Digital Detox – reconnecting with the self

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Did you know that, on average UK adults spend more time on screens a day than they do sleeping. UK children spend 6.5 hours a day on screens. In 2016, a study estimated that we tap, swipe and click on our devices 2,617 times each day.

Now this blog post is not about screens being good or bad. It’s about reflecting on how we spend our time and connect to ourselves and others. People focusing on their phones instead of each other is often a common sight when we go out and about, and I’ve been guilty of it as much as others. Habit I believe does play a role – we often don’t even realise how much we are using screens to pass the time.

Digital detox is about shutting off all forms of media, and so reconnecting with ourselves and others. It can be done any time, anywhere. There’s a school of thought that suggests anything we can’t go 7 days without using may count as an addiction. When I did my first digital detox two years ago I assumed I would find it easy, but within just 1 day I was already hankering for my phone. I was so surprised that something so simple was so difficult, and I decided to make detox a regular practice.

The powerful thing about digital detox for me is that it removes distractions. By doing this, it forces me to reconnect with what I’m thinking, feeling, and experiencing in the now. I begin to learn about myself again, rather than worrying about a digital projection. Feeling bored, sad, or angry? I can explore the feeling: how it feels in my mind, and body, and where it may have come from. It reintegrates me with the environment and those around me. There’s an authenticity and power about living in the moment, present with all our experiences. There’s been a multitude of books on the subject, too, which I would highly recommend (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle immediately springs to mind).

So I encourage everyone out there to go without their screens for just 24 hours. Some tips to help you with this are:

  • Start small and consider what is realistic for you. Even going without media input for one hour is a big step in the right direction.  If you work with screens then choosing a digital detox in these hours is not a good idea!
  • If you choose to go for a longer period consider informing family/friends this is the case. If you’re often in regular contact with them they may worry if this suddenly stops. They’ll also know not to contact you, removing that temptation.
  • If meeting with others during your detox consider whether they may be using screens, for whatever reason, and how this may make you feel. When starting off, it’s best to remove as much temptation as possible, though equally you don’t want to tell others to put their screens down because you are.
  • Consider making it a regular practice, e.g. everyday (or every other) not using screens between 9 and 10pm.
  • Be kind to yourself and your experiences. If you don’t manage to go for as long as you’d planned consider why that was the case, and include your learning in your next detox.
  • Try and be present with what experiences arise. Anxiety, fear, restlessness may all come up, or you may feel happy to have some personal time. Whatever comes up for you allow that feeling to be there. Be curious about it, explore it.
  • Be wary of excuses (I’ll just use this app because it doesn’t count). Trust me, they’ll come up!
  • Try to choose a time where you can also relax, especially to start with. Maybe consider how you will fill your detox time, and try to have space for you to be with yourself. If you trade one distraction for another you may not benefit as much. Whatever you choose to do instead (and nothing counts as something to do!) try to be as present with your experiences and environment as possible.

I’m writing this blog post both as a suggestion and an explanation. For the next six days I am having a digital detox, so I won’t be able to respond to messages, e-mails, or anything that involves screen use until the 10th March. I will of course respond to messages when I return, but this is why there won’t be an immediate response. I’m looking forward to the reconnection, and I encourage you all to give it a try for yourselves. The results may surprise you.