Smartphones allow us to communicate instantly, work anywhere, and find out anything any time. Technology has certainly transformed our lives, but is it always a good thing?
Leading neuroscientist Susan Greenfield warns that digital overload can impact our brains, affecting the way we think and how we interact with others. Constant distraction from endless posts/messages and our need to respond immediately, mean we are developing short attention spans, poorer communication skills and lower empathy. Our obsession with monitoring other people’s lives, recording every moment of our own and craving social approval means we constantly feel judged, and it’s making us more fragile.
Greenfield advises that we should reconnect with real life and not get lost in a digital world that can harm our brain development. We all need an occasional break from technology, so if you feel it’s time to log off, try these practical tips – you’ll soon discover that a digital detox can be good for the soul.
1.Set strict boundaries
Try limiting phone use to working hours only. The key is to plan ahead: during commutes or downtime, pick up a newspaper or read a book. Listen to the radio to wind down before sleep. If your hands are itching to scroll, grab a Rubik's Cube or make to-do lists and doodle on a notepad… made of paper… with an ink pen.
2. Lights out
Blue light emitted by screens suppresses melatonin production, a hormone that's essential for restful sleep. Buy an alarm clock to wake you up and try to keep your bedroom a screen-free zone; at least set your phone to nightshift mode (with blue light filters) or hide it in your sock drawer.
3. Switch off
Ditch flashing lights and annoying noises: turn off push notifications for all your social apps - anything that sends an alert for a comment, likes, or a tag. If someone really needs you, they will call.
Delete social media apps from your phone; you can still access them via your desktop or tablet, but this is all about discouraging mindless scrolling through newsfeeds when you're bored. Viewing 'airbrushed' lives of others is guaranteed to make you feel rubbish, and notifications are heavily addictive, so refuse to play the game. Give yourself a break!
5. Swap FOMO for JOMO
Research suggests that limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day can lead to a significant improvement in wellbeing. So swap FOMO for JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) - a practice promoted by Randi Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg's sister). Phone a friend, meet a mate, enjoy some real human interaction.
6. Be better company
When you're with friends, really be with them. Put your mobile away.
Having your phone beside you is a subliminal time bomb - it tells everyone you'll be picking it up as soon as a notification interrupts, it suggests they are less important, and basically it's just rude.
7. Eat together
Susan Greenfield explains that as well as building relationships, thinking and talking while you're eating stimulates the senses and anchors you in the present moment (rather than just letting your mind wander). So whether you cook together or takeaway, enjoy food with friends and family… with no mobiles on the table.
8. Get out and about
Switch off your phone, then borrow a dog or join a friend for an invigorating walk. Natural surroundings benefit mental health, exercise stimulates the brain and is great for the body, plus fresh air is good for you… it ticks a lot of boxes.
9. Tech-free entertainment
Make a list of things you enjoy that don't involve technology - then go and do them: visit a gallery, see a play, cook up a feast, go for a drive, start a new hobby, or totally relax and do absolutely nothing…
10. No need to become a recluse
Designate a short window each day for responding to calls and messages from friends and family. Choose to call rather than message people - it will make both of you happier to talk.
So go tech-less! Think. Talk. Laugh. Have fun - enjoy a digital detox.
Find out here how actress Nancy managed a totally screen-free week, and why she’d definitely do it again.
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