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Is it time for a Digital Detox?

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on digital devices?

Whether through the accumulation of work and/or in our private lives we are spending more and more time in front of a screen and the prognosis is that too much of this is not good for us.

There are many obvious benefits to digital technology and some of these became more apparent during the pandemic lockdowns, helping to reduce social isolation and loneliness for instance. However, as with many things, the benefits are best achieved in moderation…

Did you know that 28% of UK adults report a negative impact on their mental health due to increased screen time?

Increased screen time leads to increased sitting time, decreased physical activity and can impact on mental wellbeing and even disrupt healthy sleep habits. It also has direct links to physical ailments such as headaches, eye strain, neck pain and cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Although much of the research is startling, the LiveWell group would like to encourage employees that there is plenty that can be done to have achieve a healthier balance when it comes to time spent online and offline.

This is where the idea of a ‘digital detox’ comes in.

Put simply, digital detox is a period of time where you choose to refrain from the use of or reduce the amount of screen time each day. This can be done on a specific day, a week, month or permanently.

Of course, in the modern world we are always going to have to access and use digital technology, but it is how we manage that to achieve a healthy balance and the impact on our personal wellbeing and those around us that is key.

Research from Leeds University highlighted the following statistics:
  • Around half of working adults spent over 11 hours a day attached to a screen and 28% of these spent over 14 hours per day.
  • The recommended screen time out with work is 2 hours a day, however average screen time in the UK is spent on: 90 minutes per day on social media, 3 hours per day browsing the internet and 4 hours per day watching TV or a streaming service.
  • The findings conclude that more than 75% of our waking hours are spent connected to digital technology.

For many of us however, digital detoxing may not be easy, so to help you on your way, you may wish to consider the following six steps:

  1. Assess your usage, how much screen time do you have each day, what screen time activities do you engage with? You may be surprised by how much time you actually spend in front of a screen.
  2. Know your habits, much of our behaviour becomes ingrained and is subconscious. Do you reach for your phone first thing in the morning when you wake up to check social media? Perhaps you switch on the television as soon as you enter your living room? Identifying some of your daily screen-time habits may help you to keep them in check as you make your own adjustments to reduce your online time.
  3. Remove the temptation! Don’t always rely on willpower alone, as a conscious effort alone isn’t always enough of a motivation.  See what strategies you can develop to reduce the temptation. These could include putting your phone out of reach of the bed at night, switching off notifications or turning the phone off all together if you can.
  4. Use tools to help reduce screen time, including App Blockers; these can tell you how much you are on your phone and block distracting websites.
  5. With less screen time eating into your free time, you can spend more time reconnecting with old hobbies or pursuits away from screens such as taking up a new health or wellbeing activity.
  6. Reward, Renew, Repeat! Don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle at first, but certainly reward yourself if you managed to get some planned time away.

People who do manage to decrease their screen time often report improvements in sleep, lower stress levels and improved ability to focus. But please remember, change does not always follow a straight line, so have patience and compassion for yourself and good luck!

The text in this news article was created by the LiveWell group – the Council’s health and wellbeing programme for employees and summarised from a video produced by Dan Sly, Workplace Wellbeing Consultant for Optima Health. View the video online here – but not during your designated digital downtime of course!

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