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March 23, 2015

5 tips for a digital detox

Too much screen time can take a toll on your mental and physical health

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Digital Detox Molly McLeod/Twitter

Designer Molly McLeod created wallpapers that combat our habit of constantly looking at our devices.

If you’re reading this on a laptop, iPhone or iPad, then chances are you could benefit from a digital detox.

Need more proof? Then ask yourself the following questions:

• Do you sleep with your iPhone tucked underneath your pillow and bring it with you to the bathroom?

• Do you stare at a computer screen all day at work, then in the evening “relax” with your laptop in bed?

• Do you experience achy, slumping shoulders and bleary eyes from too much screen time?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then there's no denying you could use a reboot.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone. A survey by the Center for Creative Leadership found that smartphone-carrying professionals report interacting with work a whopping 13.5 hours every workday.

Similarly, a Pew Research Center survey found 74 percent of adults were on social media as of January 2014. Among those ages 18 to 29, it was 89 percent.

Even toddlers could use a digital time-out: Common Sense Media reported that in 2013, nearly 40 percent of children under 2 years old used smartphones and tablets.

But the reality is - as many studies have shown - too much screen time can take a toll on both your mental and physical health.

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5 Tips for a Digital Detox 

David Roberts, a staff writer for Grist.org, went (mostly) without technology for an entire year and afterward wrote about his experience here.

“Every bit of conversation was a potential tweet, every sunset a potential Instagram,” he said, of life before his detox.

Here are some of Roberts' and others' tips.

1. Tell people about your digital detox plan. This will help to hold you accountable while on your mission and is also a way to get all of the texting and tweeting out of your system before it's too late. #DigitalDetox

2. Turn off "push notifications" and "alerts" on your electronic devices. This will not only prevent technology from taunting you with binging reminders that you can't check but will also give you a chance to see how nice it feels to not be nagged by a buzzing pocket all day.

3. Schedule tech time. If you can't go completely without because of responsibilities or risking sanity, then at least schedule the times you will allow yourself to use your devices, such as answering emails and scrolling your newsfeed to see who got engaged and who "Can't wait till Friday!"

4. Plan tech-free activities. This doesn't have to mean joining a mediation group and sitting in silence and darkness for long periods of time - although that's an option! But instead, you can maybe spend time in nature or read a book. Just do something you enjoy that doesn't involve technology.

5. Reflect on your time spent detoxing. Do you feel less stressed? Did you get to do things you enjoying doing but that always get pushed aside because of too many emails to respond to and too many tweets to send? Will you do it again? 

If nothing else, a digital detox can help you prove to yourself that you can do it. Now, back to Facebook stalking your ex.


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