On Your Health

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Do You Need a Digital Detox?

You know when you’ve overindulged on food. Your body feels sluggish and bloated and you lack energy and feel overly full and uncomfortable. Many people try to combat that gross feeling by eliminating highly processed foods and avoiding high-calorie, low-nutrition foods for a few days. In essence, they are “detoxing” their body to feel better.

But what happens when it’s your mind that doesn’t feel great? Technology has improved our lives in many ways. Like anything in life, though, too much can sometimes lead to harm. Have you ever thought about trying a digital detox to give your mind and body a rest? For some, a digital detox can be just as beneficial to the body as eating your daily vegetables.


Social media and the pandemic

Since the pandemic began, many of us have relied on social media to stay connected. A survey conducted by Statista says that 32% of Americans have spent a substantial increase in time on social media in the past few months.

Unfortunately, social media addiction is a real thing. According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, an addiction to social media “may result in symptoms and consequences traditionally associated with substance-related addictions,” which can include mood changes, an ever-increasing need for the addictive substance, withdrawal symptoms, interpersonal problems and relapse.

Why you need a digital detox

Social media and technology stimulate parts of the brain that “reward” us, much like certain illicit substances do. We get a dopamine rush and feel pleasure when we get “likes” or responses. That rush can sometimes cause us to fall into a trap of using social media as a way to relieve stress, loneliness or depression.

A 2017 study from Harvard University found that social media can have a significantly negative impact on social relationships, self-esteem, academic success and overall emotional well-being. The study also linked high-volume social media usage to depression and anxiety.

Even if you’re not actually addicted, most everyone could benefit from an occasional social media break, especially when the news cycle is stressful and worrisome. It’s good to take a break from technology in order to “reset” your brain.

But what, exactly, is a digital detox?

A digital detox is a defined period of time in which you significantly reduce the time you spend interacting with technology. The amount of time can range from a few hours to a few days to many months, depending on your need.

A digital detox can be as easy as simply turning off your notifications, setting a time limit on your amount of screen time per day, or having a set period of self-imposed, non-screen time.

Some people choose to cut out all social media and non-necessary technology during a digital detox, and some choose not to use their smartphones, tablets, computers, or technology at all.

It’s easy to check your screen time on your phone by looking at your system settings. iPhone users, for example, get a notification on Sundays that summarizes their past week’s screen time. In the Settings menu, the notification tells the average amount of time per day users use their phone and if there has been an increase or decrease in the usage.

Ideas for a detox

How you choose to step away depends on you, but here are some ideas to start your technology mental cleanse.

  • Check your phone and social media only once a day.
  • Leave your phone in another room at night before you sleep.
  • Remove social media apps from your phone.
  • Opt out of social media notifications.
  • Block social media sites using a web filtering tool.
  • Delete your social media profiles forever (or for a certain period of time to see how you like it).

You may want to have a plan on how you will fill the void in the first few days. Some people might have withdrawal symptoms, such as a heightened craving for social media or a fear you might be missing something important or entertaining.

Additional benefits of trying a detox

Taking a break from digital distractions has a lot of health benefits, such as:

Becoming more productive.

A paper in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology showed that people spend much more time on social networks than they think they do, causing them to engage in more multi-tasking and distractions from work or hobbies.

Improving your sleep.

A 2014 study of adults aged 19 to 32 found that on average, they check their social media accounts for over an hour a day. Of those, 57% reported sleep disturbances.

Improving your personal relationships.

Less time scrolling through social media can mean more face-to-face interactions with friends, family and loved ones. In addition, the trap of falling prey to social media “fights” is dramatically reduced, which lowers stress.

Reducing stress.

Social media tends to feed our “fear of missing out” and can create added pressure to be connected, witty or responsive. Maintaining a large social network may also add to daily stress and being bombarded constantly with information, opinions and comparisons is detrimental to mental well-being.

Finding new or old hobbies.

Remember how you used to love reading, hiking or woodworking? By taking an online break, you may find yourself rediscovering or participating in hobbies or other enjoyable activities you would normally not have time for.

Becoming more mindful.

By reducing those digital distractions, you can become more in tune with what’s around you and how you’re feeling in the moment.

Becoming better connected.

Social media may lead us to believe we are truly connected to our friends and family, but it’s an illusion. By deleting that crutch, you’ll open yourself up to seeing more people and having more genuine conversations free of edits or filters.

Improving your self-esteem.

Being online all the time can cause us to compare ourselves, our lives and our own happiness with what we see. This can harm our self-esteem.

Resetting your tolerance for social media.

You’ll soon find that your need to check sites will ease and you can control your need for constant online connection. You’ll also appreciate the positive aspects of social media more and be able to decide what negative aspects to avoid.

Give your brain a break by taking a digital break and help bring clarity back into your life. If you are struggling with depression, stress, social media overload or a social media addiction, INTEGRIS Mental Health offers free mental health screenings as well as comprehensive services like inpatient facilities, counseling, psychiatry and support groups.