The internet has so much to offer, and with it at our fingertips, it keeps us hooked with its never-ending content and instant satisfaction. It’s like this irresistible force that keeps pulling us in, making us spend way more time online than we intended. In this captivating digital landscape, it’s really important to acknowledge the downside of spending too much time online. Internet addiction has been associated with many mental disorders, including low self-esteem, impulsiveness, poor sleep, mood disorders, and depression. This alarming fact underscores the pressing need for individuals to unplug, engage in digital detoxing practices, and find ways to restore a healthier balance in their lives.
In this article, we bring together the wisdom and insights of industry experts, psychologists, and technology enthusiasts who shed light on the importance of digital detoxing. Their invaluable perspectives will provide practical strategies and inspiring stories to empower readers to take control of their digital habits and embark on a transformative journey toward a more mindful and fulfilling lifestyle. Stay tuned as we unlock the power of digital detoxing and reclaim your well-being in an increasingly connected world.
What role do you think digital detox plays in improving mental health and overall well-being?
First things first: Life outside of social media will always be better. Nothing compares to real connections and experiences and the lessons they offer. Doing a digital detox allows you to live and focus in the now and grow harmoniously with your present state, no matter how that may look like. Having a break from social media cleanses your personal palette and allows you to focus on yourself and your growth without having to be distracted by the ridiculous standards of society and the need to compare and measure up to the lives of others. Doing a digital detox also allows you to not be overwhelmed by unnecessary anxieties and worries based on unverified stuff you can encounter online. You also learn how to validate yourself from within when you realize that you don’t need to escape online just to feel that you are needed, wanted, and loved as you face life as you are. Indeed, going offline can help you go on with life on a happier note.
What healthy habits can families implement to promote digital wellness at home?
As parents, it’s very important to keep in mind that your kids will mimic you. If you use your phone during meals, if you’re distracted while they’re playing or trying to talk to you, they are more likely to reproduce that behavior. Eye contact and directed attention are very important in teaching good habits at home.
Additionally, I also recommend being very careful with the way children are familiarised with tech. Under 24 months, it’s better to avoid screens altogether. Once they grow a bit older, I recommend co-viewing videos with them to encourage interaction and to keep an eye on what kind of content they watch. It’s also best to avoid leaving screens in their bedrooms to better separate tech use from sleep and create healthy boundaries from the get-go.
When they grow into adolescence, it’s good to sit down together and create a family tech plan. This means that you will agree together, as a family, on rules and behavior to encourage. This plan applies to everyone in the household: rules aren’t only for children, and it’s the perfect opportunity for you as a parent to lead by example. The plan could include tech-free zones and moments (e.g., no phone use in the bathroom nor during dinner), guidelines to learn valuable content (e.g., each weekend, we tell each other something we learned online during the week), and tips to stay safe online.
Remember to make it clear that your children should always be able to come to you if something unusual happens online, whether cyberbullying, sexualization, the sight of graphic content, and so on.
Clo S. | Founder at This Too Shall Grow
What strategies or tips do you recommend for those who want to start a digital detox but are unsure of how to begin?
Digitally detoxing can be hard – so much of our world now is interconnected through the internet! We are all online on a daily basis. Because of this, it’s important that we really maximize our detoxing when we do it. Instead of jumping into long detoxes, start with small ones. To get started when you’re unsure, strengthen your “detox” muscle by practicing daily. Doing mini detoxes can help you work up to longer ones that will be more impactful overall. You can start this habit by avoiding your phone, computer, and the internet for the first 2-3 hours every day. Alternatively, you can avoid them in the last 2-3 hours of the day. This allows you to prioritize other habits and avoid the time suck of endless scrolling, browsing, and distraction the online world brings.
I personally like to write myself a to-do list every morning of things I want to accomplish before I reach for my phone. I like to know that I’ve accomplished my personal to-dos before I use my phone or jump to work. By practicing this daily, I’m able to be away from my phone and computer for longer stints of time – like a weekend once a month or stepping away completely while on vacation with my family a few times a year. I’m able to be fully present and don’t ever feel like I’m “missing out” on anything by being away from my phone!
Nicole Booz | GenTwenty
What are some uncommon health benefits of digitally detoxing?
Actually, most health benefits from digitally detoxing are quite popular, including relieving stress, improving sleep, and deepening your relationship with loved ones.
When it comes to uncommon benefits, those really depend on each individual. We had some clients sharing with us how our digital detox products have helped them get a promotion as a consequence of being more focused, or meet a random person who later became their best friend, or even learning a new skill with the reclaimed time. The last case was a mom who mentioned that she has seen an amazing increase in their children’s attention and listening after putting her phone away when her kids were home.
The health benefits of digitally detoxing truly go beyond our expectations because we are able to earn time that otherwise we giving it away while scrolling intentionally on our digital devices. I think the key lies in realizing that we can use that reclaimed time to do amazing things that we love or can impact positively our health. It’s really a question of perspective: reduce your screen time, increase your human time.
This is why we always recommend everyone try to make unplugging technology a habit. It can be a few hours a day, the entire Sunday; it doesn’t matter. The point is that you’ll notice the positive effects it has on your life and on the lives of the people you spend time with. Digital well-being is not an app or simply how much time you spend on your phone but how you can build these positive, positive routines and incorporate them into your daily lives.
Juan Sánchez | Co-Founder & CEO at Bagby.com
Are there certain periods or activities during the day when it is particularly beneficial to unplug, and if so, why?
- Establish a rule of no devices allowed during meals. Place a non-negotiable “moratorium” on devices while eating together—and that applies to parents, too! In today’s nonstop world, many families are only able to gather all together when sharing meals. So, to avoid missing out on this precious opportunity to talk and connect, consider making meal areas “no device zones.” Stow devices away from kitchens and dining areas and be in the moment with each other.
- Young people should unplug from social apps during homework. They should focus on the task at hand, get it done right and well, and then they can reward themselves with some balanced recreational screentime. Although it was previously believed that multitasking demonstrated aptitude, new technology changed this idea, with current research overwhelmingly evidencing that multitasking with any external media during learning (in academic environments or at home) can negatively impact desired performance outcomes. All those extra opened screens and disruptions can also not only extend the time the work takes but cause loss of focus, patience, and ultimately a poorer work result, as well.
- Banish all devices just before bedtime. Good and restorative sleep hygiene is crucial to good health and well-being, especially for children and young adults. To avoid disruptive, delayed, or restless sleep, experts recommended unplugging, turning off, and stowing all devices at least one hour before bedtime. Keep devices outside of bedrooms at night and place them in charging areas away from sleeping areas.
- Be present and unplug during family time and when guests are over. When someone is splitting their attention between the shared experience and their devices, the potential message received by others (even if unintended) can be a lack of interest or respect.
What are the benefits of unplugging regularly, and how can it positively impact well-being?
Daily device unplugging is a key ingredient of long-lasting health and well-being. By committing to a morning and evening self-care routine of meditation and journaling, we ensure we stay in control of our thoughts and feelings and accomplish our priorities. By turning off our devices for brief times during the day, we’re able to check in with ourselves and become aware of what diseases (mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical) need our attention. And taking a weekly cyber-free Saturday or Sunday guides us in reconnecting with our inner world-our universe of infinite opportunities. The biggest benefit of device unplugging: spending our time healing ourselves and fewer trips to the doctor.
Mari L. McCarthy | Founder and Personal Growth Mentor at CreateWriteNow
How can digital nomads establish a healthy balance between their online and offline activities?
Digital Nomads use the internet as the means by which we complete work assignments, manage projects, remain connected to colleagues, family, and friends, pay bills, make travel arrangements, and coordinate living abodes when traveling abroad. We don’t realize it, but the internet is the lifeline for maintaining our financial solvency and psychological sustenance.
Pew Research reveals that 25% of Americans report being online “almost constantly.” For digital nomads, the time spent online can be exponentially higher. It is estimated that remote workers spend approximately 13 hours staring at their computer screens each day. This is 20% more than our in-office colleagues.
Because our online activities serve as an infrastructure supporting us as we live our lives, it’s hard to prevent the encroachment that can ultimately devour our offline lives if not kept in check.
Why must we manage the time spent online?
- The risk of being triggered at the physiological level by online news sources is greatly increased as research has shown information labels as news is typically biased towards negative content.
- Increased reliance upon the internet for social interaction and fulfillment has an adverse impact on happiness (research reveals that users who are happy with the time spent on social media platforms are those who spent less time using them compared to those who use social media more often).
- Social media algorithms encourage users to view, engage, post, and propagate negative interactions, according to research.
- Dependence upon anonymized online interactions makes it far easier to make negative comments, complain, and communicate in a highly critical manner.
- Overreliance upon online interactions to socialize offers fewer opportunities for sending, receiving, and deciphering nonverbal cues.
- Far-reaching dissemination of our online exchanges extends beyond our small circle of intimate family and friends.
- Indefinite storage of online social interactions written in haste may have highly detrimental consequences throughout and beyond an individual’s lifetime.
- Increased usage of social media can increase the probability of experiencing severe depression by 7% and Anxiety Disorder by 20%, according to research cited by SearchRemotely.
- Employers, using our online posts, can make overly general or false assumptions about our employability, personality traits, and buying habits, says studies cited by the Guardian, that could detrimentally impact their hiring decisions.
Each of these eight reasons alone should be convincing in and of themselves. Taken together, though, they might serve as a catalyst to change our habits. Why?
Because too much time (work time and leisure time) spent interacting online leaves less time available for offline social interactions. This is particularly vital to digital nomads because you have the world at your feet. Why spend so many hours on the internet when you have a new country to explore? New people to meet in person and novel ways for which you can gain first hand experience living among others of differing social norms and cultures?
A few ways to force yourself to balance the time spent socially engaging online is to offset the time allotted with exciting offline activities.
Here are some possibilities:
- Volunteer to join non-governmental associations to help in the efforts to eradicate poverty and homelessness.
- Learn more about the culture in which you are temporarily embedded by visiting museums, national parks, and trails.
- Resolve to become fully immersed in the culture by learning the language, visiting museums, taking a history course, or participating in local festivals.
- Volunteer to teach English with in-person classes and workshops.
- Send handwritten letters, postcards, and mementos to family and friends.
- Develop an interest in a craft (sewing, cooking, crocheting, knitting, model airplanes, trains) or art project.
- Cultivate an interest in completing intricate 3D puzzles, robotics, Paint-by-Numbers, and Origami.
- Maintain a handwritten journal, calligraphy, daily log, or start a scrapbooking project.
- Marvel in the difference in the ecosystem, architecture, land use, urban planning, or farming of the culture in which you reside.
- Learn culturally relevant board and card games with new friends and colleagues.
Tonya Mead, Ph.D. | CEO, & Chief Remote Manager of Search Remotely
What are some alternative activities or hobbies families can engage in when they choose to unplug from technology?
It is innately human to crave a sense of connection. However, over the past few decades, the connection has moved away from real-life interactions to likes and comments on the digital screen. We no longer marvel at the beauty of the world around us as our attention is fixated on technology. Not to mention our enjoyment of the mundane feels like a distant memory. Books gather dust on shelves, and conversations at the dinner table have been replaced with scrolling. We’re all guilty of scrolling on our small screens while the big screen lights up the room behind it. It’s time to reclaim the power in the now.
When families choose to unplug from technology, a world of alternative activities and hobbies awaits them. They can embark on outdoor adventures, exploring nature’s wonders through hiking, biking, or camping. Board games and card games become sources of laughter and friendly competition, fostering bonds and creating lasting memories. Engaging in arts and crafts projects sparks creativity and allows for self-expression. Cooking together transforms into a delightful experience as families prepare meals and share stories. Gardening teaches patience and responsibility, while volunteering as a family fosters empathy and strengthens communities. Unplugging from technology opens doors to quality time, shared laughter, and meaningful connections.
What are some spa-related tips people can implement at home during a digital detox?
The great thing about wellness is that people can really tailor their self-care to fit their individual wants and needs. There are plenty of ways to digitally detox with some spa-adjacent practices.
If you want to relax, take a warm bath with therapeutic salts or herbs, and add an aromatherapy element with a scented candle, diffuser, or luxe body oil. Make a healthy snack and enjoy it while you do some journaling. Try a gentle self-massage with a foam roller, massage device, or even a tennis ball.
If you prefer to be more active, apply a muscle rub or CBD serum to your neck, wrists, and back (to address all that time spent on your phone and at your computer), stretch, and then go for a walk or hike. I tend to hunch over while typing, so I like to undo some of that with heart-opening yoga poses and stretches.
Maybe a beauty regimen is in order! Personally, I love taking some time to do a complicated (but incredibly enjoyable) at-home facial or a nourishing manicure complete with nail art. Aromatherapy and relaxing music work well here, too.
But probably the best thing to do during a digital detox is to get outside because connecting with nature and getting some natural sunlight is key. Luckily, there are plenty of options for outdoor self-care for everyone. Go on a run, hike, or walk. Sit and meditate. Practice yoga or Pilates, which is also great for the wrists and tech neck.
Laura Waldon | WellSpa 360
What are some summer activities families can engage in while they unplug?
Summer is a great time to slow down and enjoy long, carefree days with friends and family.
However, improvements in technology have meant that often our work and life boundaries become blurred, and taking true time off is hard. Our personal use of technology can also invade the space where we would otherwise be connecting with nature, our families, or ourselves.
That’s why a summer that recharges and reboots us needs a strategy. We recommend using Freedom to schedule block sessions to turn off digital distractions and focus on the things that matter. When you do unplug, here are a few fun suggestions of things to keep you busy:
- Picnic! In your garden, the park, or somewhere totally new. Indulge in the outdoors and save on washing up! Even better, find a pick-your-own, or farm shop, to gather your own fresh produce.
- Look for shapes in the clouds. Put a blanket in the grass and stare up at the sky. Take turns talking about what you see in the clouds.
- Play outdoor games, like lawn twister, french cricket or have a water fight.
- Make a bug hotel from old wood, bricks, and garden debris. Keep a log of the creatures that come to visit.
Grow little minds
- Join a summer reading club at your local library. Choose a chapter book to read at night as a family.
- Master a new skill together. Learn to juggle, play the harmonica, or sew.
- Write and illustrate a comic book. Make it a group effort, or let everyone do their own. It could be a version of a summer journal – capturing all the adventures you share together
Give something back
- Invite a neighbor over for coffee or tea. A great excuse to bake and to meet someone new.
- Seek out volunteer opportunities in your local outdoor and community spaces
- Plan an event, garage sale, or challenge to raise money for charity as a family
The options are endless, but by turning off distractions and coming together as a family to plan some fun activities, you can reconnect, relax and recharge. Enjoy the sunshine!
Georgie Powell | Digital Wellness Expert & VP Partnerships at Freedom
What are five tips to help spend less time on your phone?
- Turn your phone over: When you do this, you’ll avoid getting distracted by notifications, allowing you to focus on what truly matters.
- Turn off notifications: Consider going a step further and turning off those constant interruptions. Designate specific times, like the start and end of your day, to catch up on news and messages. This way, you’re in control of when you engage with your phone.
- No phones in the bedroom: Instead of relying on your phone as an alarm, opt for a traditional alarm clock. This small change can lead to a clearer head before bed, resulting in a better night’s sleep.
- Remove unnecessary apps: If social media is eating up your time, consider removing some of those apps from your phone. You can still stay updated by periodically checking them through a web browser. This helps you avoid mindlessly scrolling and checking notifications.
- Keep track: There are handy apps like “Mute” that can assist in reducing your phone usage. It provides motivation by helping you set digital detox goals and offers progress stats and encouraging messages. This way, you can stay on track and be more present in your daily life. Remember, it’s about taking small steps towards a healthier balance with your digital devices.
How can families find the right balance between technology use and quality family time?
To create a balance of family and technology, parents will want to accept the fact that technology has an enormous impact on family life. For many of us, cell phones and connection to the Internet have pretty much become essential. At the same time, technology use eats into family time and leaves little, and in some families, absorbs almost all free time if parents allow it.
As a parent, your most effective tool for finding balance is reducing your own constant (or near-constant) attention to your devices. Your children are watching. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that caregivers who were highly absorbed in electronic games at mealtime not only caused children to act out to get the adult’s attention but also “responded harshly” to child misbehavior.
Remind yourself that face-to-face interaction is crucial for the development of children’s language skills and emotional intelligence. Beyond that, time away from the digital world allows for the creation of family traditions and fills your children’s memory banks.
Digital detox steps to gain more family time
1. Make it a rule for the whole family to step away from devices on predetermined days and/or at predetermined hours and especially during dinner. Dedicate time to spend time with your children before bedtime or after meals, for example.
2. Leave your cell phone in the car at a child’s sporting events and performances. If you can’t bear to be without a camera to document your child’s activities, switch your smartphone to “Airplane mode” to resist the urge to text or quickly check email. Children will know (and see) if you’re paying attention to their efforts.
3. Present digital detox as a family affair to your children. Make gathering everyone’s device a nightly ritual. Ask your children to vote on a “storage place” for their—and your—tech equipment.
4. When eating out, focus on face-to-face interaction, not on Instagramming a meal or texting friends.
5. Be brave. Put your digital devices away for an entire day on weekends. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish as a family by starting or finishing an outside or inside project, for instance.
6. Keep the knowledge that you are modeling technology use for your children in the forefront of your thinking. Children are likely to do what you do. Being aware is the beginning of digitally detoxing yourself and your children.
Being realistic, not every suggestion will work in every family, and exceptions will be made from time to time. But any of these steps will go a long way in finding a balance between technology and creating a close-knit family bond chockful of warm memories of growing up…and of you.
Susan Newman, Ph.D. | Social Psychologist at SusanNewmanPhD.com
What advice can we give to parents who want to introduce digital detox to their children?
Wireless devices help us stay connected, work productively from almost anywhere, and provide nearly unlimited options for entertainment. Unfortunately, sometimes the hyperconnected relationship we have with digital devices can create a lack of connection with those around us. The concern is that, like adults, children may also need a break from their devices. Parents, here are a few ideas that could help:
Out of sight: Have them put their phone somewhere they won’t be readily able to see it, like a drawer or cabinet. Ask them to consider putting the phone in airplane mode or turning off notifications so they won’t be tempted if they hear it buzzing.
Phone-free zone: Think of ways your children can spend time with friends and family without using their screens. Suggest they invite friends over for a board game night. Or, challenge them to cook a complicated recipe using an actual recipe book. Make it creative and offer a reward if they can do it without looking at their phone.
Get out. Work out. Chill out.: Spend some time outdoors as a family, getting some fresh air and being in nature.
Get creative: Encourage them to draw, dance, write or paint and use their phone-free time as an opportunity to reconnect with their creative side and sharpen their brain.
Customize smartphone settings: Set time limits on your kid’s social media apps and establish pre-set quiet times to spend with family.
Create a parent-child technology agreement: Create a technology agreement with your kids with phone usage guidelines that work best for your family. Defining better relationships with our phones can help us have better connections with each other.
Ultimately, embarking on a digital detox holds immense promise for transforming our lives in a world dominated by technology. It empowers us to regain control over our digital habits, fostering improved mental well-being, heightened creativity, and stronger relationships. We can rediscover a sense of balance by disconnecting from our screens and engaging in mindful activities, such as spending time in nature, meditating, or connecting with loved ones. While technology will continue to be an integral part of our lives, the key lies in cultivating a healthy and purposeful relationship with it. By consciously choosing when and how we engage with technology, we can find harmony, allowing us to fully immerse in the present moment and enjoy life to its fullest.