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Do You Think a Digital Detox is Necessary for Your Mental Health?

Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT

During a time when we are using technology more than ever for entertainment, work, and school, it is good to find time to take a step back from the screen. Overusing technology can be a problem for mental health. It can be distracting, and it can cause anxiety and depression. A digital detox might be one answer to maintaining good mental health during this time.

What are some ways a digital detox can help?

  • Detoxing will increase productivity because there are no distractions.

  • Not seeing what others are putting out there to compare yourself to, you will not feel like you are not good enough.

  • Detoxing will create more free time to do work or hobbies or spend time with friends and family.

  • Putting down the device before bed will help your brain unwind to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Not seeing negativity on the internet will decrease anxiety and depression.

  • You can concentrate better, which improves productivity and creativity.

  • Increase your self-esteem by limiting your viewing of unattainable body images.

  • The detox will help you become aware of how much you depend on technology.

  • Relationship improvement is possible as you have more time for human-to-human interaction.

  • Your posture will improve as you decrease the time spent in hunched-over positions.

  • You will be more engaged in life around you and probably notice things you’ve never seen before in places you frequent. It will help you to be more mindful of the present and be less distracted. This will allow greater engagement with what you are doing. The quality of your engagement will increase.

How do you know if you need a digital detox?

Well, how do you know what your body needs? There are always signs that tell us what we need. Our body is designed to signal us when needed or in danger. If we are hungry, our stomach growls, or we get a headache. If you have a runny nose or a fever, you need medicine and tissues. Our bodies tell us what we need even when the need is a detox.

Here are some signs that you may need to do a digital detox

  • Falling asleep while using a phone, watching tv, or on the computer.

  • Lack of concentration

  • Lack of motivation

  • Constantly feeling distracted

  • Feel the need to check your phone for no particular reason.

  • Feel pressured to respond to every notification.

  • Turn the TV on as soon as you get home.

  • Leave the TV on to keep you company.

  • Obsess or fixate on getting comments, likes, or messages?

  • Find yourself avoiding going out in public.

  • Feeling more fatigued when doing a simple activity

  • Feeling bored when doing activities that do not include social media participation.

While it sounds like it will be easy, we are more attached to our phones and computers than we may think. Constantly checking emails and Facebook, or other social media platforms, are like second nature to us. A digital detox does not just mean putting down the phone, though. This might mean turning off the TV or cutting back on video games. Rome wasn't built in a day, and a complete digital detox doesn't need to happen all at once, and let's be honest; work and life require us to be connected most of the day.

So, what are some ways we can start to detox or cut back our use?

  • To begin a digital detox, do it a little at a time. Start by just taking small breaks from technology throughout the day. If you use your phone when you open your eyes in the morning, try just getting up and starting the day. After a half hour or an hour, then check your phone. This can be done again at night, right before bed. Put the phone down for at least a half hour before falling asleep. This is not only good for mental health but also for brain health and sleep regulation.

  • Timers to regulate time on a phone or video games are for more than just kids. Adults can use this if there are certain times they want to disconnect or if they have trouble focusing on work because they cannot stop looking at their phones. If they have them, turning on device timers can be an excellent way to reduce technology use.

  • Set up a screen time counter on your phone. This way, you can see how much time you spend on each app to identify which ones are taking up most of your time.

  • Start taking every other day off from social media once you feel you are in an excellent place to do so. The longer you are off social media, the less conditioned you will be to pick up your phone and open an app automatically.

  • Setting your phone in grayscale, black and white, the vibrancy of colors and images is part of the attraction. Many phones allow you to change them to grayscale, which reduces the allure.

  • Schedule tech-free hours in your daily routine. Use this time to partake in a non-digital activity like reading a book or going for a swim.

You can start by choosing which media to cut out—for example, doing a social media detox and choosing to go a certain amount of time without social media. This may be a good option for those whose jobs depend on using technology.

  • Taking a vacation can be a great way to start a digital detox. It gets you away from work, and you can use disposable cameras to document the trip to avoid using your cell phone.

  • If you are able to do this, turn your phone to "silent mode" in order to keep from hearing all the notifications that come through on a regular basis.

  • Use mealtime as an opportunity to engage with family and to leave all electronic devices in another room.

  • The same thing applies when out with friends or family, to turn your phone off or put it away in order to engage with others face to face and with little to no distractions.

Even though there are many positives to doing and completing a digital detox, it can “get ugly.” With any detox, you are trying to flush something out to make room for improvement in other areas. In this case, we want to flush out bad habits created by overusing and being overstimulated by social media.

So, what cons can you expect from a digital detox?

  • You will experience FOMO, the fear of missing out, especially if you watch a tv show that airs weekly.

  • You will get bored. This is where you should implement non-digital tasks or activities. People will pressure you for many reasons and even get annoyed because you are not responding to messages or communicating with them through a device.

  • You will want to quit.

  • You will have less access to people you can only communicate with digitally, and will feel disconnected.

  • Feel disconnected.

Doing anything alone and for the first time can be challenging, especially as an adult when you make your own decisions. Think about having an accountability partner who can join you in the detox or encourage you along the way. If you must make the journey alone, find ways to keep yourself entertained without digital media. It can be challenging to do a digital detox; however, if you are serious about it, you will experience many positive benefits from doing the work.

Here are some tips to keep you motivated and focused

  • Set specific boundaries.

  • Delete apps from your phone.

  • Meditate or try yoga and pilates.

  • Have a cheat day a week. One day a week that you can use social media or watch a movie. Be specific, so you don’t end up on a binge.

  • Leave your phone in your purse at dinner.

  • Don’t bring your phone into the bathroom.

  • Do it with your family or friends for accountability. Turn it into a competition.

  • Stop taking pictures and recording everything and enjoy the moment for what it is.

  • Place your phone out of your reach when it is time to rest or sleep.

Engage in activities that you have not done in a while in order to recapture fun time without the use of your phone. Challenge yourself to try a new activity such as zip-lining, dancing, volunteering one's time somewhere, or something that you may have shied away from in the past. This can prove beneficial and enjoyable!

Remembering that much of life requires it to not be a spectator sport, but to get involved, can help to motivate you to not succumb to social media pressure or to use it as an excuse to not engage with people face to face.

Are you finding it difficult to unplug from technology and take a break? Neurofeedback & Counseling Center of PA can help you with digital detox. Our licensed mental health therapists can guide you in developing healthy habits and managing the challenges associated with reducing screen time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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