We interrupt real life every 6 and a ½ minutes to get online. With most of us working from home at the moment it’s becoming increasingly difficult to limit our times behind or on a screen. For all the amazing ways technology now brings us together, there’s enough evidence that warns us not to overdo it – from the strain it has on your physical well-being to your psychological well-being. As today’s “new reality” continues to take its toll on our mental health, there has never been a better time to learn how to be kind to ourselves and show ourselves some love. Want to feel more present in the moment? Looking to truly reconnect with friends and family? Hoping to recharge a bit and to boost your creativity? We give you 6 ways to help you reconnect with real life.
The benefits of switching off – literally and figuratively – are backed by science. Exposure to blue light during daytime hours helps us maintain healthy circadian rhythms — this is our body’s natural wake and sleep cycle. But too much blue light from our devices interferes with our melatonin levels, disrupting our quality of sleep, causing wakeful nights and daytime fatigue. It’s not just our brains that are overloaded; our bodies, too, are suffering. Have you ever felt neck pain from staring at your screen? Eye strain? Hearing loss? That’s your body calling out for a tech break. There’s no better time than right now to practice some self-care and self-kindness.
Being present and focusing on the real world around you, and your family and friends, will significantly improve your quality of life. A digital detox can mean going cold turkey on the modern world for a set period of time, and while that is a really good thing to do from time to time, what’s more realistic is to factor detox strategies into your everyday routine. From forming more meaningful bonds and improving your night’s rest to eating healthier and learning to leave work stress behind in the online world, there are plenty of reasons to limit that screen time.
1. Set realistic goals
Just like any major lifestyle change, long-term success is best achieved in small steps. Think of your iPad as a cupcake. If you deprive yourself entirely, you’re setting yourself up for a major binge. Try allowing yourself a certain amount of time online per day, not counting your work hours, and try decreasing that amount over weeks and months.
2. Have an experience, don’t post about it
Before social media, we enjoyed things without worrying that all of our friends and family needed to know about them. Think about it: does the online community have a burning desire to see the avocado toast you’re about to eat? Put down your smartphone at brunch and just savour the flavour, or head off into nature and explore.
3. Turn off notifications
Who ever said you had to be on call 24/7? Is it in your job description, are you a doctor? Unless you’re saving the world or saving lives, keep reminding yourself that people don’t require a response from you within 5 seconds. They can afford to wait a little. If it’s urgent, there’s always the option to call you. So, turn off notifications completely and plan 3-4 moments during your day to check your email/Slack/Microsoft Teams and social media apps. No more! Or, if this feels like it’d be too much for you, or your work would really suffer, just turn off push notifications. This way you’ll still get to see the red numbers on an app, but you won’t receive a notification, and you can decide for yourself if it requires immediate reaction.
4. Go retro in the bedroom
According to Harvard Medical School’s online publication, the light emitted from screens before bedtime disrupts our circadian rhythm and melatonin production, resulting in poorer sleep. Instead of using your smartphone as your alarm, leave it in another room. After all, you can’t check Instagram on an old-fashioned alarm clock.
5. Make it a family affair
It’s easier to form good habits when the people around you do it as well. Next time you sit down to dinner, collect all the phones and set them in the middle of the table. The first person who reaches for theirs before the meal is over is responsible for doing the dishes.
6. Give a real-life compliment
Speaking of Facebook, remember when you actually had to speak to a person to congratulate them rather than just clicking on an icon of a thumb? Rather than clicking “like,” why not plan a date to go for a walk with a loved one or close friend? Take this moment to talk to them properly and show them how much they mean to you. The personal interaction will do you both a world of good.
Making the decision to be practice kindness in your life by engaging in self-care and treating yourself with the compassion you would a friend or family member can be incredibly powerful. Nobody is telling you to give up technology cold turkey, but limiting your online life will benefit not just you and your happiness, but those around you as well. Next time you’re out with friends, try talking to them instead of your Instagram followers—posting all the juicy gossip can wait until you get home.