Put. Your phone. Down. Why a digital detox can be the best thing ever

We know: things that can legitimately count as ‘the best thing ever’ are things like kittens, new stationery, chocolate-filled donuts, chocolate-filled everything else. They are absolutely NOT giving up your phone, right?

But hear us out. Because there might actually be some things that are worth missing out on your crush’s latest Snapchat for. Firstly, a little digi-break frees you from those icky tech-related feelings we all get: the confidence slump after an hour of Instagram comparison; the groggy guilt of late-night YouTube bingeing; the feeling that your head is so full of other people’s opinions there’s no room left for yours.

Digital detoxing can also be a serious saviour to your mental health. One study by the National Institute of Mental Health found strong links between social media use and depression, and another by Kent State University found that as mobile phone use increases, so does anxiety. Plus, there’s all that fun stuff you can do offline.

We’re not suggesting you unplug forever and live in the woods making your own jewellery from foraged twigs (although if you want to… well, you do you). But we are suggesting that there are simple ways you can switch off and show your tech who’s controlling who. Such as…

Start small

Like, really small. ‘Putting your phone on silent’ small. Seriously, even a few minutes without the constant cacophony of notifications will help you feel more in control of your own time and headspace. I mean, we can’t guarantee you won’t check your phone every two minutes anyway but if (by some miracle) you do forget about its existence for a while, at least it won’t keep piping up to remind you.

Log on for a reason

Digital marketing guru and mobile app developer Tania Mulry suggests noticing ‘when we’re using our phone to alleviate boredom’ and ‘setting a purpose’ for each unlock. So if you’ve spent ALL MORNING lovingly crafting an Instagram-worthy acai bowl, you flippin’ well post that beauty. But if you’re just scrolling aimlessly while you wait for a friend, try filling the time with… well… anything or nothing. Grab a magazine, gaze out of the window, watch people. You never know what you might spot/feel/realise when you give your brain some breathing space.

Protect your fave times

Are there any other moments you’d enjoy more if you weren’t glued to your screen? Maybe you regret spending lunch dates with your friends Snapchatting your food. Maybe your bedtime yoga sessions keep getting interrupted by WhatApp notifications. Write down the moments you think might be better tech-free, then make a plan to keep them that way. Your phone can be your OTP for the rest of the week, but those moments stay sacred.

Use your laziness

This trick makes use of those CBA moments. Put your devices in a room on another floor of the house, or somewhere else annoying. When you’re cosied up on the sofa chatting with your mum and you feel the urge to check Facebook, are you really going to unearth yourself from your blankets and haul your bum upstairs? Naahh, us neither. Just snuggle back down and keep chatting. You never know, your mum might have something more interesting to say than Facebook. (Might).

Less digi, more Hygge

So an hour unplugged might sound rubbish. OK, who are we kidding? It sounds like full-on torture. But it doesn’t have to be. Why not turn your detox time into an pamperfest? Have a candlelit bath, do your nails, try one of those Korean sheet face masks that makes you look like a horror-film maniac. If you’re feeling energetic, you could even write down what else makes you feel great, then plan to do it next time. Or… yeah, you could just lie in the bath.

Bring your interests off the screen

Try finding IRL versions of your fave online stuff. If you LOVE cat gifs, see if you could volunteer at a shelter for, y’know, actual real-live cats. If you spend hours scrolling through Instagram, why not give your eyes (and ego) a break by finding some pickupable memories of your own to look at? Old cards from friends, embarrassing diary entries, old family snaps. We take no responsibility for the level of cringe you may have to encounter, but it should be pretty funny.

Get some detox buddies

FOMO is goddamn real and we all know it, so grab your best buds and unplug together. Some offline QT with your mates could even make you closer. Author and TED-talker, Sherry Turkle, says that communicating in online snippets “may work for saying I’m thinking about you” but doesn’t work “for really coming to know and understand each other.” Have some activities up your sleeves and keep things as active or chill as you like – go to a theme park, have a picnic, do something crafty. And since you’re not allowed your phone…

Dig out a camera

Despite what the haters say, Instagram isn’t a narcisstic hellhole whose only purpose is to let vain people show off their #OOTDs. So much of it is about documenting your fave moments with your fave people. So why not grab a real camera, take some snaps and make a photo album together that you can look back on in years to come? BONUS TIP: Use an old-fashioned disposable camera so you don’t spend hours retaking until everyone’s happy.

Control your tech with… er… more tech?

If you’ve got as much willpower as us (approximately ZERO), you might need help to switch off. And by ‘help’ we mean something that will not give you access to the internet no matter how much you beg/plead/ply it with brownies. Check out SelfControl for your desktop, or Freedom for your phone. You can choose to block the whole beautiful internet for eight hours (umm….) or just lock yourself out of Snapchat for fifteen minutes (we’ll go for that one, please).

Like people IRL

This last one’s not quite the same as a full-on digital detox, but is great for feeling like you’re living in the real world rather than in your phone. We’re talking about complimenting people face-to-face. Tell them you like their outfit, congratulate them on their achievements, ask what they’re not posting online that they might be proud of. It’s amazing how much a real-life like can boost someone’s day – including yours.

@LucindaEverett

Image: Hailey Hamilton

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