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CommunityMental HealthIt’s high time for a digital detox: here’s how

It’s time to stop making excuses and take up a digital detox to recharge your mind, body and spirit.
Soniyaa Kiran PunjabiJuly 1, 202212 min
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Your day probably starts with waking up, getting ready to go to work or school, then coming home after a long day and relaxing for a bit before you call it a night. Then repeat.

But let’s take a more detailed look at this: you wake up with the alarm you set on your phone, you then go through all your phone apps and notifications, like the daily newspaper; you use the online map to get directions or guide you to work or any appointments, then you use online streaming sites to watch something while you eat or chill until you surf through the same social media sites before you fall asleep. Doesn’t this feel like technology has crept into every aspect of your life? Do you feel helpless and unable to rest until you’ve replied to every email as soon as it arrives? It’s time to stop making excuses and take up a digital detox to recharge your mind, body and spirit.

Why a digital detox is important

You might not realize it but in this technology-driven era, you are constantly being bombarded with emails, texts, tweets and tons of information and it is very hard to process it all properly. This constant habit and need to be all over everything online and the fear of missing something everyone else supposedly knows about actually isolates us in more ways than one. You would think that because you’re so active and eager to reply to all your emails, you couldn’t possibly be hampering your work or your life. However, studies have shown that this digital life harms your health, your productivity and creativity, your sleep and your social relationships, too. The all-consuming nature of it drains you and bogs you down. It’s high time to recognize this and find a method of unplugging yourself from this toxic lifestyle.

The time you spend looking at a screen before you sleep affects your sleep schedule, negatively affecting your health and increasing the risk of major illnesses and/or conditions, such as obesity and diabetes. Research has shown that less time spent checking your email reduces your stress, putting you in a better position to tap into your creativity and do your job better. Excessive social media use also results in mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues, especially in teens. The effects of a digital media takeover are enormous. Without disregarding the convenience and entertainment it has brought to our lives, we cannot ignore the long-run negativity it also brings and nor should we finch from moderating it.  A digital detox is the answer to de-cluttering our online lives. 

3 powerful ways to unplug

Before doing a digital detox, calculate how much time you spend each day looking at anything on-screen and make a list of things you would like to do instead with that time. Here are some suggestions:

1) Mindfulness & meditation to heal your mind and spirit

Take some time to meditate to relax your brain, eyes and mind. Meditation will help you identify negative, unwanted habits and will “rewire” you for better health and quality of life. You will begin to prioritize the things you value over additional, disruptive screen time. Mindfulness is an effective method where you pay attention to the present, through relaxing techniques. It helps you to take notice of all the things we miss whilst our eyes are constantly glued to our digital screens. 

2) Meet up with people, not your gadgets

Online shopping and messaging results in us rarely having to engage with people outside of work. Meaningful conversations and sessions happen over the phone and through texts. We are broadcasting all of our movements online for all to see, yet we are lonelier now than ever before. It is important to have real, face-to-face interaction with your family, friends and loved ones. Sending a weekly update message emits no emotion or happiness.

Even if you have taken steps to actually meet someone, chances are you will have checked your phone at least a couple of times. From business meetings to family dinners, we don’t go anywhere with our gadgets and then end up checking to see if we’ve had a new text or call.  Make it a habit to really try and give your undivided attention to someone when you’re with them. Do not be on the constant look out  for a new email or notification. Try leaving your phone at home when you work out or go for a short walk. Do not add any gadgets or screens to activities that do not absolutely require them.

3) Practicality to unplugging it

There a few things to remember before you take a deep dive into your digital detox:

— Do not underestimate your dependence and comfort with using your phone or the Internet for almost everything.

—  Be realistic about how much time you can afford to unplug for. Some jobs do consist of us being online for a huge chunk of the day, so your cost of detox will be higher than most. Ideally a vacation would be the best time to take up this habit. Be realistic about the amount of time you can carve out for this detox.

— You can update your email settings so that everyone who sends you an email gets a response saying you will not be able to reply until such-and-such a  date.

— Inform your inner circle and family that you are undertaking this, so they are aware and know how to reach you in times of an emergency.

— There are times when you will be bored and the urge to surf a social media site or stream a movie will seem irresistible, so be prepared for it. Write a list of things you would like to do instead of spending time online and get on to those instead. 

  • To learn more ways on how to live a happier, healthier and more productive life and finding ways to switch off and tune in from within, visit Illuminations Wellbeing Center in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. We offer meditation and mindfulness courses and training that are customized to your needs. The first class is free. 
  • This article originally ran in February 2020.

Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi

Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi is the Dubai-based founder of Illuminations, a premiere wellbeing platform launched in 2006. She is a holistic coach, hypnotherapist and wellness consultant who is passionate about everything to do with self care, personal growth and wellbeing.

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