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Digital Detox and Wellbeing

Find out how taking a Digital Detox can improve your mental health and wellbeing.

These days, people are spending more and more time using technology, both at work and in their personal time, using devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, televisions, smartwatches, and much more. 

Whilst many of these devices are useful tools, some people can feel overloaded by all the hours spent on digital devices, which in turn can affect their mental health and well-being.

One remedy for this is to take a digital detox, which aims to reduce the amount of time people spend in front of screens.

What is a digital detox?

During a digital detox, a person stops using technology like smartphones, computers and televisions. While most people find it hard to get rid of technology entirely, they can choose to take a break to focus on other parts of life. A digital detox can help lower the stress and physical effects of constant technology use.

A digital detox can take many forms. It might involve cutting out technology altogether on a regular basis (for an hour a day or at weekends), setting limits on specific devices, or reducing usage completely (e.g. by getting a 'dumb' phone with limited distractions on it). 

Whichever method you choose, a digital detox can help enhance mental health and well-being and enable us to step away from screens for a while.

Five Tips for a Digital Detox

  1. Set time boundaries: Schedule technology-free hours every day, stay away from your phone during meals, or add technology-free activities to your schedule.
     
  2. Use your phone with purpose: When you want to use your phone, consider the reason why. If it involves negative coping behaviors like avoidance of an activity, think about how you can better handle that feeling.
     
  3. Set physical boundaries: If you have trouble putting down your phone, try storing it in another room to discourage yourself from using it.
     
  4. Enjoy more paper media: Try out non-digital media like books, newspapers and comics. You can also pick up a pencil and paper to write or draw.
     
  5. Take advantage of your phone’s apps and features: Your phone’s features can help you control your overall technology use. For example, you can turn off notifications for certain apps or turn off your phone entirely for a while. You can even remove apps to create a 'dumbphone' experience, but be careful before deleting them entirely in case you wish to return, as not all apps retain your details (e.g. WhatsApp).

How can a Digital Detox help with our Wellbeing?

There are many reasons why people might want to give up their mobile phones and other devices for a while. Some people feel that their device use has become excessive and is adding too much stress to their lives.

Here are the ways that digital devices can affect our lives:

  • Adding to Stress - Having constant access to social media and emails can make us feel overloaded with information and the need to respond. The fact that digital connection is ever-present can create a constant need to keep checking emails, texts, and social media.

    Taking a Digital Detox can free us up from the burden of having to constantly deal with emails and messages.
     
  • Disrupting Sleep - Evidence suggests that heavy device use can interfere with the quantity and quality of our sleep. One study found that children who use digital devices at bedtime had significantly worse and less sleep. The study also found a connection between nighttime tech use and increased body mass index. Using devices in bed at night can increase the likelihood of anxiety, insomnia and lighter sleeping.

    Taking a Digital Detox can reduce our anxiety and improve the quality of our sleep.
     
  • Constant Connectivity Affects Work/Life Balance - The feeling of always being connected can make it difficult to create boundaries between your home life and work life. Even when you are at home or on holiday, it can be hard to resist the temptation to check your email, respond to a text from a colleague, or check in on your social media accounts. Whilst staying connected can help combat loneliness or isolation (as we discovered during the pandemic), doing a digital detox may help you establish a healthier, less stressful work-life balance. It also means that instead of losing track of time scrolling the news or social media, you can spend your time doing more rewarding activities.

    Taking a Digital Detox can promote a healthy work/life balance, and gives us more time to do other activities with family and friends.
     
  • Social Media Comparisons Can Make it Hard to Be Content - We've all had that experience of seeing someone else's life from the outside on social media and feeling that they are having a better time than we are! Airbrushed photos, exaggerated posts, and curated glimpses of daily life can give people the feeling that others are having a richer, fuller, and more exciting time.

    Taking a Digital Detox is a good way to focus on your own life rather than comparing yourself with others.

For more information and to see how parents can help their children to take a Digital Detox, please visit https://parentzone.org.uk/digital-detox-parent-guide.

Where to go if you or your child need support

If you have any concerns about your child/ren's mental health, you can get more information and advice by visiting chums.uk.com, the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Service for Children and Young People. 

You can also contact your child's class teacher to raise any mental health and well-being concerns by emailing office@owps.org.uk, using the website contact form, or emailing your child's year group (all the year group emails are listed here).

If you are concerned about your own mental health and well-being, you can read more about how to access further advice and support by clicking here to visit Mind's website.

The NHS is encouraging people to come forward for support with mental health and well-being, with the GP cited as the first port of call. 

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash