It's January. The usual buzzwords are everywhere. Detoxing from festive excess. Decluttering our homes and our minds. It can be hard to know where to start. For many of us, the time we spend on screens, and the role that our devices play in our everyday lives, has dramatically increased. So how do we know when our screen use has become an addiction, and whether it's time for a digital detox? I spoke to Yahoo all about the idea of a 'digital detox'. Click here to read the full article, or read on to hear what I had to say.
What is 'screen addiction'? As with other addictions, a screen addiction is usually a sign of something more serious that’s going on. That we have ‘unmet needs’ that aren’t being dealt with in our everyday life. And that we are reaching for our devices as a coping strategy, a way of soothing ourself instead of dealing with what’s going on. Screen addiction often arises as a displacement activity when we are struggling with loneliness, stress, anxiety or having difficulty with our relationships. But the challenge is that when we are feeling this way, time spent on a screen can often compound our difficulties, rather than alleviating them. Our screens can leave us feeling more alone, disconnected and unhappy with ourselves. They also get in the way of ‘healthier’ coping strategies, like getting outside, connecting with people, relaxing and gaining good quality sleep.
How can a 'digital detox' help us? It’s not necessarily about finding a specific magic time limit, as different things will work for different people. But if we really want to make a permanent change, we need to embrace the benefits of a digital detox and understand the positive impact that it has on us. So as well as tracking your time limits, I’d recommend that you track how it makes you feel. Perhaps less distracted, less stressed, less overwhelmed. Really think about the positive impact of reducing your screen time, and what it will deliver for your wellbeing.
So we know it's time for a 'digital detox'. How do we get started? Any time spent away from screens can be beneficial to our mental health. So if we plan to kick start it in January then that’s absolutely a useful plan. But as part of our strategy, we should be thinking about how we can build in screen-free time to our everyday life. It’s worth viewing our devices in a different way. Instead of building in set times without our screens, what about building in set times when we use our screens? Or keeping them located in a specific place so that we really notice when we are using them as we have to physically move towards them. Or setting ourselves a goal of only using one screen at a time. This might sound strange, but many of us are familiar with the sense of mindlessly scrolling on a phone while also watching TV or getting some work done on a laptop.
Notice how you avoid limiting your phone use. Maybe you need your phone as an alarm clock, or as a diary. Think about what you might need to implement in order to help you to put your phone down. It might mean reverting to an old fashioned alarm clock, or a paper diary system. I spoke to Metro about the importance of allowing ourselves a screen-free buffer zone at the beginning and the end of each day (click here for the article). If you want to take all this a step further, you could consider going full 'monk mode' (click here for my post all about this).
What about when we are using our devices for work? That might make it hard to implement a 'digital detox'. Think about the boundaries that you need to have in place to build the work-life balance that you want to have. You might stick to set times when you check emails and sites that you need to look at. You might even want to have different devices to make sure that work life doesn’t encroach on your personal time. And if you choose to put limits in place, voice these to other people. This will make you feel more accountable, and will also show other people that they shouldn’t expect you to be available 24/7. It’s also likely to make you more productive, as when we spend time away from our screens, it can often improve our cognitive skills to be more effective and less stressed at work.
Keen to explore more?
I love working with people to help them to understand themselves, their habits, and why they feel the way that they do. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.