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Digital Detox: Take a Break and Feel Refreshed

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Author name: Lee Health


We use it to find directions, Snapchat our friends, and even buy stuff. There is no doubt that smartphones have become a way of life. In fact, your phone is probably within reaching distance right now.

But 24/7 access to news outlets and social media networks — not to mention endless messaging from friends and co-workers — bombard our brains with overwhelming amounts of information. 

This constant stimulus may leave us feeling anxious, fatigued, isolated, and even depressed — making a new term “digital detox” essential to our mental and emotional health.

What is digital detox, anyway?

Digital detox is an agreed upon period of time where individuals, companies, families, or other groups pledge to put down their phones and step away from their computers so they can concentrate on conversation, activities, learning new skills, and just generally being more aware of the concrete world around them.

Experts from the official movement have been busy giving presentations and speaking engagements all over the country, and others are starting to join in on a smaller scale.

“We all need a technological detox,” writes Evan Sutter in his book “Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World.” An author and social entrepreneur, Sutter speaks on topics like mindfulness, meaning, and fulfillment. 

“We need to throw away our phones and computers instead of using them as our pseudo-defense system for anything that comes our way,” Sutter says. “We need to be bored and not have anything to use to shield the boredom away from us. We need to be lonely and see what it is we really feel when we are.”

As Sutter suggests, technology quickly becomes a crutch and a temporary diversion from real emotions. This attempt to escape, though, actually makes us more vulnerable to mental health issues.

“If we continue to distract ourselves so we never have to face the realities in front of us, when the time comes and you are faced with something bigger than what your phone, food, or friends can fix, you will be in big trouble,” Sutter says. 

Are we addicted?

Unable to function without mobile devices, our dependency is often compared to an addiction.

In her article, “Why We're All Addicted to Texts, Twitter and Google”,  Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., points out that dopamine — the same chemical released in our brain when we gamble, eat, or have sex —  is also released when we use our smartphones. Texts from a new crush, comments on our selfie, or phone calls from a friend all tap into our brain’s reward system.

“Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type your request into Google. Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Go to LinkedIn,” Weinschenk says.

That dopamine loop gets you seeking, looking for rewards, and seeking some more.

“It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text,” she says.

You can see why a detox isn’t always that simple. But we have to start somewhere. Try these small and realistic changes:

  • Stop using your phone as an alarm. Instead, use a real alarm clock. It’s just as handy and can help you stay off your mobile device before bed.

  • Turn off notifications. Do you really need Twitter and Facebook updates throughout the day?

  • Monitor the amount of time you spend on your device. Apps like “Screen Time” and “Digital Wellbeing” can help you control your daily usage. Set a reasonable time frame and stick to it. Maybe only one hour on your phone after dinner? Try a morning routine without any technology. Start with just a couple of times a week.

  • Stick to one device at a time – don’t use your phone while watching TV, using an iPad, or computer.

  • Try not to revert to your phone in awkward social situations. And don’t check your texts while in the middle of a conversation.

  • Above everything else: Make sure you aren’t answering a quick text or using the web when you drive.

Countless benefits await!

“There are countless benefits waiting for you once you decrease your screen time—perhaps the most crucial being more restful sleep,” says Gloria Reilly, Health Services Coordinator at Lee Health. “The artificial blue light that our phones emit causes a disturbance in our circadian rhythm, the natural cycle that unites our behaviors with the functions of nature.

“Instead of staring at a screen before and after sleep, try rising with the natural blue light of the sky by taking a walk in the morning to absorb those ‘wake up’ rays—get your body going and boost your happiness!”

For a bedtime ritual, Gloria recommends ditching the social media binge and trying a deep breathing technique with essential oil aromatherapy to easily tune into your natural sleep cycle.

A break from technology allows us to re-evaluate unhealthy habits and identify where we can cut out its unnecessary use. It also empowers us to live fully in the present moment, self-reflect, and slow down to enjoy life. 

- Want to learn more about digital detox and mindfulness? Visit one of our Healthy Life Centers to learn about stress, inner peace, and “finding your why.” 

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