Technology has become intertwined with our daily lives, and while the digital age has brought about many conveniences, it has also been linked to a host of mental health issues. Constant exposure to social media, emails, and notifications can overwhelm us, resulting in stress, anxiety, and depression. Are you looking for ways to improve your mental health and well-being? Consider a digital detox.
I know you may be thinking that is impossible during the holiday season, but what better way to be present with friends and family in a season that is often swept away by the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Let’s discuss the mental health benefits of taking a break from technology and how this break can significantly improve your mental clarity, mood, and relationships.
My digital detox challenge
About a year ago, my son Brian gave me a digital detox challenge, and let me tell you, it was not as easy as I thought it would be. He was going to the hospital for five days of epilepsy testing, and he asked me not to check my email while I was there. The only exception was if our family needed updates on how he was doing.
“I bet you can’t do it, Mom,” Brian smirked, clearly underestimating my willpower. “You’re going to break in a couple of days, and the challenge starts right now.”
Secretly, I knew he was onto something. I had become so dependent on technology that even the thought of disconnecting for a few days filled me with trepidation. But I was determined to prove him wrong.
As I settled into the hospital room, I found myself tempted to reach for my phone countless times throughout the day. It seemed that every minute brought a new urge to check my email, browse the internet, or succumb to the constant notifications from various social media platforms. The challenge was even more challenging because I hadn’t informed anyone about my detox experiment.
Surprisingly, my creativity increased amid my anxiety, and I rediscovered the fun of reading aloud. I picked up a book in the gift shop about places to go and things to do before you die. First of all, who would put such a grim title in a hospital? Nevertheless, it made us laugh and extend our thoughts to faraway places. Without screens to check, we had endless conversations. We played games, traded off watching movies on his computer, and played cards. Our conversations were deep, and as time passed, I could tell I was happier without being connected to my laptop. I received constant praise and mockery from my son that I was achieving my goal. Still, more importantly, I noticed how I felt better despite being in a stressful hospital environment.
On the last day of the challenge, I was excited to be home and sleep in my own bed. It was a relief that Brian’s testing revealed his seizure activity had decreased. Reflecting on my digital detox, I felt noticeably calmer being away from my computer. My biggest takeaway was the amount of time I mindlessly passed on my phone, computer, or tablet. The technology is addicting, but ultimately, I choose to manage it.
Little changes can make a big difference. My swaps and tricks were reading a book in paperback instead of audio or ebook, engaging with others for entertainment instead of TV, darkening my screen after a specific time, and putting on an alarm to monitor necessary screen time. I’m still holding this pattern to this day. I am fully aware of the desire to go back to my old ways, but my biggest deterrent is remembering the joy in my son’s eyes at the hospital when we fully enjoyed each moment together.
Now that you know my digital detox story, let’s discuss the benefits more.
Studies have shown that excessive screen time is linked to depression and anxiety symptoms. A digital detox can help improve our mood by reducing our exposure to negative news, social media pressure, and comparison culture. Disconnecting from technology can help us reconnect with ourselves and our surroundings, allowing us to be present in the moment and find joy in our daily lives.
I have always found it to be a balancing act between disconnecting from the pain others feel in the world and brainless scrolling. Finding a balance can be very individual, but I have found that I still very much want to know what is happening around me in the world but do so with limits so that I can remain present with those around me.
Being constantly connected can take a toll on our stress levels, making it difficult for us to unwind and relax. A digital detox can help us switch off and focus on self-care. Instead of responding to emails and notifications, we can take up activities like meditation, exercise, or reading, which have been linked to stress reduction.
Digital devices emit blue light, which can disrupt our circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep quality. A digital detox can help improve our sleep by reducing our exposure to blue light and allowing us to disconnect from technology before bedtime. Instead of scrolling through social media, we can read a book, take a relaxing bath, or practice mindfulness exercises to help us wind down and prepare for sleep.
A constant stream of notifications can distract us from important tasks and lower our productivity levels. A digital detox can help us increase our focus and productivity by removing distractions and allowing us to concentrate on our goals and priorities. Without the constant urge to check emails and social media, we can focus on our work and complete tasks in a shorter amount of time.
In today’s digital age, it’s easy to become disconnected from our loved ones. A digital detox can help us reconnect with the people around us, improving our social relationships and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Instead of spending time on social media, we can spend time with our family and friends, creating stronger bonds and memories.
In summary, a digital detox can have immense mental health benefits. From improved mood to increased productivity to stronger relationships, taking a break from technology can help us live happier and healthier lives. It doesn’t have to be an extreme measure; even small changes like reducing screen time before bed or setting aside a digital-free hour each day can make a significant difference. Give yourself the gift of a break from digital distractions, and see the positive effects on your mood, relationships, and overall well-being.