We hear it constantly: screen time is bad, phone snubbing and digital dependency are rampant and we’re all growing apart due to this annoying and seemingly unstoppable desire to update, check updates and view just one more Snapchat.
It’s conventional wisdom, sure, but how do we get started on a “digital detox” when we are pretty much addicted to our phones, tablets or computers? Just like most things in life, we need to start small and if needed, get help.
We spoke with Debbie Lancto, a Health and Wellness Champion with Avera Health Plans, and she recommended baby-steps approaches with a bit of regular “time away” periods from the screen, but she said it can take a few tries, just like any form of behavioral modification.
“It can be like dieting, where keeping a screen-use journal for a few days or weeks, just to get an idea about how much time you’re spending on social media, email and other chores that go along with phones/tablets,” she said. “If you’re on Facebook all day, consider dialing it back to a morning check-in, and then perhaps again in the evening. Call that enough.”
Another method that can help is returning to old-fashion means of communication. It may seem trite, but writing notes with a pen and paper, or reading a book with a nightlight – versus reading blue-lit screens for an hour before sleeping – can boost your rest and give you a break.
“Reminders are a great way to build new habits, and it can be as easy as putting it on a wall calendar,” she said. “Perhaps it’s the whole family and it’s Wednesday nights. Mark it down! Have that be a device-free evening. If you’re doing it for yourself, pick a phone-free day.”
Lancto said, sure, there can be exceptions, especially if you’re a no-landline family. But setting aside the devices and sticking to it is just a start. “Once you’ve set a time or day, stick with it, and then see how you feel afterwards,” she said. “Measuring how it made you feel, whether or not you had more conversations or slept better – all of those things are keys. Like a diet, you want to see results in lost pounds or inches.”
With a digital detox, she said, you’re looking for quality of life changes, and they could be as simple as disconnecting from email or powering your phone all the way to “OFF” before retiring for the night.
“Many of us suffer from email overload, or feel we cannot be out of the loop for even a few minutes, let alone a few hours,” she said. “In many cases, this isn’t true. Try setting a time of day that is solely for email. Stick to it and see if it helps you feel more productive or less stressed.”
Reducing screen-time can be rewarding, but in the end, it’s up to you to seek out the changes that best fit your lifestyle.
“Sometimes we have to relearn the things we did before we were constantly looking down at a screen. That sort of learning can be fun,” she said. “Don’t look at it like a chore, but as a chance to feel better, get better rest and to be active and engaged in the now, instead of distracted.”