Picture this. You’re scrolling through TikTok videos, while at the same time you’re thinking “Has Influencer X posted a new Insta story?” Then a notification: “Breaking news”.
More notification banners: 14 new group chat messages within 30 seconds. Ping! A new email. Your phone buzzes: Friend Y liked your post. You suddenly remember “Oops, got to reply my colleague in Slack.”
All this could easily happen in an average 5-minute time span at a random moment of the day.
Being constantly “on” can be tiring and stressful, which is why you should consider doing a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
A digital detox is a period of time during which you intentionally refrain from using digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs.
The idea of a digital detox is to disconnect from the online world to focus more on the present moment without distractions.
Why should I do a digital detox?
For many people, most of our day consists of looking at screens. Some of it can’t be avoided, such as doing your work on a computer.
But in addition to the unavoidable, we are often glued to our smartphone screens, scrolling endlessly while time passes by. It may even feel like you’re addicted to your phone.
Quitting all technology forever is unrealistic and, frankly, unnecessary. But the constant connection can overload your senses and impact your quality of life.
And that is where a digital detox comes in.
A frequent break from always being “on” can do wonders for your well-being and productivity.
A digital detox gives your brain some downtime and helps you to develop a better relationship with technology.
Signs you might need a digital detox
From young to old, a digital detox is beneficial for everyone, though in some cases it is extra urgent:
- You feel stressed out or anxious if you can’t find your phone
- You feel compelled to check your phone every few minutes
- You feel depressed, anxious or angry after spending time on social media
- You care a lot (or too much) about the number of likes, comments and reposts of your social media posts
- You’re afraid you’ll miss something if you don’t keep checking your device (the Fear Of Missing Out aka FOMO)
- You often find yourself staying up late because of spending time on your device
- You find it hard to focus without having to check your phone
10 Benefits of a digital detox
1. Calm down and reduce stress
The use of our digital devices often leads to a sensory overload and increased stress levels. Your brain is always “on” and expecting new information.
You can imagine it as having too many tabs open at the same time in your brain.
If you keep consuming content and information, your poor brain never has the opportunity to slow down and recharge.
But a digital detox gives your brain the downtime to calm down and reduce stress.
2. Be more productive and enhance your focus
Scrolling and surfing the internet can be time consuming. It can pull you away from the actual work you want to do.
A digital detox gives you time to be free of digital distractions. However, it may not be realistic to do a full digital detox during work.
During a digital detox you teach your brain not to depend on distractions from your phone, TV, etc. And the beauty of a (regular) digital detox is that its effects trickle down to other moments of the day.
When you perform an activity, your brain creates a pathway for it. The more you do the activity, the smoother the path becomes. Since your brain always looks for the easiest way, it likes to default to the smooth pathways.
Being good at something, means there is a solid, smooth pathway in your brain which your brain likes to travel!
If you’re scrolling mindlessly for an hour (or more) every day, you will become good at it and it will be your brain’s default.
Say you’re at work, doing a mildly challenging task and your phone is beside you. It takes your brain a lot of energy to focus on your work, but it’s super easy to pick up your phone and start scrolling.
But with a (frequent) digital detox, you teach your brain new pathways and to strengthen those. Since you’ll be spending less time on your “mindless scrolling” pathway, that one will become weaker and less dominant.
So the effects of your digital detox time, will lead up to positive effects during work as you’ll be less inclined to do your “useless” digital activity.
Bonus points if you spend time reading books during your digital detox as that will help you to improve your focus.
3. Feel happier and better about yourself
It is quite a statement, I know, but there are several reasons behind it. Most of them are related to social media.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, social media makes you compare yourself with others. Taking a break from social media can boost your self-image and self-esteem.
Social media can also cause or worsen loneliness. Spending too much time online can make you feel socially isolated as you’ll spend less time on real-life connections with others.
Humans are social beings; we thrive if we have social interactions (also if you’re an introvert!).
When you do a digital detox you will also have more time to do things that you value and make you happy.
Additionally, a study in the UK discovered that one-third of the messages we receive on our phone worsen our mood.
4. Get physically healthier
Hunching forward over your desk, holding your phone and looking down at it, continuously scrolling with your thumb and too much screen time all impact our physical health.
It can lead to eye strain, dry eyes, blurry vision, teary eyes and headaches. And neck, shoulder, back and arm pain are common complaints from young to old.
Besides physical relief, disconnecting also allows you to be more physically active. You’ll have time to do sports, go for a walk, cycle, dance, swim, etc.!
Did you know that physical inactivity is the second highest cause of preventable death in the world (second to smoking)?
5. Sleep better because of digital detoxes
Sleep is such an important part of our life. In simple terms, it helps us to process the day and regenerate bodily processes.
Chronic lack of sleep or less quality of sleep often affects your physical and mental health over time. Therefore, it is important to have a good night’s sleep!
You may already know that the blue light emitted by screens can mess with your sleep. But why?
In a normal sleep cycle, your brain releases melatonin when it’s close to bedtime. Melatonin helps you to relax, drift off and sleep deeply.
However, the light of your screen keeps your brain active and awake, so it delays the melatonin release.
In other words, your tech is keeping you awake longer and making it harder to sleep.
In addition to the physical aspect, the content you consume can also interfere with your sleep, as it can induce stress and anxiety.
Disconnecting from your devices at least one hour before sleep can significantly improve quality of sleep.
Your bedroom should also be a “no-phone zone”, to discourage you to get on your phone while in bed either in the evening or morning. Get an actual alarm clock instead and see how this small change can have a huge impact!
6. Increase creativity
I don’t mean only artistic creativity, but also the ability to solve problems and make decisions.
Multi-tasking is a myth. You don’t do tasks at the same time, you’re just switching between them super quickly.
Every time you’re distracted by an email, message or notification – or have a quick look at the news or social media – it takes around 20 minutes to regain your focus.
All this switching back and forth also overloads your brain, leading to stress and less space for your thoughts.
Taking a break from your project and/or digital devices will help your mind to declutter and make space for new ideas and connections.
With a regular digital detox, you give your brain more breathing space to process your thoughts, impressions and interactions.
7. Improve relationships and reconnect with the world around you
How often has your phone distracted you from a conversation with your friends or family? Or what about when you’re waiting for something: how much of that time were you glued to your phone?
Probably a lot.
Put away your phone and allow yourself to fully enjoy the company of those around you. You’ll be surprised at how much more engaged you will instantly feel.
Our digital devices not only pull us away from social interactions, we’re also often looking at our phone instead of the world and nature around us.
You’ll be amazed at how you can improve your mood and stress levels just by looking up and experiencing the sights and sounds around you, especially in nature.
8. Reduce depression and anxiety
Heavy internet usage has been linked to depression and anxiety. Stress levels rise when phone usage increases.
The social comparisons, the fear of missing out and having less real-life social interaction have all been associated with restlessness, anxiety and unhappiness.
According to a study, a social media break of just a week can reduce anxiety and depression.
Even short breaks can positively impact a person’s overall well-being.
9. Free up time
You know all the things you “never have time for”? If you’d spend (actually, waste) less time on your devices, you’d have more time for doing things that fulfil you better.
Many people find themselves scrolling many hours a day and then feel unproductive, leading to anxiety and depression.
It’s because when you’re scrolling, you’re not actually doing something that fulfils you, something that fuels your soul.
More purposeful ways to spend your time and feel good about it are:
- Doing a hobby
- Moving your body
- Spending quality time with people (or pets)
- Baking or cooking
- Here are 70+ other ideas
10. Maintain work-life balance
The feeling of always being connected can make it difficult to create boundaries between your work and personal life.
Having easy access to your work email outside of work makes it hard to resist the temptation to check your email.
Newer phone operating software allow you to create multiple “focus modes”, where you can schedule which notifications you’ll receive, implement screen time limits and even customize which apps you will see on your home screen.
This way you can hide away your work email and other apps after work hours, so you will be less inclined to open it. Out of sight, out of mind!
Make it work for you & let's get started
Now that you’re convinced you should do a regular digital detox, it’s time to look at the practical part of it.
A digital detox can be done in many forms (daily, every weekend, a week, or other way).
It’s unrealistic to quit technology cold turkey, as it is so embedded in our daily lives. However, taking frequent breaks can do wonders for your well-being and productivity.
The most important part is that it works for you and your lifestyle. If it’s not realistic that you go offline every weekend, don’t commit yourself to that. Rather make it smaller, but more realistic.
Some ideas you might consider trying:
- Go device-free every workday after dinner
- Spend your Sundays offline
- Don’t pick up your phone between 9pm-9am
- Spend your mornings without devices
- Take a digital detox holiday, could be a weekend or longer
- Do a social media detox
Do you struggle with spending too much time on social media? Grab my free social media detox guide for practical tips on how you can create a healthy relationship with social media so you’ll have more time to live your real life.