Does Your Life Need a Digital Detox?

Detox, de-stress, distract, discover, and repeat.

Posted Apr 24, 2019

Alpha Stock Images
Source: Alpha Stock Images

Like any hashtag or social media movement with its incessant buzzwords, one can’t help but keep hearing about the idea of device or digital “detoxing.” As if cleanses laced with cayenne aren’t enough, now we have to take a long hard look at our digital behaviors.  Bored with Facebook? Deactivate. Fed up with #humblebrags? Dump Instagram. 

And yet, we seem so tied to our communities via social that it can seem akin to becoming a social pariah to walk away. That said, we all know and are intrigued by the anonymity of those with a low social media profile. Clearly, they are too busy living their fabulous lives to bother but post once every blue moon, typically from a yacht in Greece. How can we find a healthy middle ground?

As the winter doldrums soon become a distant memory, the sunshine of the coming months is often prime time for not only kicking back on decks and front porches, but also ample opportunity for FOMO as everyone seems to be at the beach, a music festival, or doing some other phenomenal thing you wish you had known about.

For many, the allure of social media and devices at large lies in its inherent ability to serve as an insta-therapist. Feeling blue? Scroll for some cute puppy pics. Unmotivated? Go to that fitness page with the inspirational quotes that lead you to pull on those yoga pants. Slowly but surely we can snap ourselves out of any mood simply by reaching for our pocket therapists. But just as surely as we can feel better, many times we feel worse. Learning to set boundaries is key and so is a healthy digital detox.

For starters, you don’t have to throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.  Start with a device and social media detox. Find a few obvious places to start and begin there.  Maybe you don’t need phone apps of all your social media platforms and can only access your Insta from your computer instead of your phone. Or, you’ve stopped using Snapchat and can delete your account altogether. Maybe you pare down the number of devices or put concrete time limits on how much you can be on social media or certain apps. 

Once you have simplified, get to focusing on what matters most—your mental well-being.  Put some energy into de-stressing the old-fashioned way. Maybe the next time you’re stressed, instead of scrolling, put on your tennis shoes and go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Or, hit up a yoga class. Maybe spend some time with your pooch, or get a pedicure with a friend. For some, hitting the weights helps, whereas for others, hitting the hiking trails is better.

A major challenge among those taking steps back from social media and their devices rests in the fact that in times of crisis, their electronics help distract them. Anyone who has had a family member in the hospital, lost a loved one, or experienced severe setbacks knows that typical self-care methods in those times can fail horribly. No amount of meditation can occupy their troubled mind long enough. Learning healthy distraction techniques is key. Perhaps you pick up a paperback and get lost in a storyline that’s far removed from your own life. Or you watch a Netflix show (or two, but definitely don't binge) and clear your mind for an hour. Sometimes learning a new skill, such as teaching yourself a new recipe you haven’t tried before, can force your brain to take a break.

Above all though, retraining old habits and discovering new ways of engaging with the world around you can be incredibly powerful. Many of us remember life before phones and incessant email. I certainly don’t remember my teens scrolling through their phones. College breaks early on meant occupying myself somehow without screens. To be honest, sometimes that seems like such a distant memory, but I know it happened. I also know that I was far less stressed back then when there was far less to keep up with. I still had friends, went out, and had a fulfilling life—one without yearning for what others had, or constant reminders of how I could be more toned, youthful or trendy beyond the pages of glossy magazines which I rarely read. 

Taking time to discover new hobbies, interacting with friends face to face instead of over text, and reacquainting yourself with long-forgotten interests is critical. Certainly, none of these steps can occur instantaneously and we can easily get frustrated. After all, in the age of so many digital innovations, we are used to having everything occur instantaneously. But spending some time to slowly but mindfully detox, de-stress, distract, and discover can be a very worthwhile investment for our emotional well-being.

For more information digital detoxes and simple practices to weave throughout your day, click here.