Digital Detox: Benefits of Unplugging Once a Week
Some of us remember when a TV was the only screen in the house. Not so anymore. Today, few people think they can live without smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming devices, and smart speakers. Technology is literally at our fingertips, but can you live without it?
Not only can you get by without being constantly plugged in, but there are also some good arguments for why you should give it a shot at least once a week. Sure, connectivity has its benefits, but it has some downsides exist too. Here is what you need to know about trying a digital detox and the benefits of unplugging once a week.
What is a Digital Detox?
A digital detox is exactly what it sounds like: you take a full 24-hour break from technology once per week. This might sound extreme and impossible but hang in there for a minute.
The fact is that technology has become all-consuming for many people. Even when not staring at a screen, many people are listening to podcasts, plugged into audiobooks, or constantly checking email or social media every few minutes.
In her book, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, author and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Tiffany Shlain dares to suggest that we take a weekly break from everything tech. She’s been doing this for over a decade, ever since her family got involved with The National Day of Unplugging, which started as a day to stop watching television.
Digital Detox: Benefits of Unplugging Once a Week
As our relationship with digital devices has expanded, so has the research surrounding whether those connections are good for our physical, mental, and emotional health. Shocker: they are not. The good is that taking a break is a powerful way to recharge.
Here are five benefits of unplugging once a week for a digital detox:
1. Improved Sleep
When it comes to a good night’s sleep, electronics are not your friend. Having screens in your bedroom can impact the production and release of melatonin. Even when you quickly check your phone at the night, it is impacting your sleep. Unplugging and putting away these devices can reduce the likelihood of insomnia, shorter sleep duration, and daytime exhaustion.
2. Better Mental Health
According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, one-fifth of U.S. adults state that technology is a significant stressor in their lives. When you digitally detox, you can let go of the pressure to keep checking texts, emails, and social media.
3. Boost Your Physical Health
In addition to sleep problems, excessive connectivity can lead to other issues like eye strain, headaches, and digestive issues linked to stress. Being inactive for long periods is also a terrible habit. Break it by tossing your devices in a drawer and getting active.
4. Change How You Seek Validation
Part of the stress and anxiety that technology brings is that people use the devices as a source of validation through shares, likes, and friend counts. It is not only a lot of work but also fuels self-loathing and self-doubt in some people. Gradually distance yourself from these devices occasionally and learn how to self-validate instead.
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5. Be More Engaged
It is tough to be fully engaged when you are constantly checking your phone for updates. In his 2017 essay, “How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds,” Nicholas Carr noted how these devices interrupt learning through “task-switching.” Even if your phone is “off,” but there, you are probably thinking about it. Putting everything away promotes a stronger connection to the present moment and more engagement with what is happening.
Signs You Might Need a Digital Detox
Not sure if you should unplug from tech once a week? Here are some signs that a digital detox might be a good idea:
- When you cannot find your phone, you feel stressed out or anxious.
- You feel like you absolutely must check your phone every few minutes.
- After spending time on social media, you feel anxious, depressed, or angry.
- You are afraid of missing something if you don’t check your phone every few minutes.
- You are preoccupied with the comments and “likes” you get on social posts.
- You forgo sleep to stay on your computer or phone.
- You have trouble focusing on a task without stopping to check email or social media.
How to Set Up a Successful Digital Detox
For some people, a digital detox means unplugging completely from everything for 24 hours. But, if this is not practical due to work or family obligations, do what you can. The idea is to detach from your devices as much as possible to get some physical and mental health benefits. Here are a few tips for setting up a successful digital detox:
If you can do a 100% digital detox, that is great, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t for some reason or another. Maybe you need to stay connected for school, work, or a family member.
Choose what works for you. Can you commit to checking email once or twice per day? What about adding emergency settings to your phone so that only calls from certain people will ring when your phone is on silent?
Set some boundaries with your digital devices that seem reasonable. If you love music, you might want to use your phone only for Spotify and nothing else. Maybe you still get to use your Kindle instead of making a trip to the bookstore or library.
To increase your chances for success, remove any and all distractions. If you are not going to lock away your phone, turn off your social media push notifications. Also, turn the sound off on your computer, so you do not hear the chime every time a new email arrives.
Get the Word Out
Let friends and colleagues know that you will not be available via digital devices during your detox period. For this reason, it is better to unplug during the weekend. It might also be difficult to coordinate meetings with friends without the use of your phone. If you make a date to hang out, plan it in advance, and pick someone reliable.
What You Can Do When You are Unplugged for 24 Hours
Stepping away from tech might sound like the end of the world. But it could be the best thing you will do for your body and mind. If you are stumped about what to do with yourself during this period without flashing screens and charging cords, here are some ideas:
Commune with Nature
Remember when your mom told you to “go outside and play?” It is time to embrace your inner child or tree-hugging persona and get back to nature. Head to the nearest park, beach, or nature trail and get some fresh air.
Read a Book
Pick up a book you have been longing to read and waste the day away on your porch, at the park, or even on your couch. Learn something new or get lost in a mystery – up to you.
Catch Up on Your Zzzzs
Since one of the drawbacks of tech addiction is that it messes up your sleep, maybe you just need a day to catch up. Start out with some meditation and take a few naps throughout the day.
Exercise is good for your body, your brain, and your mental health. Instead of arguing with people on Twitter or fishing for likes on Instagram, go for a bike ride or head to your local gym to lift some weights.
Creativity is also good for you, and we are not talking about using Autocad. Use your time to paint, draw, dance, or cook some new creation in the kitchen.
Connect with Loved Ones
Provided you can decide in advance, grab dinner with a friend or family member that you don’t get to see enough. Even better, schedule your unplugged day with your partner and create some memories together.
So, now that you know how to detox from technology, are you ready to give it a try? Considering the benefits of unplugging once a week, it is surprising that more people aren’t doing it.