Our experts reveal how to disconnect from your tech and why it’s so good for you
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that we could all do with a break from our phones, but you know what that does require? A heck of a load of willpower. Apparently, we scroll for an average of three hours and 15 minutes on our devices a day (RescueTime app) and that doesn’t even account for the time spent on laptop screens at work and watching Love is Blind on Netflix (we love it too, by the way). But taking a break from tech can improve your focus, increase your sleep quality and lower the risk of obesity, so if you’re ready to reclaim some time to yourself without a device glued to your hand, here’s how to start.
1. Make gradual changes
We all know how hard it is to give something up at the drop of a hat, so make sure you set some realistic goals for yourself to enable a smooth transition to more phone-free time. “If you’re a big social media fan and struggling with a sudden withdrawal, delete all social media apps but one,” suggests Calm’s community manager, Christi-an Slomka (calm.com). “Try setting aside half an hour per evening for your social time and focus only on that one social channel. It will teach you how to appreciate the time you have with that platform and avoid the time-consuming ‘app-hopping’ in one sitting.”
2. Avoid first and last
It can be all too tempting to skim the headlines on our news apps first thing in the morning and look at puppies you wish were yours on Instagram when our heads hit the pillow, but burnout expert, Deborah Bulcock (deborahbulcock.com), says it’s better to start and end the day on your terms, rather than someone else’s. “Try not to let your phone be the first thing you engage with when you wake up or the last thing you look at before you sleep. If you’re scrolling as soon as you open your eyes, another user has a great opportunity to set your mood and agenda for the day. Similarly, looking at too much blue light before bed keeps your brain switched on, which will then affect your sleep.”
3. Allow yourself to get bored
We live in an ‘always on’ world and, chances are when you do feel boredom start to creep in, you’ll reach for your phone, but just like change specialist, Dr Lynda Shaw (drlyndashaw.com), says, there are no prizes for being continuously busy and available. “When the mind has an opportunity to wander and daydream, the brain consolidates and arranges thoughts, and prepares itself for future situations. Being bored is a good thing! It relaxes the brain into alpha frequency – which is our creative sweet spot – so if we’re always looking at screens, we rob ourselves of that productive time.”
4. Make a pact with a friend
There’s a reason why accountability works so well for self-improvement. Regretting asking your colleague to go on that after-work run with you? You can’t back out now. Research shows that you’re statistically much more likely to attend events that are pre-planned, as you’re relying on each other to show up. “It’s much harder to commit to new habits when you’re only accountable to yourself,” explains Hannah Martin, psychotherapist (talentedladiesclub. com). “So, if you really want to change how you use your mobile phone, make a pact with a friend who is similarly motivated. Decide what the rules of your new habits will be and mutually agree to abide by them.”
5. Use with intention
It’s said that the average person checks their phone 110 times a day – a stat which everyone knows is unhealthy. So, to stay focused, Deborah suggests making sure you have a real reason for unlocking your phone. “It’s all too easy to pick up your device to respond to a message and 10 minutes later hop on to social media, but to maintain your productivity levels, make an intentional choice for when your phone has your attention and, more importantly, when it doesn’t.”
6. Rekindle your love for reading
We love a good book at H&W HQ, but we also know that it can be hard to carve out the time to actually pick it up and read it. Christi-an says there’s no excuse to not get some reading in to give us a distraction away from our phones, whether that’s at home or during our lunch break. “Set a monthly target for reading books – whether that be one a week or one a month – as a way to stay determined and stimulated. There’s nothing more satisfying than opting for a good old fashioned book and feeling the paper between your fingertips.”
7. Find alternative activities
It may seem like we’re going back to the dark ages, but believe us when we say screenfree entertainment can be a thing. “Have you ever noticed how different your phone habits are on busy days?” questions Hannah. “Rather than aimlessly checking social media or replying to messages every five minutes, you’re actually living your life! A healthy way to cut down on phone use is simply not to have the time or need to use it as a distraction. So find interesting, absorbing ways to fill your time. Arrange to meet friends, take up new hobbies or spend more time interacting with your family (and get them off their devices too)!”
Setting boundaries for the whole family
It’s not just adults who are addicted to tech – kids spend a lot of time looking at screens too – but there are a few things you can do to implement phone-free zones
Mapping the house
Sit everyone down and sketch out a map of the house together to agree your family no-go zones for devices. Screens definitely don’t belong in the bedrooms of younger members of the family. But how about making that the rule for adults at home, too?
And how many of us can honestly say we never take our devices into the bathroom? Consider marking bedrooms and bathrooms with an “X” on your map.
The kitchen or dining room
A strong family life revolves around the conversations we have at the table. Meals are the main times when we can all get together and check in with each other about our day ahead or the day just ending. Sitting in silence and scrolling through your devices is not a good way to strengthen your connection. If you haven’t already banned screens in the kitchen or dining room, then this is a good place to start.
Tempting though it is to let everyone scroll on their devices during car journeys for the sake of a bit of peace, how about making the car a place where you all talk to each other, listen to music together, or even play a game? Sometimes the most valuable conversations between parents and children, or between partners, can happen in the car.
For more, read this
Stop Staring at Screens: A Digital Detox for the Whole Family by Tanya Goodin (Ilex Press, £9.99)