So much of our lives happen on our devices: working, socializing, reading, playing, creating—we use our devices for all of them. This translates to a significant amount of time spent staring at screens. But a growing body of evidence suggests that when we reduce our screen time, we also reduce anxiety and stress. All it takes is some simple habits to add a little more calm to your daily routine. Try these daily digital detox practices to disconnect from tech without giving it up completely.
Stick to one screen at a time
You’re not alone if you’ve ever caught yourself scrolling Instagram while watching a movie at home. The constant switching between content on different screens can leave us feeling distracted and overwhelmed—not to mention quickly lost in the plot of our TV show or movie. Make it a new rule to put your small screens away when the big screen is on.
Turn off notifications
Few are immune to the dopamine kick that gets fired off when our gadget’s buzz and ding with a new message. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that gets activated when we feel good, and researchers have found that notifications act as a positive stimuli that initiates its release. This positive reinforcement can be addictive, so turn off those notifications.
Leave your phone in your bag or pocket
It has become second nature to whip our phones out at the first hint of idle time—like on our commute home or when our dinner date uses the washroom. As such, we become reliant on these little screens for entertainment and uncomfortable with just being without any stimulus. Breaking yourself from this habit can be hugely rewarding. Next time you’re on the bus or meeting a friend for dinner, commit to only using your phone when you actually need it—to take a picture, answer a call, or order an Uber. You’ll be amazed how much more present you feel.
Give yourself a screen time allowance
Having a screen time limit to abide by can be more effective than simply trying to cut back. A limit can also help you enjoy your screen time more—perusing your Instagram, for example, becomes more exciting when you can only do it once per day. How you define your limit will depend on what your current screen usage is like. To get a better sense of how much time you’re spending on your gadgets, keep a log for a few days. Have an Apple or Google smartphone? Check your built-in tracker to see how much time you’ve been spending on your phone and how that compares to your average usage.
Leave your work laptop where it belongs… at work.
Taking your work devices home with you over the weekend or on weeknights can feel productive, but you’d be surprised at how liberating (and necessary!) it can be to take a break from the constant connection to the workplace. The line between work life and home life is becoming all the more blurred in our ever-connected, always-on world—make it the exception rather than the rule to bring the office home with you. Facing the dilemma of using the same gadgets for work and play? The snooze function is your answer.
Nix tech before bed
Using smartphones, tablets, computers, and even TVs in the hours leading up to bed can decrease our natural production of melatonin—the hormone that helps initiate our sleeping cycle—and negatively impact our sleep. Avoid cashing in your screen time allowance in the 30 to 60 minutes before you go to sleep. Instead, swap out reading on your phone for reading a book (preferably a paper one). If you must have the screen on, install an extension that dims the brightness and warms the colour saturation to ensure you don’t disrupt your body’s melatonin production.
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