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How to do a digital detox

On average we spend more time online than we do asleep

With increasing evidence that being overloaded with information can cause stress, we need to develop more sustainable digital behaviours.

In this guide, we suggest some techniques to help bring your digital habits into better balance, which can lead to less stress, improved wellbeing and healthier relationships.

Statistic noting how often people check their phone
Source: Ofcom

Our phone is often the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night. 

We use the internet to work, relax, shop, be entertained, find information and talk to people at any time, from anywhere. Being in this hyper-connected state means we have less time for ourselves and find it hard to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Start with a digital audit

    Our phones, computers and tablets are designed to demand our attention, but it can still be a surprise to see how much time we spend on them. Recognising this reliance can be a strong motivator for developing healthier digital routines.

    Use a tool like Screen Time or the Moment app to show you how much time you're spending on your phone and set daily time limits for apps.

  • Set yourself some goals

    We all have goals or ambitions that we’d like to pursue, but they come second to the pressures of work and home life. Spending less time online creates more time for yourself, and more thinking space.

    Write down some realistic goals – like checking your phone less, staying off Facebook for a few days a week, putting your phone away when eating. See how you feel after a week and then think about introducing new goals.
  • Reduce your screen time

    Every time you want to pull out your phone, ask yourself why. This impulse is often a result of trying to avoid something or looking for distraction. Understanding this compulsion will help you change your behaviour.

    Leave your phone in your bag at work, and in another room at home - knowing it’s not within reach will help your attention stay on the task at hand. Start small by choosing set times to disconnect, like at the dinner table or during your commute, and leave your phone at home while going out for short trips.

    When you're feeling more comfortable being disconnected, try a screen-free day or weekend. You might feel a bit aimless or uncomfortable at first, but removing digital distractions will help you reconnect with others and give your overloaded brain a break.
  • Connect in person

    It’s easy to think that using social media make us more connected, but be careful - heavy social media users are twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated. Studies have shown a link between social media use and anxiety and depression, but also suggests that staying off Facebook increases life satisfaction at the same time decreasing stress and loneliness.

    Put down your phone when you’re with friends and family. Use social media time to plan your real-life social interactions – don’t use it instead of them.
  • Practice mindfulness

    Mindfulness asks you to focus on and acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings, and to be aware of what’s happening immediately around you. It’s a way to take a break from the constant stream of information we receive every day, reduce stress and reflect on your day. 
    Use your free moments to practice being mindful and present rather than relying on your phone to fill that time.
  • Improve your sleep habits

    Lots of us watch TV online in the evenings to relax or clear our inboxes before bed. However, the blue light emitted by screens has been shown to undermine the quality of our sleep.

    Experts recommend spending two hours before bed away from digital devices, so plan screen-free time in the evenings to wind down. Reduce the brightness and change the tint of your screens at night.

    Use an analogue alarm clock and keep your phone away from your bed overnight to get a better night's sleep.   

Tip: Don’t try to change all your digital habits at once. Focus on one thing at a time, like limiting your time on social media, and build from there.

Establishing healthier digital behaviours is an ongoing process.

Being less connected might make you anxious or uncomfortable at first, but having some boundaries in place will help you experience the benefits of the technology without the downsides.

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