We would all love to throw away our phones for a week and take a break from the endless notifications when life gets too much.
Except we wouldn’t, because accidentally leaving the house without our phones is an alarming experience for most of us.
Often, hurried digital detoxes come at a time of crisis, when our mental health is so worn down that detaching from technology feels like the only way to decompress.
Surely there’s a better way?
Most of us need to use our phones, laptops and other devices daily for both work and leisure, not to mention for simple practicalities – like letting someone know you’re running late.
So, in the modern day, a digital detox doesn’t have to mean cutting down to zero use overnight.
It’s more of a balancing act between making technology work for you and hitting that sweet spot before falling down a pit of doomscrolling.
NortonLifeLock’s cyber safety expert Sarah Uhlfelder, shares her tips for doing just that.
Notice how you’re feeling
When you’re logged on to certain apps, pay attention to what reactions you’re having.
It’s possible to become more aware of this side of experiencing technology through consciously being observant.
Sarah tells us: ‘Two in five Brits admit they overindulge on social.
‘It’s really important to recognise your own triggers, particularly when it comes to social media.
‘Ask yourself: does it make me feel better, or am I left feeling unhappy or stressed?
‘For example, if you’re feeling isolated rather than connected with friends and family, or if you catch yourself comparing yourself with others, it’s worth considering stepping away to do things that bring you joy offline.’
Being more proactive about this and capping your scrolling to when you no longer feel good is one way to detox and limit phone time.
Go out for shopping
Online shopping became a defacto comfort blanket in lockdown for many, so now targetted ads know even more how to get you to stop and look.
Sarah suggests swapping how you do an activity that works both on and offline, in favour of the latter.
‘Why not head back to the high street or explore local businesses in your area instead of opting in for online shopping?
‘You would avoid the endless browsing on websites and apps offering an abundance of offers and items to choose from,’ she says.
Take actual down time
‘Many of us turn to technology to fill our down time instead of logging off when we have those precious “free moments”,’ Sarah says.
‘To help curb excessive screentime and develop a healthier relationship with screens of all sizes, it’s important to find your own limit. Start by enforcing a cut off time on certain apps or online activities that are keeping you hooked,’ and therefore eating away at your relaxation time.
‘Many smart devices and apps have built-in features that monitor how much time you are spending on them.
‘Set up alerts that will flag when you’ve reached your own limit and it’s time to give your eyes some rest,’ she adds.
Make your time off a genuine break, rather than switching from your work laptop to your personal one.
It’s okay to have some screentime, but it’s also good to engage with other things that stimulate you.
Create device-free zones
Mentally it can help if you know you’re not permitted to engage with tech in a certain physical space, instead making it a ‘you’ zone to disconnect from others and foster any solo things you want to do.
‘While tracking your screen time and setting time limits on device usage is useful, sometimes physical boundaries are needed to transform your relationship with your tech for the better.
‘Consider establishing “device-free” zones in the home, such as the bedroom or shared spaces like the dining room,’ Sarah says.
Really consider which apps and websites add value to your life – surely they can’t be all equal.
Then be ready to delete any that you feel don’t fit what you’re looking for without guilt.
Sarah says you should think about this before downloading anything new too.
‘It’s always worth doing some light research before downloading any app, no matter how much it promises to streamline your life. Do you truly need the app?
‘Also be wary of the default app permissions on tracking your information. The more you share, the more data that’s available to create personalised advertisements encouraging you to clock even more unnecessary hours online,’ she says.