Each time we receive a new message or alert on our phone or computer, our brains get a hit of dopamine. The novelty is addictive and, as is the nature of an addiction, it can easily take hold of your life with detrimental effects.
It has been reported that social media promotes narcissism and insomnia. Getting offline and in control of how you spend your time can be hugely beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
Technology has trained our brains not to register seemingly insignificant details. However, minor facts are actually very important for helping us bond with other people. When you take time away from your screen your memory will begin to improve as you become more present in conversation. Your brain will be able to process and store new information more easily, making it easier for you to remember the new colleague you were introduced to in the office or the place where you left your revision cards.
Blue light from phone and computer screens suppresses melatonin in the body, which makes us more alert. If you look at a screen before you go to bed you will find it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Avoiding screen time 90 minutes before you go to bed will help you have a more restful sleep – and be more productive during waking hours too.
Kickstart you digital detox
Here are some easy ways to get offline, get focused and start achieving your goals.
- Read hard copies of books and newspapers – Reading online not only strains your eyes but also stops you from being present in the moment. The constant stream of adverts that flash up on screen tempt you to click away from the very article you wanted to read in the fist place. Picking up a physical book or newspaper gives you just one focus and rests your eyes.
- Turn off your phone -Phones suck us into social media. Before you know it, five minutes has turned into half an hour or more. If you really need to focus, just turn your phone off. Start by turning it off for one hour. Then build it up. Believe me when I say that nothing terrible happens most of the time.
- Stay away from online distractions – Even with your phone switched off there are still opportunities for distraction, mainly from your computer. Alerts pop up and there is always the temptation to log onto Facebook or check your emails. The easiest fix is to download the app called ‘Self-Control’. It allows you to block your own access to the websites you find the most distracting. Set the timer for as long as you plan on studying or focusing. Once the timer is on, you won’t be able to access the websites you have blocked. Simple.
- Find your offline tribe – Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one trying to establish great new habits. This is when the power of your network comes into play. Surrounding yourself with people who are looking to achieve the same thing as you is truly motivational. Websites such ‘It’s Time To Log Off’ champion digital detoxes. Not only do they push out inspiring content, they run events and workshops where you can meet like-minded people.
- Get some family time – The best way to foster deep-down happiness is to have positive relationships with those who are closest to you i.e. your family. Spend some time talking in person to your family rather than Whatsapping them. Your family are you biggest supporters of what you so use them to motivate and guide you to achieve your goals.
- Be active – Getting active is great for both your physical and mental health. It can be as simple as going for a walk. Being active can also help you to focus. Experiments with school children have shown that incorporating 20-minute aerobic exercise sessions into lessons improved the attention spans of Dutch school pupils. Controlled trials in the US also looked at the effects of daily after-school sports classes for children. Along with improved fitness, the children became better at ignoring distractions.
- Meet up with friends – For most people, the internet is their main way of contacting others. This is fine on a superficial level but what’s the deep value of those interactions? It’s far better to physically be with your friends that you haven’t seen in a while, than to chat virtually. Communication in the real world has the benefit of body language, voice and touch and we need to use all of our senses to stay healthy.