Do you spend your workday in front of a computer screen, consult your phone multiple times an hour from the moment you wake up till your head hits the pillow at night, and spend a fair chunk of your leisure time watching TV or streaming content on your tablet?
Do you sometimes do all these things at once? Then you are at risk of digital burnout – and your tech habits could be making you sick.
As technology use becomes ever more ubiquitous and our smartphones accompany us everywhere we go – demanding our attention whenever we receive an email, text, tweet or status update from various friends – studies are showing just how toxic all the constant distraction and screen exposure can be.
The idea is to give yourself a complete break from screens of any kind for two days a week. The results, as Jo Formosa, the clinical director of Queensland wellness clinic Back2Health who devised this detox, promises, will surprise you.
“You feel calmer and at peace,” she says. “It allows your nervous system to slow down and relax. And it encourages you to be in the moment, giving you a lot more time and opportunity for thought and reflection.”
Here are some tips for kickstarting your 5:2 digital detox and sticking with it.
Prepare yourself for how it will feel to be without the devices you’ve come to rely on for so many things, like appointment reminders and weather checks. Also map out any travel routes (no Google maps!) and take care of all your online banking and bill-paying in advance.
That means family, friends and co-workers. Advise them ahead of time that you’ll be offline on your chosen days so they don’t get worried. Write a post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too, so your whole social sphere knows you’re taking a break from technology, and that they should not expect to hear back from you until your detox time is up.
Turn off all notifications, including texts, apps and email. Don’t use your phone as a clock – get an alarm clock and start wearing a watch again (but not a smartwatch). And if you have kids, ask them not to text you during your time-out unless it’s an emergency. This will not only give you a break from interruptions, it will teach your children to solve their problems themselves.
Plan some genuine ‘face time’ with friends and family. Head outdoors for a hike, a bike ride or a picnic. Ask those around you to put their phones away, too, to make it like a game. You might even inspire them to try a tech detox, and maybe on the same days, so you can all have some downtime.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even spending just a half-day tech free is better than nothing; you are still making progress.