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Doing the digital detox

It occurred to me last weekend that I spend way too much time in the online environment, even now after I’ve already cut down significantly.

The reason I noticed my time online was creeping up again was the amount of time I spent doomscrolling through updates on the ‘state of the world’ on YouTube. I know it does nothing for my inner sense of well-being and yet still I find I want to scare myself witless sometimes.

So, enter the digital detox. I’ve done this several times over the years and, as a result, have already cut back on the tools I use, the apps I have on my phone and the length of time I have devices connected to t’internet.

A digital detox is similar to the physical. You stop doing what you currently do for a period of time and then reintroduce what you really need and works for you. It sounds simple, although it can be anything but to put it into practice!

There are two ways to do any sort of detox; the first is to wean yourself off the things you know aren’t helping slowly which is the equivalent of peeling off a plaster very, very slowly. The second is to do it as a short sharp tug that gets the plaster off quickly so you’re into recovery before you know it. I prefer the latter, go all out for cold turkey and I generally do most or all of the following:

  1. I turn off the TV. I don’t want to be kept up to date about the news (good or bad), the products and services I should be using to make my life perfect, the dramas that tell me how the world is – I can see that every time I walk out of the door!
  2. I don’t substitute the TV with the radio – that would just be cheating!
  3. I turn off my phone. To be fair I do this every evening anyway and have done it for years. But during a digital detox, I just don’t turn it on again. As I don’t get too many phone calls or texts then it’s not normally an issue for me. If it is for you because your phone is your only means of communication then try turning off wifi AND mobile data. That way you’ll still get text messages and calls, but none of the other updates, necessary or otherwise.
  4. My laptop is left in the drawer overnight anyway so like the phone it just isn’t turned on the following morning.
  5. I turn off the router and the network adapters I have around the house. The reason I do this is to reduce the electromagnetic radiation flying around my home. I can’t get rid of it completely as we live in an area surrounded by houses each with their own devices, but I do my best.

Now that my devices are turned off and put away I’m no longer bothered by the updates that come along. I know that any emails that pop in will still be waiting when I decide to go back online, as will any text messages or phone messages. And I can relax, those who need to contact me can do so with the landline – the important people in my life all have the number.

What do I do instead? I’m glad you asked that question. Although I will read or be creative, mostly I give myself permission to do no-thing! Yes, I deliberately spelt it that way. I give myself the space to allow what needs to come up to do so; emotions, thoughts, worries, concerns are all fair game when I have the time and space to give this gift to myself. And if believe this sounds selfish, in defence I end up nicer and more caring as a result of the time spent in reflection as I more easily put things in perspective, an action that is a challenge in the heat of the crisis.

I generally choose to do this type of detox for 24 hours, although I have been known to go for a whole weekend. Afterwards, I’m fresher, have had more exercise -mostly because I’m outdoors more, have a different outlook on life because I see what’s real in my world, rather than trying to make sense of what’s going on in other people’s worlds, and I feel calmer and able to make better decisions.

I also tend to notice what I don’t miss which is why I’ve deleted my accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon. It’s also why I no longer have a YouTube account -although that doesn’t stop me occasionally getting sucked in! And I find it’s easier to delete the many and varied newsletters I’ve signed up for over the years.

In other words, it helps me rebalance my life back to something more akin to ‘life’ rather than virtuality (I know it’s not a word, but what the heck!)

You don’t have to do 24 hours, you could do 12 hours, 6 hours or even just 10 minutes if you’re really convinced the world won’t function without you. If you do start small, build up over time, if you start with 10 minutes, why not try 20 minutes next time or an hour. I promise that this type of detox has benefits you can’t begin to imagine.

(image courtesy: silviarita / 671 images)

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