Benefits of a Digital Detox: Why and How to Unplug

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Once upon a time there was a world without an internet, without digital devices to occupy our every moment—what ever did we do?

As a millennial, I have spent my entire teenage and adult life with an internet connection. I know the feeling of struggling to find focus and fighting distraction amid a constant flow of notifications, updates, and fun diversions. For the curious mind, the internet is a smorgasbord of potential indulgences, and it’s way too easy to snack all day long.

For those reasons, I’m a big supporter of periodically unplugging from our delightful, but always-connected devices and implementing a digital detox. I’ll explain why it’s so important to carve out this quiet space in your life and share some tips on how to go on the journey yourself.

The Importance of Unplugging

Once you pull onto the information superhighway of the internet, it’s easy to feel like you can’t miss anything—or you’ll be left behind. This fear of missing out, which is common enough to have an acronym, (FOMO) is a powerful emotion that can be stressful and quickly erode your mental well-being. Here are some benefits I’ve experienced when I step away from my devices for an extended period:

1. Removes a Source of Stress

When we constantly check our phones throughout the day, our brain gets the message that every incoming notification is urgent. We begin to live in a constant low-level state of stress based on the need to manage this continuous and unpredictable flow of information.

2. Makes It Easier to Focus on What Matters

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—I love the internet. But I have to admit, there are many times when it’s an absolute distraction from the important work I want to get done. The beauty of a detox is that it reminds me what it feels like to do deep focused work, and prevents that skill from completely fading away.

3. Creates Space for Better Sleep

For many of us, it’s hard to “turn off our brains” at night and slip into a restful sleep. I believe a big reason for this is that we’re bringing our phones into bed, and even when we’re not, our brain is still amped up from the super stimulus of constant connection all day long. Evidence suggests that light from our devices also disrupts our body’s natural circadian rhythm.

4. Cultivates Deeper Face-to-Face Connection

The more we’re glued to our phones, the lonelier it seems we are becoming. Even when we’re face-to-face with another person in the same room, we give priority to our phones. If a message or call comes in, we take it. If there’s a pause, transition, or lull in the conversation, we turn to our devices. This is weakening the skills we need to have meaningful relationships, and ultimately, to live happy lives.

5. Embrace the Present Moment With Mindfulness

Our devices are constantly pulling us towards what is new, exciting, and somewhere else. By taking a break from the digital world, we can reconnect with the present moment and the people and places where our body resides.

How to Successfully Detox From the Digital World

Convinced of the benefits of a digital detox? Let’s jump right into some practical tips for making it happen in your own life and tailoring it toward your personal goals. Remember, this is going to look different for every person, as we are all motivated and wired differently.

  • Draw some lines in the sand. Decide when and where you’ll use technology and for what purposes. Pre-committing is much easier than trying to control your impulses on a decision-by-decision basis, and a better way of forming new habits.
  • Fill the time with rewarding real-world activities. You want your unplugged time to be as enjoyable and meaningful as possible, so fill it with activities you love, but rarely make time for. Go on a walk, read a book for pleasure, explore a destination, or make one-on-one time for people you love.
  • Cut out all notifications. Disable any notifications on your phone that aren’t essential. A quiet phone that isn’t constantly pinging for your attention is much less distracting—use this obvious but powerful fact to your advantage.
  • Create a buffer zone between you and your tech. Set aside certain areas of your home to be completely tech-free. Maybe encourage a house-wide ban on bringing phones to the dinner table or into your bedroom at night.
  • Take baby steps in a positive direction. Even if you’re not ready for a multi-day detox, there are easy ways to implement a detox that fits your lifestyle and goals. Try unplugging for very small bits of time—maybe at night before bed, or for half an hour each evening when you’re hanging out with loved ones.
  • Go easy on yourself. The goal of a digital detox isn’t perfection, so don’t be too hard on yourself. The aim is to create a quiet place in your life to reacquaint yourself with other pleasures you might be tempted to ignore in place of the easy bite-sized pleasure of the internet.
  • Create fun challenges for yourself. If it helps, you might think of your detox as a personal challenge or game. Establish goals that are challenging but attainable, and track your progress visually in a prominent location in your home.
  • Share your journey with others. Don’t try to go it alone. Sharing this journey with a friend or family member can be a great source of camaraderie and encouragement.
  • Learn as you go. When you commit to a digital detox, I recommend trying as hard as possible to stick to the rules you choose in advance. Afterward, when you’re done, take some time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Pay attention to how you felt and make necessary adjustments for the next time.

Embrace the Benefits of Unplugging

Of course, any meaningful change is going to feel a little uncomfortable at first. If you’re like me, you’ve become used to treating your phone like a child’s security blanket that gets pulled out at the first sign of anxiety or boredom. But by unplugging from our devices we can break from the constant chaos of the internet, reduce a source of ongoing stress, focus on what matters, and spend more time enjoying life’s ordinary pleasures.

Go ahead and take the leap today. Don’t wait for the perfect time, or the perfect plan. Even better than doing it yourself, find a spouse or a close friend who will hold you accountable, or better yet,  join you on the journey of going on a digital detox. Rather than feeling you are missing out on the internet’s constant flow of content, you may discover quieter joys that you had forgotten and wish never to leave behind again.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by Mike Donghia where all credits are due.


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