In an era where we are more connected than ever digitally that is, we are actually extremely disconnected from ourselves. Whilst Covid personally, has allowed me precious time to reconnect with my teenage children, I recently realised that the connection I had neglected for so long was the one with myself. It sounds so self-centred and narcissistic doesn’t it, I mean thinking about selves before anyone else, just seems to un-natural. But, it is true when I say the most important person to be connected with is ourselves. Previously, I actually feel quite guilty, selfish even, for suggesting it. As a mother, wife, business owner, employee, entrepreneur, and the various other labels we carry, who is the person we put last, like me I bet for most you, it was or still is yourself. We continually without even realising it for most of us, neglect the all-important connection with ourselves.
It is not until our health, life events, circumstances or even the universe, if you believe in that concept , intervenes and lets us know, something’s not right. That’s when we take notice. You hear it time and time again, if you aren’t looking after yourself how can you look after others or put your oxygen mask on first. It is so very true; I’ve come to realise.
I’ve been on this journey of reuniting with myself for a while now. I had completely detached from so many things I was actually numb. I lost touch with what I enjoyed, my values, and of course, most disappointingly myself. As part of the journey I decided it was time for a digital detox. I shut down all my social media, put the auto reply on my outlook and got down to the business of reconnecting with myself. Scary as that was …
Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t think I had an unhealthy relationship with my devices. I certainly wasn’t anywhere near as bad as my kids, who were at the point of showering with their mobiles, I’m not even joking! It wasn’t until I stepped away from all technology that I realised, well maybe, I actually had a little bit of an issue, a smidgen, miniscule, microscopic, okay okay, “Hi my name is Kylie and I’m addicted to tech”. I admit I like to check social media before bed, I like to clear my inbox several times a day, I even started watching Tik Tok videos and wow that is time killer. I was even known to occasionally jump on first thing in the morning and check messages as well.
So, how hard was dumping all the tech stuff and going cold turkey on the digital actually going to be? Let’s start the process slowly, the first day I reached for my phone a few times out of habit and went straight to the facebook and Instagram apps, but quickly caught myself mid swipe. Honestly, I really didn’t miss it at all. I wondered a few times what everyone was up to, you see I was also in Sydney helping my son through isolation, so I was away from my normal routine.
I achieved so much more with my days. I read books, I listened to podcasts (educational ones), I walked, I practiced yoga and Pilates, I went to the gym, I laid in the sun and did nothing, I communicated with friends, some I hadn’t reached out to in a long time. I felt like life had magically slowed down, the frantic pace I self-inflicted upon myself eased, I felt the tight ball of tension and stress across my midsection slowly dissipating, I felt calmer and clearer than I had in years. I also slept better, was less restless and felt more relaxed each morning as the week went on.
Psychologically they have linked excessive social media usage to a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. While the light from the phones has been linked to negatively affecting your sleep patterns. Who hasn’t quickly scrolled through the feeds a few minutes before bed, only to have an hour or more pass in a blink. It’s no surprise to know that social media is actually addictive, it releases the chemical Dopamine in our brains, which makes us feel good. Researchers now suggest that the optimum amount of time consuming social media should be 30 minutes a day. Try telling that to our kids! I know right!
I also realised it wasn’t just social media I was struggling to detox from, it was also my beloved Mac Book and access 24/7 to my emails. I’m one of these people who likes the inbox to be empty at the end of every day, my team knows my mantra by heart, do it, delete it, or delegate it, do not defer it, unless you absolutely have no choice. So, for me setting the auto reply and knowing I wouldn’t be checking it for a whole seven days, did elevate my anxiety just a little. Everyone knew to call or text me for an emergency only. After the first 48 hours, I absolutely loved it, I have promised myself this needs to happen a lot more regularly. It also benefitted my team, their problem solving skills went next level and gave them a confidence boost as well.
Here are the top 3 benefits to a digital detox
1) Helps improve your mental health
As mentioned above the addictive nature of social media is leading to an increase in all sorts of mental health issues. Comparing yourself to the influencers is now believed to be responsible for an increase in eating disorders, comparing yourself to other successes is contributing to anxiety and depression by leaving us mere mortals continually feeling less than, and of course the light from the screens is causing sleep disorders. Surely this is one of the major benefits of dropping or reducing the digital?
2) Allows you to Reconnect with yourself
You’ve put yourself last for so long. Put down the phone and take a good long hard look at yourself, what is working, what isn’t working, why are you doing what you are doing, what would you rather be doing? Set the time aside and ask yourself some of the big questions that have been making you unhappy for a while. You’ll be surprised at what a fresh take you have on things, what new ideas you’ll come up with and what is actually upsetting or bothering you, now that you have given yourself the space to look at it.
3) Allows you to Reconnect with nature or the things you really love doing
Get out for bush walk, swim in the ocean, or simply lie in the sun and meditate, whatever your thing is or was get back to doing it again. Force yourself to remember how good it feels to be doing those things you’ve neglected because of your digital addiction.
Now I’m back to using my devices and digital detox was like a foreign concept. Let’s be honest, we aren’t going to be able to give up the tech or devices permanently. For me personally, they are essential for very specific reasons. I realised that social media served its purposes in my life, Facebook is great for connecting with family and friends all over the
world, whilst Instagram is an essential tool for business, I now stick to it for those purposes instead of mindless scrolling. I have managed to set a few rules or boundaries around my usage. I call this a Guide to Managing Digital after a Detox, you can download it on our Resources page. My journey from digital detox to reconnecting with myself again, has had a profound effect on my overall state of well-being, including my relationships with my family, peers and friends
I honestly came back energised, full of new ideas, mentally competent to deal with a few lingering issues, found a renewed love of Yoga and a spring in my step that was absent for the longest time. Be warned though, next digital detox I’m literally going off grid, where I actually can’t have access to any tech and no one can have access to me, a little cabin in the woods, a hut on a deserted beach, a rainforest retreat, I’ll keep you posted on that journey, that is if I ever decide to get back on the grid.
Guide to Managing Digital after a Detox
Turn off push notifications
Getting constant updates on what’s happening in the world is informative—but it can also be distracting. If you’re allowing yourself to get interrupted five times in a half an hour, you’re never actually focused. One easy fix is to turn off as many notifications as you can live without.
One reason our devices are so alluring is that they’re vibrant. Many smartphones now allow you to change the settings so the entire phone appears in Gray scale.
Restaurant are for eating and meeting
It’s a common sight at restaurants: a gleaming smartphone next to the dinner plate. Research shows that, even if we’re not checking our phone, simply having it on the table during a meal can reduce the quality of the interaction, our brains are just waiting for it to light up, and as a result, we are not fully present. The more energy we direct toward our devices, the less energy we’re directing toward whoever is in the room with us.
Designate tech-free hours
Many of us feel lost when we’re without our devices but taking breaks from technology can do wonders for our well-being. Start by designating a certain time each day that’s tech-free like after work or on a weekend, then expand it from there.
Make your bedroom a no-tech zone
Most people use their phone for an alarm clock, but when you reach for your phone to switch it off, it’s easy to start scrolling through news feeds. In fact, it’s best if you can leave your phone outside the bedroom at night and invest in an old fashioned alarm clock. If you’re getting cozy with your cell in bed, it’s less likely you’re getting cozy with your partner. Oh, and you’ll also sleep better. Screens’ blue light tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime, which makes it harder to drift off.
If you’ve ever noticed that reading a book feels more satisfying than reading a tablet, you’re not imagining things. Not only do books offer fewer distractions, but research suggests that when we read on paper, our minds process abstract information more effectively.
Limit yourself to one screen at a time
When we’re attempting to work or watch TV and we start scrolling through Instagram, our brains go a little haywire. Make a habit of only looking at one screen at a time to improve concentration, and, in most cases, enjoyment.
Spring clean your social media accounts
Facebook and Instagram help us to connect with people in unprecedented and truly gratifying ways. Research shows that the more time we spend on social media, the worse we feel. That’s not surprising, given the fact that we see only a heavily curated version of friends’ and celebrities’ lives, which can be toxic for self-esteem.
Delete apps you don’t use or need
Plenty of us feel addicted to our phones and for good reason. Checking our devices activates the reward circuitry in the brain, triggering the body to release a hit of the
“pleasure hormone” dopamine, which is exactly what happens when we gamble. Delete any apps that you no longer need or use.
Protect your body
The average American spends nearly half of every day staring at a screen, and sometimes our bodies pay a price. Necks and shoulders get stiff and sore, hamstring muscles shorten from sitting for long periods of time and our eyes are under constant strain, to name a few of the physical effects devices have on our bodies. Take regular breaks from your phone and computer, walk around, stand up more and get some fresh air.