When feeling overwhelmed and unsettled by the vicissitudes of life, it can be tempting to wish to disconnect entirely. Our worries could be solved by simply unplugging, we tell ourselves. If only we could be transported to a faraway place without any distraction, we could finally find rest.
While in theory, a digital detox can serve us well, in practical terms, now more than ever it is important to keep up to date with the news, and stay connected while working remotely and practicing social distancing.
Maybe it’s not about aspiring to disconnect, but rather finding small ways to switch off in the moments that allow in order to protect our mental health. It would be unrealistic for many of us to cut out technology or social media, but we can strive towards controlling it rather than letting it control us.
Here are some small steps and ideas to find pockets in your day to take a break from technology in order to rest and reset.
1. Set up "mental bumps"
One way to build a habit of switching off into your day is to make it more difficult to fall into social media spirals or be distracted by your devices.
Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone recommends creating ‘mental bumps’ to act as reminders to be more intentional about when and why you switch on.
This could be as simple as putting an elastic band around your phone as a reminder to question why you are looking to your phone in this moment. The key is to set up prompts that allow you to think about why you are reaching for your device and what else you could be doing instead.
2. Create technology free zones
Perhaps the most important time to build a switching off ritual is before sleep. One way to circumvent regretfully scrolling on social media in bed is to invest in an alarm clock and keep your bedside table a phone-free zone.
For others, creating a technology-free morning routine can become a time for focusing on neglected habits like journaling, reading, or the simple enjoyment of making a coffee and focusing on the process without dividing your attention.
3. Be present and mindful
As our everyday commitments and responsibilities have become intertwined with our online lives, perhaps learning to spontaneously switch off in our day to day lives is a realistic approach.
As Price recommends, “When you notice that you’re in the midst of a phone spiral, ask yourself: What’s your posture like? How’s your breathing? Is whatever you’re doing on your phone necessary? Do you want to be using it right now? The more tuned in you are to your own experiences in the moment, the easier it will be to change your behaviour.”