Five-step guide to digital detox

When smartphones first came into our lives, we believed that they would improve our efficiency, save time and help de-stress. We believed that emails, instant messaging and social media would make us more connected. Little did we realize that with the proliferation of technology, we would also find ourselves more stressed and always on the go. It’s not uncommon to have hundreds, if not thousands of “friends” on our social media. Yet, we are perhaps even more lonely than we’ve ever been before.

It’s easy to lose ourselves in our gadgets. Our computers and smartphones are our one-stop destination for entertainment, news, games, learning new skills or even our relationships. Take a minute’s pause and you find your hand immediately straying to your mobile device; it’s become second nature. Many a time, even in the absence of notifications, you’d find yourself opening the same applications over and over, hoping for a text, a new image or a news update.

As we become increasingly mindless in our scrolling, it’s time for us to take a step back and recalibrate.

1) Become mindful of usage – Become cognisant of your use of gadgets. It’s not unusual for our cell phone to be the first thing we look at when waking up and the last thing before we sleep. Try to think back of how much you actually remember of all the images or posts you came across, what stayed with you and how meaningfully you spent that time. Using indicators that reflect the amount of time spent on each app may also be helpful.

2) Switch off – Don’t catastrophize your brief absence from the online world. Create boundaries between work and personal time. Learn to switch off your gadgets after a certain time of the day or when participating in certain recreational activities.

3) Prioritize offline relationships – Emojis and gifs have taken over from words and emotional expression. Whenever possible, prioritize meeting people in person. When the constraints of distance come in, pick video and phone calls over texts.

4) Reclaim your hobbies – Growing up we all played a sport, enjoyed creative arts or had some interests we wanted to spend time with. Yet, ask an adult what their hobbies are and more often than not you’re going to receive a bemused look. Movies, shows, video games and scrolling content have taken over our recreational time. As you try to move away from virtual reality into lived reality, re-engage with life. Reclaim the activities you once enjoyed – it could be playing a board game with family, going for a walk with a friend, or dancing to some music. Learning new skills can also be a great way to keep yourself mindfully engaged.

5) Try a digital detox – Here’s a challenge I give to a lot of young people I meet – spend four hours without any gadgets (while awake and not in school of course). But this isn’t a challenge for young people alone. Let’s all take a digital detox challenge once a week – you’ll be amazed at what all the real world has to offer.

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