The big day has finally arrived and for most Canadians they probably can find some type of technology under their tree. From tablets to phones to game consoles and social media much of our holiday attention is spent in a wired world interacting through a digital lens. This tends to leave us more stressed and run down as we return back to work and prepare to start a new year.
In a world of ALWAYS ON we spend most of our lives connected to some type of technology. We wake up to them, we come home to them, and we carry them around in our pockets all day. While there’s no doubt technology has made our lives easier in many ways, research suggests that our addiction to it is real and can be detrimental. Studies show that every new notification or text triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards, so you keep coming back to your devices for more. This vicious cycle is taking a toll on our health, mental wellbeing, and relationships. Ending that cycle, however, doesn’t need to require an anguishing separation trial with our gadgets. With a few simple steps, you can stay plugged in but “detoxed” at the same time, helping you feel more fulfilled, calm, and connected – especially this holiday season – to the things that really matter.
To cut back on your digital dependency, turn off your phone’s push notifications for social media apps – anything that sends an alert when someone contacts you or likes a post. Starting with one or two, set a specific time of day to check each and a time limit for how long you’ll spend on the site, such as 20 minutes. This way you’re not going offline entirely but rather choosing when to access your social media sites and networks. When it comes to your mobile phones, may not be the best cuddlers, but studies show that we can’t resist getting into bed with our phones. In a recent survey, 50 percent of Canadians reported sleeping with their devices next to their beds, and another 15 percent leave theirs somewhere out of reach but in their bedrooms. If you do so because your phone doubles as your alarm, watch out. You’re inviting the whole world—every Facebook friend, reporter, blogger—into bed with you. Switch to a real alarm clock, and when it buzzes, give yourself 10 to 20 minutes, or even an hour, to ignore your devices as you prep for the day. That way, you’ll be able to start your day on your own terms, not someone else’s while feeling more inspired and rested, and less anxious. Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon before running a mile, you need to ease yourself into taking breaks from the digital world. Start by putting your phone down for 15 minutes without looking at it one day. The next day, break away from technology for 30 minutes, and so on – or designate one day a week to stay away from one social media platform completely—say, Twitter-free Tuesdays.
When you’re on a diet, it’s smart to keep single-serving dark chocolates on hand to kill the crave if a cake craving kicks in. Do the same thing for a digital detox, have activities available to distract you when the urge strikes to check your phone or laptop. Consider buying magazines, a book, or a new nail polish, or head out for a walk and simply take in what’s going on around you. When you are fully present in the moment, you’ll feel more thoughtful, your stress levels will dial down, and you’ll develop stronger relationships as you chat with friends and family. Finally, identify the sites or apps you’re spending all your time on and ask yourself why you’re drawn to them, then create a way to find that satisfaction in real life. If you’re inspired by artistic photos on Instagram, visit an art gallery with a friend. And when the itch to post a photo arises, create your own “Instagram filter, make a frame with your fingers, and take a mental snapshot of that sunset or beautiful bouquet for yourself, not your followers. It really can enrich your experience. Science shows that when you engage with a moment with all of your senses, you’ll be more likely to remember it later on. The same recall doesn’t occur when you’re too busy snapping photos with your device.