You can go to the gym every day, eat right, and even take steps toward taking care of your mental health. But, if you still feel like something is “off,” you might want to take a look at the mobile device in your hand.
Or, rather, stop looking at it.
About 98% of adult men in the United States own a cell phone. About 17% of men are dependent on their smartphones. Meaning they don’t have broadband or another type of Internet connection at home.
This isn’t even taking into consideration all of the other digital platforms you can immerse yourself in on a daily basis. From tablets and iPads to computers. Even wearable devices like watches that let you know when you’ve received a new Facebook comment or how many steps you’ve taken so far today.
The point is, technology has taken over our daily lives. That’s hard for anyone to argue. Think about how many times a day you reach for your phone. Perhaps even “tune out” of a conversation with friends or family members because you’re distracted by it? Somewhere along the line, our use of technology has threatened to become another bad habit or a vice.
It’s not just a social problem, either. Being too dependent on digital devices can cause physical and mental issues as well. Let’s talk a bit more about some of the problems that your personal tech devices can cause. More importantly, what you can do to give yourself a “digital detox,” so you can remain sane in this world of hyperconnectivity.
Go Old Fashioned
First step in digital detox. Many smartphones now give you the ability to set your display to grayscale. That might seem a little odd at first, but it can actually help you to use your phone less. It’s easy to be attracted to the bright colors and displays when you have your phone set to a vibrant resolution. Turning it to “black and white” might make it less appealing. So, not only won’t you pick it up as often. Yet you probably won’t be as tempted to stare at it for long periods of time looking at pictures, videos, etc.
Turn Off Notifications
Maybe you have the best of intentions when it comes to leaving your device alone. But, when you start to hear “ding” after “ding,” or you see your device lighting up on your desk, it’s hard to ignore it.
Whether it’s a text message coming through or a notification on Instagram, hearing that notification sound or seeing one come through makes it all too easy to reach for your phone and see the source. Unfortunately, it rarely stops there. Once you see what the notification was, it’s tempting to get dragged into looking at other things. Before you know it, you’ve wasted a lot of time, and all because of a simple push notification.
Thankfully, you can go into your phone’s settings and change how many push notifications you receive. Additionally, most apps ask you ahead of time if you would like to receive their push notifications. You should always hit “no” when prompted.
Instead of picking up your device each time a notification comes through, set aside a specific time to check on all of them at once.
Go “Tech-Free” for a Few Hours Each Day
Staying away from your phone, tablet, computer, or other smart devices for just a few hours each day can make a big difference in how you feel.
Different types of screens emit a “blue light” that can cause your eyes to strain. It can even cause pain or contribute to headaches. This type of blue light can also make it difficult to sleep at night, especially if you’re looking at your devices right before bed.
You can combat the effects of blue light by staying away from your devices just for a few hours. Try to avoid using them at least an hour before you go to bed, and you might notice that you’ll get better sleep. You could even make your bedroom a “no phone zone,” and keep your devices in a different room to charge overnight. You may need to invest in an alarm clock, but it’s a small price to pay for a better night’s sleep!
Another good idea is to avoid using them during meals. Multiple studies have shown that people who have their phones out at restaurants are less engaged in conversation and aren’t fully present. When you’re focused on your phone and whether it will light up with a notification, you’re not giving the people with you your full energy.
If you’re having trouble not using your phone, you might want to consider a different service plan. Pay-as-you-go options like the ones offered by SMARTY might encourage you to use your phone less, rather than plans that have unlimited usage and data.
Don’t Multitask With Screens
So, you’re catching up on the latest episode of your favorite show on the television, while looking at a presentation from work on your iPad, and scrolling through Instagram at the same time.
While you might think you’re “multitasking,” you’re really just overloading yourself with information. It can cause your brain to feel overwhelmed, and it’s very easy to get distracted.
You’re not getting more done when you multitask, especially when tech is involved. So, focus on one thing and one screen at a time. You’ll be giving your brain a break, and you’ll give your full attention and energy to a specific task or item. The fewer screens you have in front of you, the easier it is to start to ween away from them more and more.
Download Apps to Hold You Accountable
It might seem counterproductive to download apps that will keep you from using your digital devices so much. But, some apps are actually designed to help you monitor phone use. One of the best on the market is the Moment app, which tracks how often you use your phone or tablet each day. Not only does it give you a clear picture of your usage, but you can also set daily limits for yourself. Once you’ve reached that limit, the app prevents you from “browsing” on your devices.
Other apps like this can keep you from using your devices during certain hours. Others can put your phone on “do not disturb” mode during certain times so if someone calls or texts you, you won’t be distracted by it.
So, while there are many apps that can distract you and waste time, some of them are designed to help you be more productive by taking you away from your devices. Do your research on which of these apps can help you the most.
Go Back to Paper
There’s something very satisfying about reading an actual newspaper in the morning, or flipping through the pages of a good book. Did you know that your brain actually processes information differently when it’s read from paper rather than on a screen?
One of the main reasons for that is because there are fewer distractions when you’re reading a book. If you’re reading something on your phone or trying to catch up with the news on your tablet, you could easily get drawn into an advertisement or a notification that pops up. Even if you don’t click on it, it takes your mind away from what you’re reading for a moment, so you’re not getting the full picture of what the author or journalist intended for you to see.
Do a Cleanup on Social Media
What’s the first thing you do when you pick up your phone? Many people choose to look at Facebook or Instagram immediately. But, you can get lost when you scroll through endless friends, acquaintances, and followers every single time.
So, why not do some “spring cleaning” on your social media lists? Go through your friends and followers and decide who to keep and who to delete. If you’re “friends” with someone you knew in elementary school but you haven’t talked in 20 years, it’s okay to delete them! If you follow an account on Instagram that you don’t really care about or you’re not even sure why you’re following them, leave them behind too!
Getting rid of the clutter on your social media accounts can help you to feel better, and it may even cause you to spend less time scrolling and more time appreciating the posts from actual friends and family members you care about.
Feeling Better After Time Away from Tech
These small steps can make a big difference in how you feel, mentally and physically. Digital devices can take over your life if you don’t periodically take back that control and decide how much power you’re going to give them.
Hopefully, you can use some of these tips immediately to help you with your own digital dependency. For an even easier way to get started, try to balance out the time you look at your phone with time spent outside, looking up. When you realize you can be without your phone for a few minutes, you can start putting some of these other tips into practice.
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