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What Are the Benefits of a Digital Detox?

From keeping up to date on the latest news to staying connected with our friends and family, electronic devices and social media use has many benefits. However, it’s important to take regular breaks from looking at a screen all the time.

In fact, excessive digital device usage can lead to mental and physical health symptoms, such as increased anxiety or headaches. That’s why taking regular digital detoxes or social media detoxes is so important, to help your mind and body relax.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to throw away your phones and laptops – we know they’re essential in an increasingly digital world. Instead, we’ll look at how you can tailor a digital detox to your lifestyle, talking through the benefits of a social media detox.

What is a digital detox?

Sometimes referred to as a technology detox, a digital detox looks to reduce the amount of time we spend looking at screens per day. Instead, digital detoxification encourages us to focus on the world outside, in-person communication, and non-digital forms of entertainment, such as reading books or taking long walks.

Similarly, you can also try a social media detox. The premise is pretty much the same as a digital or technology detox, except you are looking at cutting back on social media specifically, minimising time spent on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

What are the benefits of a digital detox?

If you’re still a little unsure whether you want to try a digital detox for yourself, take a look at the different mental and physical health benefits you could enjoy, below:

6 signs you may need a digital detox

If you do start to notice any of the following signs, it might be worth trying out a social media cleanse or a digital detox:

  • You’re struggling to concentrate.
  • You find it difficult to complete day-to-day tasks.
  • You feel a compulsion to check social media apps.
  • You’re experiencing obsessive thoughts about social media apps.
  • You’re having difficulty sleeping or getting to sleep.
  • You feel anxious when you’re away from electronic devices.

While it may be difficult to remove yourself from social media and going about your day looking at no screens may seem impossible, it’s important to take that first step to prioritise your health.

How do I take a digital detox?

While taking a digital detox can be tricky in an increasingly digital world, there are a few steps you can take to make it easier and ensure it works for you.

1. Take time away from screens

Taking regular breaks from looking at screens is a great way to get to grips with a digital detox.

Of course, some jobs involve spending a good portion of time looking at a screen, but outside of those hours, it is best to limit screen time to two hours per day. For any children, try creating ‘tech-free zones’, areas of the house where smartphones and the like are off limits – such as in bedrooms or dining areas.

If you’re struggling with a digital detox yourself, try turning your phone off and leaving it in a drawer for an hour or two when you get home. You can also limit the number of phone notifications to only ones deemed essential for you, helping you avoid too many distracting pings.

2. Make a plan that works for you

For your digital detox to work, it’s important to create a bespoke plan that can accommodate for your work-life balance.

For example, it is best to avoid screens at least two hours before you go to bed and establishing a routine bedtime that works for your schedule can make this easier to manage. Furthermore, if you know you like to spend some time in the morning on your phone, then try keeping your phone at the desk during lunch breaks to ensure a healthy balance.

It can also be helpful to write down your goals and what you want to achieve from a digital detox before you start one. With these set objectives, you can better assess whether a digital detox was successful and if you need to tweak your methods accordingly.

3. Plan fun, engaging activities for yourself

When in the middle of a digital detox, one of the best ways to avoid looking at a screen is to plan fun and engaging activities.

If you and your friends have a similar schedule, then try planning midweek dinners to spend your evenings talking and bonding with the people you love. Or you could try scheduling in a daily walk, which you can either do with friends or on your own.

The idea here is to have something to keep your mind occupied, helping you stave off the urge to scroll. After all, social activities are good for both the mind and body, making them a great digital detox method.

4. Put your phone away at meals and before bed

We’ve already established putting your phone away before bed is an essential part of a digital detox, but it can be beneficial to do so during meals as well.

Studies have shown using phones at the dinner table make us feel less present and less engaged with the friends and family we’re eating with. In turn, we don’t experience the full mental health benefits of spending time with those dearest to us.

Try leaving your phone in your bag or putting it in another room during mealtime. This might be a difficult transition at first, but even just a simple 15-minute device-free meal can help you feel more present, grounded, and in tune with those around us.

5. Use digital detox settings in your devices

Limiting the use of digital devices yourself can be tricky, but there are apps available to help you on your digital detox journey.

For example, you can download apps that limit access to social media during certain time periods. Additionally, most smartphones can automatically switch to ‘do not disturb’ at a specific time or even location, which you can schedule in your phone’s settings.

However, if you do need to use your phone late at night, try using your device’s ‘night mode’ setting. Again, this an option that you can schedule to turn on at a certain time every night, and it will automatically dim the brightness. This turns the screen to an orange light, which may be less harsh than the usual blue light that can disrupt your sleep.

Worried about how your phone or social media is affecting your mental health? As Benenden Health member you can speak to a medical professional on our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for advice and support. Alternatively, for more guidance on how to care for your mental health at home or ways you can reduce stress, head over to our Be Healthy hub.