It’s tough to get away from the digitals in this day and age, but we spoke to the experts about the benefits of unplugging and how to do it
From the minute we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we’re surrounded by screens. In fact, a recent study by Nottingham Trent University revealed that the average Brit checks their device 85 times a day, spending a total of five hours browsing the internet and using apps, which adds up to around a third of the time a person is awake! But, with a poll stating that 62 percent of Britons hate how much time they spend on their phones, it seems we’re not necessarily happy about our electronic addiction. So, is it time to switch off? We’ve delved into the matter with the help of wellness experts.
There are a few questions to ask yourself before embarking on a detox. Are you frustrated at the amount of time you spend online, without accomplishing anything else? Do you rarely read an article from beginning to end? Does your partner, children or friends complain that they never have your full attention? If you answered yes to any of these, taking a screen break could be something to consider. By ‘disconnecting’ yourself, you’ll find that you connect better in person. For example, if you usually listen to music or an audiobook when you take a walk, try forgoing the headphones and see if you meet new friends on your daily path. Without a device at your fingertips, you’ll also be able to focus more on the task at hand, whether that be at work or at home, and your mental wellbeing could improve – the internet, smartphones and social media have all been linked with depression and anxiety. Another great benefit of logging off is that your sleep cycle should get better – electronic devices emit blue light that can interfere with your circadian rhythm, telling your brain that it’s daytime and disrupting your slumber.
Going without your digitals can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be impossible and the key is to start small. “It’s amazing what a difference just one day off from being constantly connected can make.
You get a sense of having time for things, and being able to think without constant interruptions,” explains Frances Booth, author of The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World. Not sure if you can do a whole day? “A good first test is whether or not you can go to the corner shop without your smartphone,” says Frances. The next step is to give yourself a usage limit. “Commit to a certain amount of screen time per day. Set a timer if you have to,” advises Larah Davis, wellness coach and founder of Ibiza Retreats (ibizaretreats.com).
There are other lifestyle changes you can make to avoid the gadgets, too. “Take time out daily to ‘unplug’ and go for a walk in nature, do some mediation, stretch or attend a yoga or other fitness class,” Larah adds. “Rather than switching on the TV at night, pick up a book that you’ve been meaning to read for ages but never seem to find the time to do so.”
It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest using apps to help with a digital detox, but there are some great ones available that are really beneficial. Firstly, you could download Moment (free, itunes.co.uk), which will tell you how much time you spend on your phone, how many hours you use it, how often you pick it up and suggest ways to reduce usage. For the next step, try ShutApp (free, itunes.co.uk), which allows you to set a time for how long you don’t want to use your phone for and effectively shuts it down. It’ll notify you if you look at it before the time is up.
While you’re embarking on a detox, why not get the kids to do it too? We realise this may not be the easiest of tasks, so we asked Mette Theilmann, founder of Parenting Success (parentingsuccesscoaching.com) for her top tips. “Don’t be afraid to set rules to control screen time and be prepared to manage it,” she advises. “Remember that you’re your children’s role model, so if you can’t disconnect, how can you expect them to do so? You could create a family gadget agreement and weekly screen planner – for example no phones or devices at dinner time, or during family time. Use incentives when they manage to balance their screen time and take each individual child’s personality into account to ensure that the plan is suitable for everyone.”
If you’re struggling to tear yourself away from the screens, consider taking a break from your day-to-day life. “People need to find a place that is free from external pressures, allowing them to unplug from the mainframe and reconnect with themselves,” says Larah. “This can be achieved by going on a retreat where digital devices are left at the door.” At Larah’s Ibiza escapes, guests receive the help of disciplines such as yoga, health conscious cooking, mindfulness and meditation to help them find their way back into their physical bodies and the present moment. If you’re looking for somewhere a little closer to home, Time To Log Off (itstimetologoff.com) offers digital detox retreats in various locations in the UK and abroad.
Leave the devices behind and go screen-free with these easy swaps
Forget setting an intrusive wake-up alarm on your phone – the Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 will help you to wake up naturally with its slowly increasing light. It’ll let you set a healthy sleep cycle and leave you feeling refreshed. £59.95 lumie.com
Get organised this summer by switching your tablet’s diary function for a more old-fashioned, but pretty diary – we like this mint green leather one from Kikki-K that’s great for when you’re on-the-go. £24, kikki-k.com
Instead of sending a text to your friend, why not send a letter instead? It’ll show how much you care, make you feel good and it can be kept forever. Keep in contact and make every word count with these cute Katie Leamon bee postcards. £9.50, selfridges.com
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