From Holly Phillips, M.D.
There’s no denying it: We live in a world that never unplugs or turns off completely, a world where the pings, rings and dings from your smartphone and various other devices are a perpetual source of distraction. If you’re like most people, you rarely focus on the fact that being constantly plugged-in can drain your energy, interfere with your sleep at night, and cause you to remain in a state of hyper-vigilance that’s physically and emotionally exhausting.
That’s why powering-down with a digital detox can power-up your world. Stepping away from the gadgets allows you be present in the moment, rather than documenting it for social media, or responding to an attention zapping text. It’s like pressing a reset button on mental clarity and focus, inevitably improving the way you feel and function, both day and night. Here are some tips for how to successfully step out of the cyber vortex.
Go public with your plan. Tell friends and loved ones that you’re going on a digital detox so they don’t start to worry when they can’t reach you. Let them know how to best contact you if they need you—preferably by a landline phone, if you have one; if you don’t, tell them to call your mobile phone. Then program your phone’s settings to allow important people’s calls to ring but others to go straight to voicemail.
Take daily time-outs from technology. Take a complete break from all electronic devices for 10 to 15 minutes every two hours so you can get a mental break from digital drain. It’s also wise to schedule specific times for checking and answering emails during the day (say, at 2-hour intervals); alternatively, you can set your e-mail preferences so that you receive e-mails on an hourly basis, not as they come through naturally.
Silence your gadgets. To prevent yourself from reacting every time there’s a ding, ping or buzz while you’re working, disable notification alert sounds on your smartphone and laptop. When you’re not inclined to take calls on your smartphone, turn it off or silence it. This way, you’ll be able to control your usage of digital devices instead of being at their mercy—and focus more fully on what you’re doing.
Power down your devices after work. Think of it as creating a digital sundown: Take an email, text, and cell phone break for at least two hours after you get home. Make mealtimes a no-cell-phone zone, and power down anything with a screen at least an hour before bedtime. Cutting off the stimulating blue light well before turning in will ease you into a stress-free slumber.
Schedule full-fledged digital detoxes. Look at your calendar and choose days when you can afford to unplug and disconnect completely—ideally, once a week. Write it down, just as you would an important doctor’s appointment, on an old-fashioned wall calendar or in your day planner. This way, you’ll be more likely to honor your intentions.
Adopt the right mindset. To avoid falling into a FOMO state of mind, embrace this mantra during a digital break: right here, right now—this is where I ought to be. This thinking enhances the energy and vibrancy of every experience, and is especially easy to do when you’re spending time with people you enjoy or doing something you love. Pay attention to the newfound input from all your senses, and you may never want to plug back in again.