Most of us are connected to technology from the moment we wake up until the second we close our eyes. Good or bad, this is considered the cost of staying connected to our personal and professional lives.
Still, studies have found that the prospect of unplugging from the digital world is alluring for most Americans, at least when it comes to logging off Facebook. Pew Research Center figures show that 61% of Facebook users have taken a break from the social media site for several weeks or more. But what’s the actual benefit in unplugging? Well, there’s a few.
First and foremost, people are more productive offline. Chris Bailey, author of the blog A Life of Productivity, writes about how the internet steals our productivity one sensation at a time. He references a study by Tim Pychyl, a researcher at Carleton University. That study found university students spend nearly half their time online procrastinating. Unplugging is a surefire way to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Not only will your productivity improve by unplugging, but disconnecting can also help you feel better about yourself. Unplugging has been linked to a number of mental health benefits, including a decreased sense of loneliness and jealousy, and an increased sense of value in the face-to-face relationships around you.
Avoiding your phone and computer at least an hour before bed will also help you get a better sleep. Studies show the blue light emitted by devices shoots straight through our retinas to suppress production of melatonin, an essential hormone in ensuring a good night’s rest.
If the thought of putting down your iPhone gives you withdrawal anxiety, here are a few steps to get you started in the unplugging process.
Plan Your Unplug in Advance
While you may feel the urge to immediately unplug after reading this post, digital detoxes are best done through careful planning. Decide how long your unplugging will last, encourage those around you to not email or text during that time, and schedule a few non-technology activities to do during that time period. Taking these steps in advance will help you succeed.
Shut Off Notifications
Admit it: you probably feel a bit of a rush when you see the notifications light flash on your phone or hear a Facebook ping on your computer. Checking technology is a compulsion, one that is not easily curbed. Disabling notifications permanently will mean it’s easier for you to unplug for short periods of time, even when you’re not on a complete digital detox.
Replace Your Habits That Rely on a Phone
Levi Felix, founder of The Digital Detox, recommends adapting habits in your life that require technology with non-tech solutions. For example, he suggests replacing the alarm clock app on your smartphone with a physical alarm clock. Or printing favorite recipes rather than constantly scrolling through websites looking for something to cook. Not turning to technology for these everyday tasks will mean you’re less likely to get distracted by something else online.
Change your FOMO to JOMO
You’re probably familiar with the term “fear of missing out,” also known fondly on the internet as FOMO. But do you know the acronym JOMO? It stands for “joy of missing out,” and it represents the thrill and comfort that can come from not seeing photos of your high school friend’s wedding, not indulging in the latest viral meme, and, in some cases, avoiding the allure of technology all together.
It comes down to this: to unplug well, one must make a mentality shift. Start thinking of unplugging not as a loss, but a gain. The digital world isn’t the only way to gain personal fulfillment, after all. If that’s a difficult thought to fathom, create a list of all the things you could do that don’t require a connection to technology. Start reading that book you’ve had on your night table or curl up on the couch and relax. Schedule a coffee date with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Go outside.
Think of the tasks you may have been putting off as a result of technology, and make an effort to do them, and your unplugging exercise is much more likely to succeed.