We’re all guilty of a little too much device time, but there’s a fine line between habit and addiction. Did you know the average person checks their phone every 12 minutes on a normal day?  That’s 5 times an hour, 120 times a day and let’s not even do the maths on how many times a year that turns out to be! To a certain extent, the impulsive need we feel for technological connection is understandable. Scientists have proven the use of apps, causes happy little endorphins to fire off in our brains, giving us feelings of pleasure. The flip side of that, however, is that excessive use of technological devices such as televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones can cause addictions. The impact can affect your mental health and impair your quality of life and that of those around you.

Although technology was designed to make our lives easier, overuse and misuse has made many of us slaves to it. As the usage figures above highlight, it can be difficult for many of us to go even an hour without checking our phone, not to mention a whole day. The debate around the long-term impacts on mental health of social media and digital device usage continues; but in the meantime, it’s useful to observe how we feel as we mindlessly scroll through social media, or check news sites several times a day. If we feel transfixed as if in a daze, there’s an issue. If feelings of depression, anxiety, or insecurity arise, maybe a digital detox is just what the doctor ordered!

The good news? A technology detox is simpler than you think!

  1. Seek meaning. Cutting back on your connectivity is only part of the solution - filling those newfound spaces with meaning is just as important. Pursue a passion project; make your off-the-clock time with family and friends really matter, (no multitasking allowed); and balance work with meditation, and mind-body exercises such as yoga, or any other spiritual or self-care practice that resonates with you.

  2. Spend some time outdoors. Nature has also been linked to the promotion of happiness, improved social interactions, and providing a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Simply walking through a natural environment is associated with a reduction in negative thoughts. When you feel the urge to pick up your phone, go for a walk to your local park instead, or get in the car and drive to a natural environment nearby.

  3. Share your intentions. There’s no reason to go it alone - let others in on your technology detox so they can support you. Enlist a partner in crime, (bonus points if you connect offline), and as you aim to make more lasting technology and life changes, ask the trusted truth-teller in your life to hold you accountable.

  4. Focus on the big picture. Sure, a technology detox can help you reset. But making small, sustainable lifestyle changes over time is a smarter strategy in the long-term, especially when you’re talking about your mental health. Go dark digitally an hour before bedtime. (Simply silencing your smartphone doesn’t count. Set it out of reach, too.) Use social media blockers like StayFocusd.

  5. Schedule your device time. Get tough on yourself and schedule one block of time for yourself to engage in your online activities for a fixed period each day. This might be over breakfast, on your commute, or while you’re preparing dinner. Setting a timer will keep you on track – often half the issue with devices is the vortex they create in front of our very eyes. You could also put your device into flight mode on Saturday night for example and choose Sunday as your device-free day.

    A technology detox isn’t a magic bullet. It is, however, a simple and doable step in the right direction. It may even help you stave off stress and burnout—and safeguard your mental health.