Have you ever thought your digital habits have gotten a little out of hand? You’re not alone. Research from the Radiological Society of America suggests that our reliance on our digital devices may actually change the way our brains operate, providing ample incentive for most of us to step away from the screens. The good news? There’s hope. The “digital detox” is becoming an increasingly popular escape for people who find themselves overwhelmed by the nonstop notifications, emails, and texts that go hand-in-hand with modern life.
But a digital detox is more than putting your phone on airplane mode while you cook dinner (although that’s not a bad start). A real digital detox means turning off your phones, tablets, and computers for at least 24 hours. If that seems totally overwhelming or impossible, it’s okay to take baby steps. Smartphone withdrawal is real, and it has actual physiological effects, like increased blood pressure and anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to go on a digital detox, so start by unplugging during your lunch break or for an hour after work, then slowly increase the amount of time you spend unplugged. And when you want to break the cycle and retrain your brain, start with the 30 Ways to De-Stress in Just 30 Seconds (or Less!).
Your Posture Will Improve
All that time you spend hunched over a laptop or staring down at your phone has a real impact on your posture and your spinal health. Over time, you can permanently damage your spine, the surrounding muscles, and cause yourself pain that a massage or some stretching won’t easily fix. Discover if you’ve been afflicted by checking out What Is Tech Neck and Do You Have It?
You’ll Cure Your Insomnia
The blue light all those screens emit can mess up your sleep cycle in a very serious way, which can have multiple deleterious effects on your health. If screens are messing with your sleep, but you’re not quite ready for a full-on digital detox, check out 10 Genius Tricks For Falling Back Asleep in the Middle of the Night.
You’ll Be Less Depressed
Want to improve your mood? Start by closing your laptop and putting your phone away. Research published in Depression and Anxiety found that spending more time on social media was linked to increased odds of depression, so if you’re feeling blue, it’s high time to sign off. Fortunately, being depressed doesn’t have to be a permanent state of mind— jus discover these 10 Drug-Free Ways to Beat Depression.
You’ll Have Less Stress
In addition to making you depressed, social media can also stress you out. And stress is more than unpleasant: it’s bad for your health, raising cortisol levels, putting you on edge, and interfering with your sleep. For more info on how social media is interfering with your life, check out the 20 Ways Social Media Stresses Us Out.
You’ll Kick Your Addiction
For some, dependence on their smartphone isn’t just a bad habit; it’s an addiction. People can get so hooked on their smartphone that just the idea of not having it can cause a panic. And according to research published in Computers in Human Behavior, the more you use your phone, the more anxiety you feel when it’s taken away. Fortunately, smartphone addiction is a curable condition. Here are 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
You’ll Have Conversations Without Google
Can you even imagine having a conversation without Google, your fact-checking constant companion helping you along? Without it, you’ll have the freedom to decide what is and isn’t worth correction, or even better, the chance to ask an actual human being if they know a piece of information, which sounds like a great way to make friends and improve your relationships.
You’ll Get More Exercise
You might be surprised by the amount of free time you find on your hands in the midst of a digital detox. One of best things to do with this newfound time? Exercise, of course.
It’s the perfect opportunity to start making up for all the time you’ve been spending sitting on the couch like a lump, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. And considering that research suggests that all that sedentary time we spend behind a computer is having deleterious effects on our health, a little extra gym time couldn’t hurt. And if you’re looking for a little extra exercise boost, snap up the 7 Gym Clothes That Feel As Good As They Look.
You’ll Improve Your Self-Esteem
Feeling bad about yourself? It might be time for a digital detox. Research conducted at Rowan University suggests that time spent on Facebook can harm your self-esteem. People with low self-esteem also tend to spend more time on Facebook, unfortunately. That’s why Facebook binging is on our list of 15 Daily Habits That Are Killing Your Confidence.
You’ll Increase Your Empathy
Being able to communicate with strangers, sometimes with the protection of anonymity, can lead to people saying some pretty nasty things. It’s called the online disinhibition effect, according to a study published in CyberPsychology and Behavior, and it’s can lead to some ugly behavior. Without your computer or phone to protect you, however, you can start having conversations with people face-to-face and hopefully improve your ability to empathize with others.
You’ll Have More Time to Read
Take away your phone, iPad, and computer, and you’ll have time for more than exercise. Take all the time you spend reading hot takes online and add it up, and you might finally have time to read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to. As an added bonus, without your devices constantly pushing notifications your way, you’ll be reading distraction-free for better comprehension.
Your Focus Will Improve
You might think you’re an excellent multi-tasker, but the truth is people do higher quality work when they can focus on one thing. Unfortunately, the nonstop incoming streams of information our devices provide us can make that kind of focus extremely challenging, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. So, turn off your phone and get to concentrating.
You Can Control Your Schedule
Being constantly connected means you can always get an email from your Nana. It also means you can always get an email from your boss. Worried your work performance might suffer if you power down post-work? Don’t be. One company in Germany lets their employees set their email to auto-delete while they’re on vacation, and everything keeps running just fine. You’ll be okay!
You’ll Reduce Eyestrain
You might not believe it, but the human eye is not meant to spend all day staring at a bunch of screens. Spending hours every day doing so can actually strain your eyes, causing pain, blurred vision, and headaches. Turn off all your screens, and give your peepers a break.
You’ll Have More Quality Time
Without the distraction of your phone, you’ll be able to enjoy living in the present. This means you’ll be able to focus more on whatever task you’re trying to accomplish or on whoever you’re trying to spend time with. This means you’ll be able to appreciate those small things that you’ve been missing out on during all that time staring at your phone. That includes finding time to dash away to the 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.
Your Memory Will Improve
Relying on having every piece of information you could ever need available at a moment’s notice means you’re not working your brain’s memory muscles. And if you don’t use them, you lose them. Fortunately, taking time to memorize things like phone numbers, addresses, or bits of trivia can get your brain back in fighting shape. And for more ways to sharpen up mentally, check out the 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Memory.
You’ll Have Less Anxiety
Smartphone usage has been linked to social anxiety, possibly because people are sitting around waiting for notifications and texts that may never come and ruminating over why not. Turn off your phone and remove the possibility entirely, and some of that anxiety will dissipate before you know it.
You’ll Have a Better Diet
Want a healthier body? Start by setting down your phone. Research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found a link between spending time on Facebook and a risk of eating disorders like anorexia. At the same time, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that for some people, looking at pictures of appetizing food can lead to overeating. Neither one is good, and both are easily avoided with a digital detox.
You’ll Start Thinking for Yourself
Relying too much on real-time visual media for all of your information can lead to a reduction in critical thinking skills, especially if the information is never-ending and you can’t take time to stop and reflect, according to research conducted at UCLA. Fortunately, you’ll have a deeper understanding of all the information you’re consuming once you limit your digital use.
You’ll Improve Your Relationships
Bringing your phone to bed sounds like a terrible idea when you say it out loud. However, that doesn’t stop many of us from hitting the hay, smartphone in hand. The time before you fall asleep is an excellent time to connect with your partner, but it’s easily wasted if you’re liking pictures on Instagram instead of paying attention to the person you love.
You’ll Boost Creativity
You need to let your mind wander if you want to come up with creative inspiration. That’s not going to happen if you’re browsing Pinterest, refreshing your Facebook feed, or reading a news story just to pass the time.
You’ll Increase Your Attention Span
A study conducted by Microsoft found that goldfish now have an attention span longer than humans do. The cause? Too much media too often and too quickly. In fact, research suggests that some digital-free downtime may even increase our attention spans by as much as 50 percent.
You’ll Improve Your Heart Health
Want a healthier heart? Start by getting a healthier relationship with your devices. Spending too much time on devices was linked to raised mortality and cardiovascular disease in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Clearly, all that time sitting down and scrolling isn’t a heart-pumping workout.
You’ll Have More Time to Relax
You might think you’ve been relaxing when you’re just lounging around looking at your phone. However, time spent on your phone or computer is actually anything but relaxing, and can even cause serious stress. Give yourself a break from the devices and you can enjoy a pleasant reminder of what real relaxation feels like.
You Can Get Your Brain in Shape
All that time you spend with multiple screens going is actually degrading the quality of your brain, according to research published in PLOS One. Devoting too much time to media multitasking was linked to smaller grey matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex region of the brain. That’s right: too much screen time is actually rotting your brain.
You Can Have a Real Work-Life Balance
No emails after work. No texts from the boss. No one calling you and asking you to come in early the next day. Instead, a digital detox mean you can spend quality time with your friends and family, without even worrying if you’re missing a message.
You Can Get to Know Yourself
One of the things that makes social media so anxiety-inducing for people is the stress that comes with constantly comparing yourself to others, whether you mean to or not. Without the option of looking at other people’s lives to see how you stack up, you’ll have the opportunity to do some real self-reflection and figure out who the real you really is.
You’ll Have Time for Default Mode
You know how the best ideas come to you when you’re in the shower? That happens because your brain is in “default mode,” the kind of internally-focused thought your mind doesn’t have time for when it’s constantly bombarded with streams of information. Better yet, it’s great for socioemotional development, according to research published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
You’ll Be Happier
Cutting out Facebook won’t just make you not depressed. It can make you actually happier, according to research conducted by the Happiness Research Institute. Not only that, quitting Facebook also made participants more decisive and enthusiastic.
You’ll Be Less of a Narcissist
One less selfie today, a few less selfish thoughts in the future. Spending time self-promoting was linked to narcissism in a study published in Personality and Individual Difference. There are also links to narcissism and social media in general. It’s possible if you break the habit of presenting yourself to the world through social media rather than being yourself in everyday life, you can cut those narcissistic traits out of your life.
You’ll Increase Productivity
When you combine the improved mood, better sleep, additional time, sharper focus, increased critical thinking skills, and physical well-being that come with undertaking a digital detox, improving your productivity is a no-brainer. But if you’re ready to get more productive right away, check out 15 Ways to Double Your Productivity in Half the Time.
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