How to Do a Digital Detox Without Unplugging Completely | Tips

Dr. Serenity
April 10, 2023

In today’s hyper-connected world, technology has many benefits, from instant communication with loved ones to easy access to information. However, excessive use of technology, such as social media and smartphones, can lead to unintended consequences. According to Dr. Carol Vidal, an assistant professor of psychiatry, excessive technology use can interfere with important activities like sleep, exercise, and socializing, all of which are essential for overall well-being. Research also shows that excessive technology use can lead to attention-deficit symptoms, impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep.

But it’s not all bad news. Madeleine George, a public health research analyst, suggests that technology and social media can have positive or negative effects, depending on how they are used and who is using them. For example, social media use can help build and maintain connections when users actively interact with others, but can have negative effects when used passively.

If technology is interfering with your work, relationships, mental and physical health, or finances, it may be time to consider cutting back. Brittany Becker, a licensed mental health counselor, and the director of the Dorm recommends monitoring technology use and cutting back when necessary. Dr. Vidal agrees and suggests that scaling back on technology can have positive effects.

Recent studies have shown that taking a break from technology, such as social media detox, can have positive effects on mood, sleep, and anxiety. For instance, a study published in the Libyan Journal of Medicine found that students who completed a social media detox experienced positive changes. Similarly, a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that women who quit Instagram reported higher life satisfaction and positive affect.


7 Strategies to Reduce Your Tech Use (Without Going Cold Turkey)

For many people, completely eliminating technology from their lives is simply not a realistic option. However, cutting back on technology use is a more feasible approach, according to experts.

Dr. Josephine Vidal, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health, advises identifying unhealthy technology habits and deciding which ones to change. Similarly, Dr. Arielle Becker, a clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health, recommends reviewing your tech use to determine which applications and areas to limit.

Dr. Rachel George, a clinical psychologist at Rush University Medical Center, suggests reducing anything that makes you feel worse or stressed and that detracts from your life instead of adding to it. However, she also notes that what constitutes healthy technology use varies from person to person.

Here are seven ways to manage your tech use and experiment with your personal digital detox:

  1. Schedule Screen-Free Time

During the Day If you work on a computer, taking breaks from screens is crucial. Set reminders in your calendar or with an alarm on your phone to go for a walk or eat lunch away from your desk, suggests Dr. Becker. Remember to leave your phone behind.

  1. Take Regular Tech Breaks

Breaks can reduce stress, especially for heavy technology users, according to Dr. Vidal. She recommends disconnecting through events like tech-free retreats or deleting problematic apps temporarily or permanently.

Dr. Becker suggests deleting apps that you often scroll through and pausing to decide if it is a good time to engage in that activity.

  1. Use a Basic Cell Phone

If staying present is a challenge, replace your smartphone with a simple cell phone that cannot support apps. “It can absolutely be helpful to downgrade from a smartphone if that is possible,” says Jennifer Kelman, a licensed clinical social worker with JustAnswer based in Boca Raton, Florida.

  1. Turn Off Your Phone at a Specific Time

Power down your phone before dinner and until the next morning. Alternatively, Apple users can enable Do Not Disturb, which silences alerts, notifications, and calls. Dr. Becker suggests taking advantage of the tools that are built into your devices.

  1. Set Limits on Specific Apps

iPhone users can set limits with Screen Time and schedule Downtime, when only phone calls or specific apps are allowed and specified apps have a time limit. Digital Wellbeing works similarly for Google devices. An analysis published in August 2020 found that people who did not use these features were more likely to experience problematic smartphone use and worse well-being than those who did use them.

  1. Designate No-Phone Zones

According to Kelman, setting limits on certain apps doesn’t always work. She recommends removing yourself from device use entirely. For example, banning phones and screens from the bedroom can prevent screens from interfering with your sleep, says Dr. Becker. Using a device in a different room or part of your home may also deter mindless scrolling.

  1. Seek Professional Help

According to Dr. Becker, it can be challenging to discern whether or not you have a problem with technology use, given how much we rely on it. If your technology use begins to interfere with your daily functioning or you experience feelings of anxiety, depression, or decreased self-esteem, it may be time to seek professional help.

Author Dr. Serenity

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