Technology and social media have dramatically improved our lives in a number of ways. They’ve made it easier to connect with friends and family, keep up with what’s going on in the world and even book a high-demand workout class at the drop of a hat. But, with the wonderful perks of being “plugged in” come some inevitable downsides.
“Online connectedness is designed to be addictive, and there are a lot of interesting studies coming out that show the correlation between social media and a negative impact on our attention span,” explains Jenny Giblin, a clinically trained therapist and health and wellness expert. “It can impact our memory, mood, energy levels and our ability to feel like we are truly living in the present moment, and all of those factors result in a negative impact on our relationships.”
That being said, we could all use a little bit of a digital detox once in a while. Here are seven expert-approved strategies for tuning out technology:
1. Skip the morning scroll for affirmations
Instead of checking your phone first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, Giblin suggests trying this instead: When you first wake up, take a moment to think about everything you are grateful for. It could even be as small as your warm bed! “Instead of stressing about everything on your to-do list or scrolling online, this will give you a new, fresh, positive start to your day, until you get to the point where you feel like you have no more bad days. And then before you go to bed, think about the best thing that happened that day,” she says. “This will literally make your mind turn off whatever it is thinking about and make you focus on the good things that happened.”
2. Be aware of your screen time
If you own an iPhone, there’s a handy-dandy new tool that delivers you a full report of how much time you’re spending on your phone and what apps are sucking up most of your attention. Make it a part of your weekly to-do list to check in on your screen time stats, and challenge yourself to lower them bit by bit each week. Even if you don’t have an iPhone, try tracking how many times you pick up your phone to check notifications, respond to messages or simply to pass the time. Slowly, you’ll start to interrupt that gut reaction to mindlessly reach for your device and spend more time away from your screen instead.
3. Enforce “no-phone zones”
Whether you designate these zones to the dinner table or the entire living room, carving out time to sit down and respond to friends and family in person, not via your smartphone, goes a long way. This also applies to email. “Put on an autoresponder and check it once or twice a day instead of all day long,” suggests Giblin. “We expect everything to be handled immediately, but sometimes we just need to decide that we are in control of the day. You can do whatever feels right for you, but trust that setting the intention is the first step toward making a positive shift.”
4. Try to be fully engaged in whatever it is that you are doing
Wherever you are, be all there. Giblin explains that if you’re at the gym, focus on your workout. If you’re taking a hot yoga class, leave your phone until the class has finished. If you’re running errands, take a moment to remind yourself to be fully engaged in the task at hand. You get the idea. “It is so easy to get sucked into the distractions of social media that we do not even realize we are picking up the stress of others when we could be happy in the present moment feeling grateful for whatever it is that we have instead,” she says.
5. Take advantage of Airplane Mode and “Do Not Disturb”
If you find it hard to resist picking your phone up at every beep and ping or often scroll mindlessly before bedtime, try getting in the habit of putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” (or Airplane Mode, if you’re feeling confident) when you need to spend less time in front of your screen. Without the constant interruptions of new emails and text messages, these tools make it much easier to unplug and stay focused.
“Meditation is one of the easiest and best ways to unplug and feel good in your mind and body and in the moment,” Giblin explains. It’s also a great way to shut your mind off for a few moments or for an entire hour, similarly to what we turn to technology for in this day and age.
7. Reduce blue light as much as possible
As much as most of us would love to unplug more often, sometimes that’s just not a possibility considering our careers and social lives. But spending too much time scrolling on our phones or staring at a laptop screen can result in insomnia, migraines and more. If you simply can’t unplug, try reducing the number of blue light emissions that come from your screens. Many devices now have “night modes” that change the color of your screen, or you can even invest in blue-light-blocking glasses.