By Heidi Meyer
Have you ever felt like a robot? A multitude of wires feeding into systems, constantly on charge, loads of information to be processed, answers to be found, information to be shared, wires flowing out … feeling drained by internal and external expectations!
What a wonderful experience it was, to get out of town for a mini-break, to relax and recharge. It was then that I realised that I am, an electronic junkie! After losing signal, I kept picking up my mobile every few minutes to see if I had signal again, whether any new messages or e-mails had come through or whether I might have missed a call? Realising that I was missing out on the experience and what I was doing wasn’t actually helping me to relax. I made the decision, I had to switch off!
Once we got signal again, I posted a message on Facebook, “Unplugged for a couple of days!” and let my children know that we almost had reached at our destination! So, the digital detox started. It is so important to unplug from technology once in a while!
- What research tells us?
I was shocked to learn that the average person checks their phone every six and a half minutes – that is 200 times a day. Just think of the time and productivity lost! By the age of 7 the average British child will have spent a year of his life made up of occasionally, 24-hour days in front of a screen! In the States, kids between the ages 8 and 18 years, on average spend more than 7½ hours of entertainment media per day.
Some holiday resorts have started to sell Digital Detox Get-aways, where you either get a discount if you hand over all your digital devices on arrival or swop the devices for a Digital Detox Survival Kit, including board games, walking map, tree planting kits, outdoor activities and games.
- How connected are you?
Do you as a family sit at the dinner table each more involved with their digital devices than with one another? Are you at the point where you feel anxious that you might be missing something if your mobile isn’t within easy reach? Do you have signs of any of the following symptoms?
Research has shown that excessive screen time, i.e. more than4hours a day leads to:
- Problems to communicate face to face – prefer to send text
- Anxiety and depression
- Insomnia caused by interruption of device notifications and anxiety of missing out of on new information
- Hours spent watching movies or playing games.
- Mood disorders caused by interrupted sleep
- Rising obesity levels from eating junk food in front of the screen and little physical exercise.
- Benefits of disconnecting from your devices
- Be present – give more face time to those around you, reconnect on all levels. Better conversations are made. Never make people feel less important than devices.
- Focus – stop multitasking on devices. This splits focus and takes more time to focus on what you were busy with.
- You feel calmer, happier, connected, focussed and excited about life.
- You can relax, stillness and peace comes with it.
- Sleep better as anxiety wanes
- Attention span improves as you start focussing on one thing at a time.
- Make it a habit to disconnect
Free yourself and those around you of the connection addiction and being attached to screens! Let anyone that might get worried about you not picking up your phone on the first ring know, that you are planning to unplug and for the length of time that you will not be able to be reached. Commit and face the challenge.
To make a smooth transition, decide on a digital strategy as a family.
- Choose a feasible length of time to turn off devices – start with small portions of time, like banning any screen time during meals with consequences should the rule be broken. Gradually increase it to a day, like Sundays, cutting out more devices and connections, were no social media, internet or instant messages are allowed.
- Set yourself boundaries, e.g. when focusing to get a task done, put your phone on flight mode, deactivate all notifications.
- What to do instead of staring at a screen?
Now that you have decided to kick the addiction, how are you going to fill the time that you have gained?
- Schedule quality time – during the meals talk about things that happened during your day, exciting things that are coming up, make plans. Remember what you did when you were young, haul out the board games and have a family game evening and get ready for some real fun!
- Spend some time outdoors – either for a long walk, a picnic or plan a week-end away.
- Read a book, page through a magazine
- Start a new hobby or pursue one that you enjoyed in the past and never had time to do.
- Teach your children skills, by baking or cooking with them.
- Work in the garden, let the children have their own little patch were they can nurture plants.
- Sleep later.
- What did you learn from the detox experience?
With the smart phones that come with fantastic cameras and other information apps it boils down to, “Don’t lead me into temptation”. Do not go and have a look at social media just after you took the perfect shot of your family sitting in the pool. Don’t get drawn into “googling” all kinds of stuff instead of living in the moment.
- Delete apps, devices or platforms that steal too much of your time.
- Don’t unplug only when you don’t have signal, make it a habit
After the peaceful break, I was reminded that life does exist beyond electronic devices and that there is nothing that can’t wait awhile, but I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to ditch technology just yet!