Can you handle a digital detox?

Too much technology
Too much technology
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Medical herbalist and columnist Jenny Logan writes about ditching that phone.

Thinking of making a new year’s resolution? Or following a detox plan following all the Christmas overindulgence?

It may be worth considering a different type of detox this year – one which could also free up time and ease stress levels – sound good?

What I am talking about here though is the idea of following a digital detox – but please bear with me whilst I explain myself before you shake your head and put this article down.

A recent update on my iPhone allows it to send me a report every week of the average amount of time I spend on my phone each day – and how productive that time is. Now, I would always describe myself as a busy person. I work full time; my daughter has a lot of activities I must take her to and I also try and spend some time with my husband and friends occasionally. I often complain that I do not have a spare minute. So, imagine my surprise when the first report on screen time I received told me that I spent an average of 3 hours per day on my phone! 3 hours per day! What could I be better doing with some of that time?

Now, there is no doubt that technology has made our lives easier in many ways. Lost? Open a map. Need a phone number, information or an answer to a trivial question? Google it. It also gives peace of mind as your children start to head into town with their friends, if you can give them a phone, so they can contact and be contacted easily. BUT – there is also a lot of evidence that our addiction to our phones is a real thing which could be causing us stress.

Every time we see a notification on our phone, it triggers a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which provides a sensation of motivation and reward, which makes us want to repeat the action again and again. This in turn can take a toll on our mental health, our stress levels, and our relationships with the people around us – who hasn’t sat in the same room at a partner or friend, yet still been driven to check their phone?

However – please let me reassure you that I am not talking about giving up the phone completely! Just trying to take back control, by making a few simple changes. For example, one friend of mine deleted all her social media apps, so that she physically had to log on to check her accounts. This freed her from notifications and she swears, made her spend the time when she may have otherwise clicked onto Facebook, more productively.

Other people are investing in proper alarm clocks and banning smart phones from the bedroom. This means no staring at bright lights before sleep, which in turn could also improve sleep quality. It also means that they are often not checking their phones until after they have got up and dressed. Which also means that they are starting the day in their own mind, preparing themselves for what lies ahead, rather than immediately immersing themselves into the unreal world of social media. This is another change that I am intending to implement myself. My personal addiction is to twitter – I check the news, and then the opinions on it as one of the first things I do in the morning, and with the way things are at the moment, let us be honest, it does not exactly set me off in the best of moods for the day.

One of the reasons so many of us feel the need to stay connected practically 24/7 is a fear of missing out. Of not knowing what is going on. Is this healthy? No.

We need really to spend more time being mindful, being in our own moment, being happy with what we have chosen to do and experiencing that, whatever it is – maybe without taking a picture and sharing it! This need to take a picture and share our every move, and mouthful, is us seeking approval from others. Is it really a great idea to have a vast amount of our self-esteem, and therefore confidence and happiness based on whether other people approve or respond to it?

It is a fact, that relying on external sources of approval for our confidence and happiness creates anxiety. Having faith in yourself and your own choices, being mindful and present in the moment and genuinely experiencing life is truly the way to manage anxiety, build confidence and feel happier – and isn’t this something we all want?

So, could a small digital detox be the best way to start the year?