5 tips on how to do a digital detox

Gorging on information streams, hungry for just one more click, our mental and physical systems are becoming overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded.

Yet many of us don’t realise this until we either take a step back, or until it is too late and we burn out.

Here’s a chance to opt for the step back option. This Friday to Saturday (7th-8th March) is National Day of Unplugging (originating in the US, with people in many other countries also taking part).

This is a chance to switch off, shut down your digital devices, and recharge your own batteries for once.

Why should you try a digital detox? The best evidence for this comes when you experience it for yourself. Try it, and you’ll see …

Ask someone who’s done a detox what they experienced, and they’ll be likely to mention some of the following benefits: feeling less stressed, feeling calmer, a sense of perspective, a sense of being unhurried, quality time with those you care about, a chance to think, lack of demands, better sleep, a sense of freedom, time slowing down. Not a bad trade off for pressing the off button.

However, pressing the off button can be surprisingly difficult. Why is this?

Detox implies we’re dealing with something toxic. And we are.

Toxic is the anxiety caused by being constantly on call. Toxic is the waste of precious time, as our attention is pulled away from the things that really matter to us. Toxic is the pressure cooker of our own making, as we chase perpetually after digital demands.

It is precisely because it is now so difficult for us to disconnect that we need to make sure we can do it.

On an individual level, constantly connectivity is having an impact on our health. We often don’t equate being constantly wired to feeling constantly exhausted. We often don’t realise that being ‘always on’ is the reason for our stress or burnout.

On a wider business and economic level, ‘always on’ culture is contributing to lack of workplace productivity, poor decision-making, lack of time management, shortened concentration spans and employee sickness and absence.

While a digital detox can’t solve all of these issues overnight, it’s a very good place to start.

The National Day of Unplugging from 7th-8th March is a 24-hour detox from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. During this time, you switch off from all digital devices – including laptop, mobile, smartphone, tablet, and computer.

If you need solidarity in deciding to take part, there are hundreds of inspiring photos from people around the world sharing the reasons they switch off.

Keen to try it? Intrigued? Ready to give it a go?

If you’ve never done a digital detox before, what can you expect and how should you go about it?

Try these tips:

1) You’ll probably feel withdrawal symptoms in the very early stages after switching off. These might include a strong urge to check your phone/email/social media, a feeling of boredom, and a sense of unease. Stay with it and these feelings should pass within a couple of hours.

2) Before you switch off, a common concern is missing out. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is one of the strongest pulls that keeps us checking. However, notice whether – when you eventually switch back on – you did actually miss anything. In reality, things like boredom are usually harder to cope with during a detox. Instead of thinking FOMO, think JOMO – Joy of Missing Out. Enjoy playing your own thought soundtrack instead of having your thoughts led by social media. Enjoy setting your own agenda instead of answering to other people’s demands.

3) Get prepared before you press the off button. Print out maps, look up any travel or visiting information you need, and if you’re arranging to meet someone say you’ll be there on time but not available by phone. Yes, old school. But a different way of doing things can sometimes be refreshing.

4) Don’t expect too much of yourself if this is the first time you’ve tried a digital detox. Aim for 24 hours. But if you get to 12 hours and break, don’t worry or be harsh on yourself. Just notice how those however many hours felt for you, and take it as an experiment. Try again another time. Enjoy however long you do spend switched off. Just press the off button and see …

5) Plan something for your digital detox time. It’s a good idea to swap screen time for an interesting activity. This could be quality time with friends or family, a trip to an interesting place, or hours reading a good book. Dream, cook a great meal, or pick up an interest you’ve neglected recently.

Good Luck and enjoy your digital detox

This blogpost also appears on The Huffington Post website