Are you in a toxic relationship… with your phone? Is your favorite device actually disrupting your life, hurting your self-esteem, and causing real health issues? You may need some space to rethink your commitment. You may need a digital detox.
Don’t Settle for a Toxic Relationship
Every pinging notification draws your attention away from your work, from the road, and even from your family. Every social media update threatens to irritate you or deflate your self-esteem. You lose hours of sleep scrolling through pointless feeds.
Yet you still cling to your digital world like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend. Why? Because it looks so pretty and treats you good sometimes. It occasionally makes you smile and keeps you company, even if it’s not the best of company. Sure, you’ve thought you could do better, but just when you’re about to give it up, it reels you back in. I’ve been a fish stuck on that fishing line, too.
Just like a toxic relationship, our devices offer just enough benefits for us to ignore the consequences. After all, our devices educate, entertain, and enable us to multitask. But the adage is true: too much of a good thing is bad.
Do I Need to Breakup with My Phone?
But how much of a good thing is too much? How do I know if I need to break up with my phone? You are likely in need of a digital detox if you answer ‘yes’ to two or more of the following questions:
- Do you have trouble focusing on a single task?
- Do you feel abnormally stressed and anxious?
- Do you reflexively reach for your device the moment there’s a pause in daily activity?
- Do you feel worse when you close a social media app than when you opened it?
- Have others commented on how much you use your device?
- Are you using your device while driving, other than hands-free GPS?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you feel naked without your device?
You’re not alone if you answered ‘yes’ to most questions, because I did too before I started my detox. Admitting I had an unhealthy habit was hard, but it was the first step to healing! Once I admitted I had a problem, I was able to take the steps needed to transform my unhealthy relationship with my devices to a healthy one. And I’m here to help you do the same.
It’s time to kick our bad habits to the curb and embrace independence from our phones!
What Does a Digital Detox Entail?
Like any detox, you can go cold-turkey or gradually eliminate temptations. Since most people need their phones for work and to communicate with loved ones, cold turkey usually isn’t a viable option. However, there are many excellent strategies to employ to eliminate temptations. In this article, I am going to review the most effective tips and most achievable tricks to help you detox.
17 Effective Ways To Start Your Digital Detox (aka Your Digital Breakup!)
The following digital detox tips will help you nurture healthy habits. The more you apply to your life, the healthier your relationship will be with your devices. I suggest choosing a few of the most “do-able” suggestions and apply them immediately. Then, commit to applying at least one new trick regularly. For best results, write down a schedule to implement the different tactics and follow it religiously.
Turn Off Notifications
Phones are so needy! They are continually chiming, “Look at me! Look at me!” The constant pings interrupt your focus, like someone poking you. Don’t let your phone poke you while you’re working, visiting, and especially while driving. Don’t give in to their selfish cries!
One of the most impactful detox tactics is to turn off your notifications, which is typically found in Settings. Scroll through the list of apps and ask yourself, “Do I really need reminders throughout the day from this app?” Most of the time, the answer is no. Turn off or edit most, if not all, notifications.
Make use of the axiom, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ After you finally break up with someone who’s not good for you, what do you do? That’s right, you remove any reminders of them. You take down photos of the person and put their personal items in a box. That’s exactly what you need to do with your digital devices. Remove them from your sight so they cannot distract you from taking care of yourself.
This applies to more than your phone. When you are done with your computer, turn it off completely, don’t just put it in sleep mode. If it’s a desktop, consider covering it with a decorative cover or scarf. If it’s a laptop, tuck it into its case or in a drawer. Do the same with your tablet and other smart devices. When you get home from work, take off your smartwatch and tuck it away somewhere.
Put Your Phone in a Hard to Reach Place
Let’s be honest, most of us are quite lazy. Think of all the times you ended up watching the same channel because you didn’t have the willpower to get up and grab the remote control. Use that innate laziness to your advantage. If your phone dings out of reach, you will think twice before getting up to retrieve it.
When you’re driving, put your phone in the backseat where you can’t possibly reach it unless you pull over. When you’re at the office, bury your personal phone in a bottom drawer. When with others, leave your phone out of reach. Whatever the solution, keep it out of reach.
Designate Tech-Free Hours
When you’re dating someone, the golden rule of friendship is to always carve out time for your friends. You never want to become so distracted with your love interest that you forget about your friends. The same is true for you and your phone. You don’t want your relationship with your mobile phone to eat into your Me-Time.
Check your device’s screen time tracker. This tool shows how much time you spend on your device, and may even break it down by app usage. You will be shocked at how much Me-Time you can actually have in place of mindless screen time!
Designate tech-free hours every day. During that time, you can do all the things you want to do but never seem to get around to, such as:
- Play board games with family
- Take a hike
- Have drinks with friends
- Do yoga
- Get a spa treatment
- Make tea and sit in your garden
- and so on! The options are endless!
Go All “Marie Kondo” on Your Phone
Marie Kondo is a Japanese organization guru that specializes in bring harmony to people’s lives. Her de-cluttering philosophy is founded on this wise advice: “Ask yourself- does it spark joy? If it’s a yes, keep it. If it’s no, you throw it out.” It’s a simple philosophy that we can apply to our possessions, toxic relationships, frenemies, and even our digital distractions.
When doing your digital detox, consider each and every app on your phone. Ask yourself, “Does this app bring me joy?” If so, keep it. If not, delete it. But the real trick is to rinse and repeat since we tend to have a hard time letting go. After one week, review your remaining apps again. Chances are, you’ll delete even more. I know I did.
Bury Your Distracting Apps
We all have apps that we want or need, but that we pay too much attention to. Social media apps like Facebook and Instagram are some of the biggest culprits. Burying such apps inside your phone incorporates several of the strategies we’ve discussed, including making them out of sight and hard to reach.
Drag these overly-distracting apps into folders and move them to the second or third page in the folder. That way, you aren’t reminded of the bad boy icon’s charming allure, and in weak moments, you have a few clicks and swipes to rethink your choice to open them.
Spring Clean Your Social Media Friends and Follows
If you can’t bring yourself to delete social media apps, there’s still detox tactics you can employ. An excellent strategy is to spring clean your Friends list. Unfriend and unfollow toxic people and influences. This will reduce the number of updates in your feed you feel you need to scroll through. More so, it will reduce the amount of negativity you come in contact with.
Remember, social media is a highlight reel to people’s lives. Many people use it as a way to humblebrag about their real-life romantic comedy or to make their life appear perfect. If those sorts of posts make you question yourself or hurt your self-esteem, unfollow the people responsible for them! Even if the person is being genuine, your feelings of insecurity are also genuine. Don’t put yourself through that!
Use a Dumb Phone
Not for the faint of heart, this detox strategy takes you to the next level. Turn in your smartphone for a dumb phone, at least for the duration of your digital detox. Or, purchase a dumb phone to use at certain times. For instance, you can use your smartphone at work but your dumb phone while running errands.
Two great dumb phone options are The Light Phone and The No Phone. They are cheap, and they are simple. Their selling point is being the “least advanced phones” on the market. That’s exactly what the doctor ordered for a digital detox!
Make Your Bedroom a Screen-Free Zone
It’s a well-known fact that televisions in the bedroom kill libido. It’s no surprise that phones and tablets do, too. Removing screens from your bedroom will not only nurture your relationship with your significant other, but also improve your sleeping habits. The lack of distractions and blue light will help you snuggle up and fall asleep more quickly.
Don’t use the my-phone-is-my-alarm-clock excuse. Go old school and purchase a cheap alarm clock. Replace your charging station on your bedside table with the books you’ve been meaning to read. And no, Idon’t mean digital books. Dust off the paperbacks and dive into a great story that will help take your mind off the stresses of the day.
Speaking of rest, a digital detox requires you to prioritize sleep over entertainment. Do not allow yourself to scroll through your phone or watch TV late into the night. Set a screen curfew for yourself. Turn all devices off once the clock strikes, let’s say, 9 p.m. Allow your body and brain to wind down in preparation of sleep.
You can read, pray, or meditate instead to help the wind-down process. The first few nights, you might find yourself falling asleep at the same late hour. But stick with it! Soon enough, you will retrain your body and mind to properly relax during this time.
Embrace Doing Nothing
Busyness does not equal productiveness. Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee, author of Deviced!: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World, promotes the art of doing nothing. Also known as “niksen,” doing nothing allows our brains to rest and frees up our thinking for imagination and contemplation. Without these “nothing breaks,” we feel anxious and stressed.
But our devices make it easy to stay busy. For instance, instead of enjoying our lunch, we eat and play on our phones. We can’t even go to the bathroom without our phones, for goodness’ sake!
When there is a pause in your day, take advantage of it to do nothing. Yes, nothing! Waiting in line for your coffee? Do nothing. Waiting for the meeting to start? Do nothing. Going to the bathroom? Do nothing… well, besides the obvious.
Go Greyscale on Your Phone
Have you ever been attracted to someone because of their beauty, despite their rather ugly interior? Well, your phone is the epitome of skin-deep beauty. Your phone’s background is essentially a crowd of supermodel icons fighting for your attention. Brands spend fortunes dressing up their colorful logo designs to catch your eye and draw you in. Greyscale not only reduces eye strain, but also curbs your desire to click. Greyscale shows you the frumpy version that wears sweat pants and no makeup, so you can see what really is important.
The greyscale setting is often buried. You might expect to find it in the Display and Brightness setting, but that’s usually not the case. For iPhone and other popular devices, it is usually in the Accessibility setting under Color Filters. Running a Google search for your particular device might save you time in trying to figure it out.
Use “Do Not Disturb” Feature on Your Phone
A most beloved feature of detoxers and uni-taskers, the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your device blocks all notifications, text messages, and phone calls while activated. But what if an emergency arises and your loved ones can’t get a hold of you? Have no fear, for you can unblock specific phone numbers to receive their calls still.
On iOS devices, you can simply swipe your screen up from the bottom and select the half-moon icon. On Android phones, swipe down from the top and select the circle icon with a line in the center. You can personalize the feature in the Do Not Disturb settings menu. Be sure to activate the automatic Do Not Disturb While Driving mode– it could save your life!
Go Cold Turkey (Sometimes)
Going cold turkey full-time isn’t practical for most. Our phones and digital devices have become a necessity of modern living. And that’s okay. But sometimes, going cold turkey will give you an emotional reset that your mind and spirit greatly need.
Choose a day to go completely cold turkey: no phone at all! Warn your family and friends that they won’t be able to reach you by phone. Tell them where you will be that day and who you might be with, in case they need to get a hold of you for an emergency. Then, turn your phone off and leave it at home, tucked away in a hard to reach place.
Give Your Phone a Cradle at Home
You may be too young to remember the days of phone cradles, so let me explain. The first cordless home phones had charging stations known as phone cradles. When not in use, the cordless phones were kept in their cradle. It was located in a convenient spot in the house and always within earshot. Isuggest you do the same with your smartphone.
Have fun with it! Doing something silly like tucking your phone into an actual doll cradle will lighten your day with a giggle and make you more apt to make it a habit. Or, put the “World’s Best Dad” mug to better use. Drop your phone into it as soon as you get home as a reminder to spend more time with your kids. Make it a cradle you want to put your phone into as soon as you get home.
Set Timers for Time-Outs
The very device you are trying to detox from can remind you to detox! Set recurring alarms on your phone to go off three times a day. When it’s safe to do so, stop everything and practice the art of doing nothing for a few minutes. You can even use your phone to set a countdown timer.
To make the most of those “nothing minutes,” gaze at nature’s beauty. Multiple studies have shown that looking at nature, even a picture, dramatically reduces stress and anxiety. But don’t just see it, gaze at it. If you’re looking at a flower, gaze at the individual petals, the different colors, the stem, and the leaves. Admiring the small details of nature truly brings life into perspective.
Digital addiction is a dependence syndrome that should be taken seriously. If your attempts to detox actually cause you more stress and anxiety than relaxation, then you may need to seek help. Many who suffer from digital addiction have underlying issues like depression, anxiety, or a socially challenged personality.
Depending on your device in such cases is a self-treatment method that uses the distraction to avoid your feelings and struggles. But it’s hurting more than helping you. Don’t be too embarrassed or too ashamed to ask for help. You are not alone! Talk with a trusted friend, your pastor, or a therapist. They want to help. Let them help.
Final Words of Encouragement for Your Digital Detox
The definition of a toxic relationship is one that makes you feel stressed, defeated, insignificant, and insecure. It is a relationship that is harmful to your emotional and physical wellbeing. It makes you feel bad about yourself, draining your energy and reducing your self-esteem to nothingness. I know this from experience. The truth is, it’s the type of relationship most of us have with our phones and social media.
It’s time to escape from your toxic relationship with the digital world. It’s time to declare that you want something better, that you deserve something better. Applying these digital detox tricks and tips will improve your mental, physical, and emotional health more than you think possible. But it is possible! I did it, and so can you!
Whether you take baby steps or dive in, begin your digital detox today!