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Digital Detox: How & Why to Take a Break From Technology

Digital Detox: How & Why to Take a Break From Technology

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Digital detox: just a new trend or something that can actually improve your wellbeing? With our gadgets becoming ever more powerful, portable, and pleasurable, the time we spend on them keeps increasing. This may bring convenience, but it’s hardly good for our health. Enter the concept of the digital detox. It’s not about quitting technology; it’s about detaching yourself from the virtual world for a while to enhance your relationship with the real world.

In this post, we’ll explore what digital detox is, why you should do it, and different strategies for making it work for you.

What is Digital Detox?

A study from the year 2000 found that the average attention span of Americans was around 12 seconds. By 2015, that number had dropped to 8 seconds. So, what’s causing this problem?

Technology indeed makes our lives super convenient, but it’s also the primary cause of massive sensory overload in our system that results in problems like difficulty focusing, extreme anger, restlessness, and chronic anxiety.

Here are some more statistics that show how problematic our compulsive tech use is:

  • About 61 percent admit to suffering from tech addiction.
  • Today, one out of 10 Americans suffers from depression, and psychological researchers have found that heavy internet usage is one of the primary causes of this problem.
  • Six out of 10 people report that a traditional vacation does not relieve their stress.

Do you relate to the above statistics? It may be time for you to do a digital detox.

In fact, we’d say it’s a worthwhile practice for almost anyone who uses gadgets on a daily basis — even if you don’t feel you suffer from addictive behaviors.

Digital detox is a period in which you abstain from using tech gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and laptops to increase your interaction with real life.

Unplugged cable
Digital detox is a way to unplug from tech and reconnect with the real world.

Benefits of Digital Detox

Practicing digital detox has many benefits, including reduced stress, increased productivity, and a longer attention span. Before we take a look at how to do it, let’s first have a look at some of the benefits of digital detox in-depth.

Reduced Stress

A 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association found that compulsive tech use is the primary cause of chronic stress in around 18% of US adults. If you’re interested in assessing your tech use habits, the Stress Management Society has an amazing questionnaire that can help you with that.

When you practice digital detox, your brain becomes familiar with you not engaging with your gadgets as frequently as before. Experts say that when your brain learns to be okay with not engaging compulsively with something as captivating as a smartphone, you’ll start experiencing a significant reduction in your stress levels.

Less EMF Exposure

Studies say that prolonged exposure to EMF from gadgets like cell phones, tablets, laptops, WiFi routers, smart meters, and electrical appliances can cause a number of health problems ranging from minor sleep disorders to chronic diseases like cancer.

However, the good news is that it’s not entirely out of your control.

You can’t reduce your EMF exposure to zero because doing that would mean giving up technology and living like they did in the 1850s. What is possible is mitigating your EMF exposure down to a level where it’s safer for you to use and enjoy technology.

If you want to learn more about reducing your EMF exposure, be sure to give my “Healthy Living Tips” page a visit.

By doing a digital detox, you’re essentially refraining from using EMF-emitting gadgets. This means that, for the time being, you won’t be facing such a massive amount of EMF, giving your body sufficient time to heal EMF-induced damages in your body.

This alone, however, is not enough to mitigate your EMF exposure in the long term, which is why you need to make other EMF-mitigating efforts. But it can help to change your habits around tech use – and can certainly help to prevent minor EMF-induced health problems from becoming severe.

Improved Sleep

There are three aspects to how abstaining from tech improves your sleep.

Reduced EMF exposure: An Australian researcher analyzed human and animal data to understand the changes EMF exposure creates in mammals. In this study, she found that continuous exposure to low-frequency EMF causes significant changes in the amount of melatonin that your body produces. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you sleep.

Hundreds of scientific studies link prolonged EMF exposure to reduced sleep quality and sleep disorders. Tech-use abstinence for some time causes a significant decrease in your EMF exposure, allowing your body to adjust to the natural environment, which in turn enhances your sleep quality.

Less Blue Light Exposure: The LED screens in our phones, laptops, and tablets emit blue light; the same kind of light that the sun produces. Exposing your eyes to blue light after sundown causes your body to think that it’s still daytime, which results in an altered circadian rhythm and suppressed melatonin hormone production.

When your body doesn’t produce sufficient melatonin, it’s much harder for you to fall asleep at night and get quality rest. I’ve written an in-depth post on the effects of blue light on your body which also contains tips on reducing your blue light exposure for a massive improvement in your sleep.

Practicing digital detox will help your circadian rhythm adjust to the natural environment, allowing sufficient melatonin production. As a result, you’ll get a restful sleep every single night.

digital detox leads to better sleep
Disconnecting leads to better sleep.

Reduced Brain Engagement at Night: Going to bed indicates that you’re allowing your brain to relax and focus on background tasks like healing and detoxification. Using your gadgets in bed causes your brain to go back to a working state due to which it can’t perform its required functions.

Dr. Harneet Walia of the Cleveland Clinic says, “Checking your phone stimulates the brain, so we are more active and awake. Even just a quick check can engage your brain and prolong sleep.”

Digital detox makes it easier for you to quit your habit of using your gadgets in bed, which means less brain engagement and, of course, enhanced sleep quality.

Reduced FOMO

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a social anxiety that stems from thinking that others might be having fun in your absence. It’s basically a desire to stay continuously connected to what others are doing.

Humans, being social animals, are conditioned to feel that if we’re not present in social situations at all times, we’ll be discarded by society. FOMO has become much more serious with the increase of social media sites. You see that your friends are living more exciting lives than yours, and this causes you to overcommit to social events out of the fear of being left behind.

FOMO is also part of the reason why you feel the need to check your phone constantly for texts and notifications.

Digital detox will help you set your own limits and analyze what’s crucial in your life. After a few days of tech abstinence, your fear of missing out starts to reduce. Eventually, you’ll have complete control over it, making you less anxious and allowing you to focus on things that really matter in your life.

Great Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is crucial when it comes to preserving your mental health and social relationships. When you’re constantly connected, it can be hard for you to create this balance. The temptation to respond to a work text, check your emails, or scroll through social media to see what’s going on at work, are all signs of an unhealthy work-life balance.

When you abstain from tech on purpose and focus on other key areas of your life for a certain period, it can help you create a healthier, less stressful work-life balance.

Going About Digital Detox

So, you see, simply going gadgetless for a specific period can help you in so many ways. But how do you go about it? Lock your phone in a drawer? Or not charge your laptop so you can’t use it?

Well, you have to create a system that works for you. Here are a few tips to help you with your digital detox journey.

Keep It Realistic

Keeping it realistic to your situation is crucial when you plan your digital detox journey. ‘Taking it to the extremes’ is a problem with many people. They try to go completely tech-less, which causes them to drop the plan as soon as they begin.

Being completely disconnected from technology may seem good on paper, but it is not feasible for everyone. This is why you have to create a healthy balance. This way, you can benefit from digital detox while still attending to areas in your life that require tech use.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say that you need to use your laptop and smartphone for your work during the day. Simply create a routine where you do a mini-detox at the end of your workday. Pick a time that works for you, and turn off your devices. During this time, you’ll focus on things that don’t require tech use, like visiting a friend, going for a walk, working out, or reading a book.

reading for digital detox
Take some time out to go walking or read a book.

Remove Distractions

Have you ever closed a social media app because you’re bored, only to reopen it after 5 minutes because you’re bored?

These applications have created a glamorous world for you to drown in whenever you feel a tiny bit of boredom. And even if you don’t go back to them, their constant notifications will eventually force you into opening the app again.

For this, I recommend turning off push notifications on these apps, so they can’t bother you when you’re focusing on something else. You can also find many applications on the internet which will help you with this.

Do this: Take a count of how many times you reopen the same app or how much time you spend every time you open said app. Turn off push notifications the next day and see if there are any changes in your usage.  

Another way you can remove distractions is by setting up a dedicated 20-30 minutes each day to check your messages, posts, and mentions. If you have messages that require repeated back and forth with someone you know, the best option is to call them. It’s significantly faster and more efficient.  

Use An App

Yes, it sounds contradictory. Isn’t the point of a digital detox to stop using your apps?

But the truth is, apps can be useful for both understanding your tech habits and enforcing your tech-free time.

For example, did you know that Apple and Android devices have built-in software for tracking your usage? Apple’s Screen Time app and Android’s Digital Wellbeing feature tell you statistics like how many times you unlock your phone, which apps you use the most, and how much screen time you average daily. This can be helpful for getting a handle on your usage habits and better understanding how you can successfully cut down on your device use.

Here‘s how to turn on the feature on Apple and here are instructions for Android.

You can also find apps that help you detox by locking your devices or motivating you to avoid using them (here‘s a list of the best ones). If you’re struggling to stay on your detox, these can give you that added help you need to stay on track.

Apps can also be very helpful if you’re not looking to detox fully, but just want to manage and reduce your relationship with and usage of technology on an on-going basis.

Digital Fast Day

Pick a day in a week when you don’t have engagements that require tech use – preferably on the weekend – and make that the day of your digital fast.

On that day, you’ll refrain from using virtually any electronic gadgets and focus on things that you can do offline like gardening, reading a book, going for a hike, etc.

Digital fast days are one of the best ways to gather digital detox’s benefits without it interfering with other aspects of your life.

Digital Detox Vacation

There are many services that offer digital detox retreats in which you go to a place with little to no digital tech availability and enjoy your time in nature. These also combine your stay with activities like meditation and yoga, through which you can detach from your fast-paced life for the length of your vacation. It’s something that you can explore, but you don’t necessarily have to use these services. The primary goal here is to make yourself offline for a while.

Robert Hassan, the head of the Media and Communications Program at the University of Melbourne, wrote an amazing article back in 2020 in which he described the restored sense of balance he felt after a 4-week long digital detox vacation.

Hassan explained how tech dependence had destroyed his work-life balance, and his efforts to cut down tech use proved unsuccessful. He wanted to experiment on himself to see if digital detox vacation would be any different and whether there’d be changes in his habits when he returned home.

He said, “Since I’ve been back, it feels like some sense of balance has been restored. Part of this came from seeing the smartphone as a slightly alien thing (which it is). And instead of being something that always prompts me, I flipped the power dynamic around to make it something I choose to use – and choose when to use. Meaning sometimes it’s okay to leave it at home or switch it off.”

You can find many stories like Hassan’s on the internet, and all of them point towards the fact that digital detox vacations work. So why not plan yours today?

girl in hammock on vacation
Why not try a tech-free vacation?

Final Thoughts

You may be familiar with the phrase, “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.”

Inarguably, technology has made our lives easier, but if you don’t use it in moderation, it can do more harm than good. From physical and mental health problems to massive EMF exposure, the gadgets in your home have the potential to cause severe harm.

But the amount of harm they cause depends completely upon how in control you are of your tech.

SYB recently launched a new show called “The Healthier Tech Podcast,” where experts from the EMF and health industry share what they’ve learned about building a healthier relationship with technology. Join our panelists today, absolutely free, and start creating a healthy balance between you and your gadgets.

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About the Author

Have a Question?

I take pride in designing great, effective products, based on real, measurable science – AND taking the time to ensure that each and every one of you has the information you need to understand EMF and make informed decisions.

So if you have a question, just email me and ask.


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