your pocket every hour of the day. It can be challenging to resist the temptation to look at your work emails. But the need to disengage from work, be completely engaged with home life, and be able to relax is critical in maintaining a healthy balance and a good frame of mind. And in the long run, feeling better physically and mentally will make you much more effective at work anyway.

So turn off the notifications and set yourself rules on the last time of day you’ll check work emails. Try setting up an auto-reply to tell people when you’ll be next checking your emails, and they’ll understand why you don’t reply instantly to their message.

+ Quit the comparisons

One of the most dangerous aspects of spending too much time on social media is the inevitable comparisons you make with other people and their lives. This can have a profound effect on how we feel about ourselves. The problem is that people only tend to post the best bits about their lives. Seeing their exciting experiences can make us feel that their life is better than ours.

Add to this the comparison of likes, shares and number of followers, not to mention the opportunities it creates for cyber-bullying and negative comments. It can have a terrible effect on a person’s feeling of self-worth, leading to anxiety, depression, self-harm and body image issues. Try turning off your feed for a while, and maybe block, hide or unfollow the people that don’t make you feel great.

+ Get healthy

While you’re scrolling through your feed, chances are you’re sitting down or lying on a couch. You’re definitely not getting any physical exercise, and that’s a big problem. Our sedentary lives make us unfit, overweight and unhealthy – physically and mentally. There are also things like eye strain, bad posture, and a real risk of developing diabetes if your weight gets too high. Time to turn off the phone, shut down the computer, and get moving. Exercise is not only good for your body, it’s very good for your brain and your mood.

It’s not all bad

Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. Just as negative comments on your social posts can have a harmful effect on how you feel, positive interactions can have a great effect on your well-being. And just as the new technology and the possibilities it creates can cause problems, it can also provide solutions.

There are many apps and websites that can help your physical or mental health. Search online for reviews and suggestions but don’t forget to turn off your phone after, because that’s the first step in helping you create better physical and mental health.

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  • ‡Lonergan Research “Screen Time Prepared for Poem Group for OPSM” March, 2017
Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.