Is it Time for a Digital Detox?

January 2023

How much time do you spend in front of a screen each day? If you’re like the average Canadian, then the answer is probably somewhere around the 11-hour mark. That’s 11 hours a day with your eyes glued to a television, computer, or phone screen.

For over half of Canadians, checking their phone is the first thing they do when they wake up and the last thing they do before going to bed. Another 43% of Canadians say they check their phone at least every 30 minutes on an average day.

Needless to say, we are spending a lot of time on our phones, computers, tablets, and televisions. And while we all know it’s not realistic in today’s society to expect people to be able to completely disconnect from their devices, there is a lot to be said about scaling back the amount of time we spend connected to a screen.

There are clear benefits to shutting off our screens.

Monotasking is the new multitasking

When we do too much, we divide our attention. We’ve heard for years about the benefits of multitasking and how amazing it is for productivity. But more and more studies are being published that say the exact opposite—multitasking does not result in more productive workers or students.

So when we are on our phones and playing with our kids, or cooking dinner while watching a show, we aren’t going to be able to give either task our full attention. By putting our devices aside, we can get the most out of other activities, and truly enjoy the meal we’re cooking, the game we are playing with our kids, or even watching the show we’ve been waiting to see.

Get a better night’s sleep

You’ve heard this advice time and time again—keep your smartphone and tablet out of the bedroom. While over 50% of Canadians aren’t heeding this advice, it’s time to turn that majority into a minority! The blue light from your smartphone mimics the blue light that we get from the sun. When you have a lot of this blue light at night, you can throw off your circadian rhythm, convincing your body it is in fact time to be awake.

Leaving your smartphone outside of your room when you go to bed at night is an easy way to ensure you don’t check it throughout the night or first thing in the morning.

Make more time for exercise

While there are plenty of apps that help us get and stay active, spending time on our favourite apps and websites can take up valuable time. Next time you sit down to scroll on social media, put your smartphone down and do something physically active. Start small—walk around your house or do 5-10 squats. As you start building this habit into your daily routine, up the exercise—get outside for a walk around the block or spend 10 minutes doing some body strength exercises.

Reclaim a sense of calm

Being tied to your phone or computer day in, and day out can be draining. The buzzing alerts, texts, and various other notifications can wear on you. Studies have shown that social media in particular can have a negative effect on your overall mental health. Being able to step away from your phone—even for a short time—can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Reconnect with your social circle

Instead of learning about friends via social media, it might be time to put your phone down and head out to meet up with friends. It’s a great way to truly reconnect and be sure to leave your phone at home (or in your bag or pocket) while you’re out so you can be present.

Want to try a digital detox?

If you’re looking to dive into your digital detox, start with these 5 small steps:

  1. Take inventory – how often are you reaching for your device? Cut back on sites, apps, and habits that don’t bring value, aka “time vampires”.
  2. Cut back – instead of going cold turkey, limit your usage. Instead of checking email 5 times each hour, try once per hour.
  3. Turn off your notifications and alerts.
  4. Create technology-free zones, such as the bedroom and the dinner table.
  5. Make plans – get outside, spend time with a friend or schedule some “me” time that doesn’t include technology.

In today’s digitally obsessed world, it can be hard to disconnect. But making a small effort once in a while to put the phone down and spend some in-person time with your family and friends, or going out and leaving the phone at home, will allow you to recharge yourself.

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