Scenario 1: It’s 3 a.m., and for some reason, I am awake. Maybe it’s the cat jumping on the bed or the rustling of covers as my husband turns over. Or that I drank too much water before bed or that I am worried about all the things I need to get done in the morning. For whatever reason, my brain waves are quickly shifting into beta mode, and now awake, I grab my iPhone to check the time. And then, well, why not see if any emails have come in? And then there’s Instagram — did I get any likes on that last post? Suddenly, I am in a full-blown, blue-light-induced awake state, wishing I were sound asleep. See, blue light tells our brains not to sleep and halts the production of natural melatonin. Most of us know we shouldn’t be glued to our phones before bed or in the middle of the night, but oh, the temptation!
Scenario 2: My husband and I are out to dinner, and we’re waiting for our beet salad and glass of rosé. It feels good to be out of the house after writing all day, but instead of chatting and enjoying each other’s company, we’re both checking emails. When I finally break from staring at my screen, I ask him a few questions and get no response. I try not to get snappy, but by the third time my attempt at conversation fizzles, I am annoyed. Our night out is on its way to being ruined. “Get off your phone,” I bark. But then again, within 10 minutes, I am checking my texts again.
Scenario 3: We are at a concert — seeing Rufus du Sol, one of my favorite bands 一 and instead of just dancing, watching the show and living in the moment, I am busy trying to record a song with my phone. And so are another 3000 people around me.
Scenario 4: My daughter and six of her friends are all in the family room hanging out, but no one is talking, as everyone is on Snapchat or Instagram, sucked into cyberspace.
Need I go on? Any of these sound familiar?
How many hours a day are you on your phone or computer?
Well, there’s an app for that.
The term digital detox was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, because guess what, folks, we all need one. Stat!
A major trend of 2018, digital detoxing means tech-free hours, which give our eyes and brains a rest from our screens. It means being fully off-line and present in the real world. With cyberspace invading so much of our daily lives, it’s time to log off and restore the art of conversation, immerse ourselves more in nature, stop answering work emails at 10 p.m. or on a Sunday, and connect with humans, not technology.
So how do we do this?
Here are a few tips:
Turn off alerts, alarms and notifications (except for emergencies) so that your phone is not constantly begging for attention.
Use the tool Screen Time on your phone, which monitors how many times you pick up your phone, average and weekly totals of usage, and more. It’s great for your own self-regulation or for keeping an eye on your kid’s phone activity.
Ban phones at the dinner table or at restaurants.
Remove your phone from your bedroom at night (which can be tough when you need it as an alarm clock), or keep it at least away from your arm’s reach.
Have your family download the Forest App, which helps you manage your technology addiction by rewarding you for shutting off your phone, tablets and computers so that you can focus on what's more important in your life. Time off allows you to grow virtual shrubs and trees and earn credits that can be used to help plant real trees around the globe.
Stop using your phone as a security blanket every time you find yourself alone or bored. Live in the moment. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Meditate. Look out the window and think about what you are grateful for rather than surfing the web or wondering if everyone on Instagram is having more fun than you are, sending you into a severe state of FOMO.
Instead of texting someone endlessly, meet for coffee, tea or a walk in the park.
Plan a weekend or trip that’s tech-free or off-the-grid. It’s incredibly liberating to be in a place where cell phones are not permitted or a signal can’t be found. An entire segment of the travel industry is blowing up with this theme. Try a Den Meditation Silent Retreat; take a trip to The Pearl Laguna for yoga, hiking and cleansing; recalibrate at The Ranch Malibu where you can’t get Wi-Fi; tune out and turn inward at Eden-like spa Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico; sign up for the Digital Detox package at Nayara Springs and immerse yourself in the rainforest of Costa Rica; or simply just go camping and turn off the phone!
You’ll be surprised at how freeing it feels to ditch the cell and live in the present moment.
References and sources:
Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.