What’s a Digital Detox, and why should I do one?

digital detox Jun 14, 2022
Digital Detox

Mindfulness is the state of being conscious or aware. It is being fully present in whatever we are doing. Mindfulness takes practice and effort, as our minds love to wander: borrowing problems from the future, reliving anxieties from the past. 

Mindfulness has become even more challenging with the introduction and proliferation of technology. There are so many things constantly battling for our attention, looking to capture even the smallest moment of idle time. With devices and all their distractions becoming omnipresent in our lives, being present feels more challenging than ever. 

Pew Research reports that around two thirds of adults sleep with their smartphone next to their beds. Many look at them right before going to sleep, even though the negative effects on the quality of sleep and wellbeing are well documented. Then, they pick them up first thing: 71% of people check their phone within 10 minutes of waking up according to Reviews.org. But that’s not the end of it… "On average, Americans check their phones 262 times per day—that's once every 5.5 minutes!". These constant distractions have a big impact: on average, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task after the interruption. Our phones are costing us a lot of time, and a lot of attention. 

It’s not just cell phones taking up our precious focus, "According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of non stop TV-watching per year)."  Social media is also creeping in as a major attention draw. Both watching TV, and social media consumption have been linked to increased anxiety, and lower overall happiness. 

The pattern of picking up our device, turning on the TV, or scrolling social media and news sites has become so strong for many that it can be a hard habit to break, and your health and wellbeing are paying the price. 

Digital Detox

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a Digital Detox is when you “take a break from using electronic devices or certain media for a period of time, from a few days to several months.” A digital detox can cover a specific area you’d like to curb (like email, phone checking, scrolling, TV consumption, social media, etc.), or a complete fast from all things digital. A Digital Detox can improve your mood, create more time in your day, and improve the quality of your social interactions. 

To explore a Digital Detox, designate a date, time and duration. It may be worth starting with a few hours (for example, after work Wednesday through the start of my workday on Thursday), or a few days (for example, Friday at 5pm through Sunday at 8pm). Alternatively, you may want to narrow the scope of your Digital Detox (for example, only social media) and commit to it for a longer period (a few weeks to a month). 

In preparation for your Digital Detox, think through how you engage in the behaviors you’ve decided to limit throughout the day. Create a plan for what you will and won’t do during your Digital Detox. It can also help to plan for an alternative activity if you feel the pull of turning something on: perhaps you read a book, go for a walk, doodle, take some deep breaths. You may want to keep a journal or log of how many times you feel inclined to pick up your device, and the choice you made instead.

How might you shift your environment in order to support your goals? Does your phone need to go somewhere different? Do you need to unplug your TV? Do you need to log out, change passwords for certain websites? We’ve included some additional ideas and tips in the next section. 


Reshaping your relationship with devices & distractions to be more intentional

One time switches that have big impact

  • Go analog - Switch your alarm clock to an Analog device (like this retro look, or an even more analog feel, or you can splurge to wake up to the sun). Put your phone away from your bedroom. If your device is your only method of contact and you must keep it with you, put it away from your bed. 
  • Get on a schedule - Set up periodic blocking of notifications and distractions through a blocking app. Business Insider recently did a profile on a few.
  • Notifications be gone - Turn off all the notifications for the apps that try to summon your attention. Set your phone to only chime for things you REALLY care about, like text messages or phone calls. 


Actions to take to support your Digital Detox

  • Log out - Log out of any accounts you have to sites or platforms you are trying to avoid. Do this on ALL your devices. This creates a bigger barrier to accessing the content. You might consider changing your passwords as well, if yours are memorized. 

  • Put it away & Turn it off - Turn off your computer and your phone, and physically put them out of reach, or in a different room than you are. You can also do this with your TV. 

  • Have some analog fun - Find an awesome activity to do that doesn't involve any media consumption. There are some great articles with ideas.


Go big

  • Go off the grid - Remove yourself completely from all the devices by heading out to where the power cords and the cell phone network won’t reach you. Camping trips can be a great way to do this, with so much of the beautiful natural world to explore off the beaten path. Check out the dyrt website if you need inspiration on finding a great spot. You don’t have to be a pro, or have all the gear. Many outdoor and sporting goods stores will rent you everything you might need for the adventure. 
  • Go on a retreat - If you’ve been here a while, you know we host retreats that are focused on renewal and creating space in nature, away from distractions and devices. These experiences can be a powerful pattern interrupt, and help you return to daily life with more intention and mindfulness. Many spa or resort facilities have no device rules as well. 

Photo from Mindfulness Incubator Digital Detox & Renewal Retreat at KitFox

A Digital Detox can be helpful to resetting your boundaries with devices and distractions. Have you done a digital detox? Let us know about your experience, and what you found helpful!

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