Why now is a good time for a digital detox

With ‘stay at home’ a key mantra of 2020, giving up devices might be the last thing on your mind. But it could be just the thing you need.

As we increasingly use technology in almost every aspect of our lives, digital dependency is becoming more prevalent.

That reliance has intensified amid coronavirus lockdowns, with Australians turning to technology for working, learning, socialising and even exercising.

But mental health advocate and author Jas Rawlinson says it is also a good time to step back from our screens.

“Nothing in excess is ever healthy and that goes for social media and technology as well,” she says.

And if the thought of giving up screen time leaves you in a cold sweat, there is good news – a digital detox doesn’t have to mean giving up technology altogether.

Our ever-growing digital obsession: Why it’s an issue

Jas says most of us rely on technology for our personal and professional lives, which can make it difficult to switch off and allow our minds to truly relax.

“Our addictions to screen time and technology have a huge impact on our ability to focus. Recent studies have shown that a person’s average online screen attention span is just 40 seconds,” she says.

“Excess technology use overstimulates our minds, causing a flood in dopamine, and as a result, we find ourselves in a constant state of distraction as we search for our next pleasure hit.”

In some cases, excessive digital technology use can lead to serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and gaming disorder.

Jas says digital detoxes can improve concentration, sleep and focus, and bring a calmer, less anxious state of mind.

How to do a digital detox

While getting away from technology completely would be ideal, it’s not always possible if you use it for work or study.

“Thankfully, we can still improve our mental wellbeing without going completely cold turkey,” says Jas.

“I took a week-long digital detox to help recover from severe emotional burnout and I was really surprised at how quickly my mental wellbeing bounced back after just a few days without screen time.”

Try a partial detox

Set aside key times each day or week to avoid your devices.

“Taking a digital detox can be as simple as setting aside a certain day per week to go tech free, and instead, focusing on less stimulating activities such as reading, gardening, crafting or exercising,” she says.

Keep tabs on your screen time

Adjust your smartphone settings to monitor or restrict your daily screen time.

“Even something as small as cutting out screen time an hour before bed and having one day each week that you go tech free can really improve your mental and physical wellbeing,” says Jas.

Find things to do instead of using technology

“Right now I’m really big on gratitude journaling in the morning, and ‘brain dumping’ in the evening, which is another word for journaling. It’s a really powerful way to decrease stress and anxiety, give your mind a chance to wander and imagine and to take stock of the things that are going well in your life,” says Jas.

Hands-on activities like board games, baking, painting, sketching and clay making are great ways to keep busy and reignite your creativity.

Figure out how to make your detox last

Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer says creating a healthy relationship with technology means creating an online world that best benefits your mental wellbeing.

“If we have a healthy approach to begin with, then we’re far less likely to encounter problematic internet use and excessive use,” says Jocelyn, founder of Digital Nutrition.

“Take ownership of how you consume digital media and reign yourself in if it’s having a negative effect on your wellbeing.”

Written by Charlotte Brundrett.