What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep and the first thing you do when you wake up? Chances are, it’s look at your phone. We rely on our digital devices for entertainment, connection, distraction, and even happiness. But some studies have shown that your mental and physical health might be at risk from too much time staring at a screen, so if you’ve felt the nagging sensation that your Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter habit is harming more than it helps, you may want to try a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
In a 2023 study, Americans reported that they checked their phones around 144 times a day, and 57% considered themselves addicted to their phones. A digital detox is a period of intentionally taking a break from digital devices or media. For example, refraining from going on social media platforms for a week or limiting screen time to 45 minutes a day.
What can a digital detox do for you?
1. Improved mental health
It’s no secret that technology, especially social media, can be harmful to our mental health. One study found that participants who used social media for more than two hours a day were twice as likely to have feelings of social isolation as those who used social media for 30 minutes or less. Research has also shown a positive correlation between screen time and depression symptoms. Try having a social media-free evening with your friends or stop yourself from scrolling while watching your favorite TV show by keeping your phone or tablet in another room. Consider deleting the app entirely for a few days or a week and note how you feel without it.
2. Improved physical health
Your mind may feel better from a digital break, and your body might too. Research has found significant differences in posture between participants who are severely addicted, moderately addicted, and not addicted to their smartphones. Poor posture causes pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and back, along with an increased risk of injury. Additionally, less time sitting on your phone means more time getting up and moving around!
3. Less “FOMO”
The fear of missing out. It’s normal to want to know what your friends are up to, but with social media you’re constantly exposed to everything everyone is doing 24/7. It’s easy to internalize the perception that they live a more fun, productive life. One study found that there are links between “FOMO” and problematic social media use. In addition, people with “FOMO” displayed higher levels of depression and anxiety.
4. Better sleep
Your sleep is more negatively impacted by your late-night screen habits than you think. One study showed that 70% of participants scrolled social media while in bed and consequently showed higher levels of depression, anxiety, and shorter sleep durations during the week. Blue light from devices can also throw off your circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to maximize sleep time. Turn your phone or tablet to night mode, turn off notifications, and spend time with a book instead.
5. Reconnecting with yourself
When was the last time you just sat with your own thoughts? Many of us feel like we need constant stimulation, whether it be with a podcast, TV show, or music. Take a second to remove these distractions and breathe. Try meditating, going for a walk, journaling, or cooking, sans devices and distractions.
How to get started
1. Choose your detox
Are you going to completely swear off social media? Just Instagram? No more Netflix? Whatever you choose, make sure it is something you recognize is a problem for you. Stray from a crazy goal you know you realistically won’t be able to complete, but still give yourself a challenge.
2. Set a timeline
How long will this digital detox last? A couple days, a week, a month? You decide what you need. Again, challenge yourself while being realistic.
Try your hardest to stick to your goals, even when it gets hard. Remember why you’re doing this in the first place!
4. Reflect on the journey
After your detox, think about what went right and what went wrong. How do you feel now? Consider incorporating some digital detox practices into your everyday routine or recognizing when it’s time to set down the phone.