Digital Detox: How to Unplug and Be Present

Have you ever been looking at your phone and realized that you didn’t remember WHY or WHEN you took it out of your pocket? This is just one symptom of screen addiction, a real condition that has doctors worried. Screen addiction can alter our brains in unhealthy ways, causing decreased impulse control, boosted anxiety, and a dopamine response gone haywire [1]. 

A digital detox can get those electronic jitters out of your system, making it easier to concentrate and enjoy the moment. Not only that, but less screen time may also improve your posture and protect your vision. Don’t worry; we aren’t suggesting you go cold turkey! Here are a few ways to get your screen addiction under control and gain a renewed appreciation for the non-digital parts of your life. 

Track Your Screen Time

To get your screen time under control, you need to know how much time you spend on your devices. This includes your TV, computer, phone, and tablet. For the average American, it’s about 8.5 hours per day (that’s a lot!) [2].

Android and Apple devices come with screen time apps pre-installed, which allow you to easily track usage across all your devices. Here’s how to locate them:

  • Android: Go to Settings and select Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls
  • Apple/iOS: View System Preferences and select Screen Time

Once you know how much screen time you log, you can set goals to reduce it. Experts recommend less than 2 hours per day of non work-related screen time [3]. 

Make a Schedule 

Make a screen schedule to help you cut back on hours.

Start by blocking off the parts of your schedule when you absolutely need your devices. This probably includes work, but it might also include the day your favorite show is on. Once you’ve done this, schedule screen-free time in the parts of your schedule when you won’t need to be connected.

When should you NOT use your devices? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t watch TV every day. Block a few evenings off from screens and you could reduce 6-12 hours of screen time per week.
  • Stop using screens 1.5 hours before bed. This will help you sleep better and reduce your screen time by over 10 hours a week.
  • Don’t use screens during meals. This can help you to bond with family or roommates while reducing screen time by 5 hours a week. 

Take Breaks

Unbroken screen time at work or in front of the TV can damage your eyes and boost the negative effects of screen addiction, such as stress and jitters. Doctors recommend taking a 5-10 minute break for every hour of screen time [4]. You don’t need to head to the break room or shut down your computer to take a break. Just turn your screens away and take a gander at the real world. 

To protect your eyes from the harmful effects of screens, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds during each break. This can help prevent blurred vision, redness, itching, and headaches [5]. If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, you should also take an eye health supplement to support your vision. Your eyes need nutrients to stay strong. If you strain them every day, they may need an extra boost of vitamins, minerals and targeted nutrients in order to keep them as healthy as possible. 

Keep Screens Out of the Bedroom

It’s super comforting to cuddle under the covers with your phone, but it can ruin your sleep and make mornings more stressful. The light from your phone can confuse your body clock and hormonal cycle, making your brain think it's daytime when it’s really time to sleep. This can also cause you to have an energy crash in the afternoon. Studies have found that smartphones can even cause insomnia [6].

Make your bedroom a screen-free zone—that means no phones on your nightstand and no TV. Use an old-school alarm clock and put your phone in a different room to avoid temptation. This will help press the reset button on your body clock. It will reduce the stimulation your brain receives before bed, allowing you to unwind and sink into restful sleep. 

Plan Screen-free Activities

What is life like without screens? Does anyone remember?

Simply cutting back your screen time won’t do any good if you don’t replace that time with something else. If you’re ditching TV, read a book. If you’re giving up a lazy Sunday on the sofa with your phone, plan a hike. Choose activities that don’t require any electronics and you won’t miss your screens.

One of the best activities is to go to dinner or drinks with friends, or to play a board game with family. You might just find that socializing is far superior to social media! Another idea is to take up a new hobby or sport. When you free up an extra 15 hours a week, you’ll be able to do all those things you’ve been meaning to get to. 

A digital detox isn’t about being anti-screens. There are a lot of reasons why our devices are good for us. A digital detox is about balancing your digital life with your real life to maximize your wellbeing. If your screens leave you feeling stressed and unfulfilled, try a few of the above tips to rebalance and find peace in the present moment.


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