Digital Detox: Reset Your Brain for a Better Life
It’s something we are all guilty of, at the earliest hint of boredom. Without a thought, we reach for our phones. Our thumb muscle memories are set to scrolling and double tapping. For some of us our phone screen is the first thing we look at every morning and the last at night. 53% of people wake up at least once a night to check their phones. Whether it’s Words with Friends, Instagram, or work, we all know that our attachment *cough* addiction *cough* to our screens is unhealthy. The blue light damages our eyes, and causes headaches, and fatigue; our posture worsens causing tension in our necks, shoulders, and backs. Ultimately our mental health suffers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The average adult checks their phone 150 times a day and spends 11 hours out of every day staring at a screen. All this screen time is affecting our brains, and not for the better. Heavy internet users are 2.5 times as likely to be depressed. It’s becoming harder and harder for our brains to relax as the presence of our phones keeps us on high alert awaiting the next notification-so much so that roughly 60% of people report that they no longer find an average vacation relaxing. Not only can we not relax but we also can’t focus. The average American’s attention span has fallen in the last decade from 12 to 8 seconds. That is less than a goldfish. And only 2% of the population can multitask without a decline in performance.
So how do we best the goldfish? How do we separate ourselves from the devices that have become such a huge part of our lives? How do we reclaim our brains? Well, it won’t be easy and it may not be pretty, but it can be done. It’s hard to believe that less than 30 years ago most Americans went about their everyday lives without immediate access to friends, news, and entertainment right in their pockets. I’m a child of the 90’s so the idea is extremely foreign, but it gives me hope. So here I’ve compiled some of my favorite tips and tricks from a few of the many articles covering the topic from Psychology Today (they really want us off our phones, guys).
The first few pieces of advice have everything to do with time. Don’t use your phone as your alarm clock. Remove the temptation to have your phone be the last and first thing you look at every day. Designate a time of day to non-screen time. Start with small increments and see how long you can expand that time without your phone. I’m going to start with my morning routine. No screens for me until after I’ve taken time to enjoy some morning yoga and breakfast. Get a wristwatch, eliminating the need to use your phone as your timekeeping device also eliminates the excuse to see if Greg has texted you back yet or not. And last, but not least in this category, only respond to emails and texts at specific times of the time. Make yourself a mental schedule, tell yourself that you will only check your emails at 9 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm, and stick to it.
Next up is telling your friends and coworkers that you are working on a digital detox. They will be less likely to text you or engage with you on social media and you’ll be less likely to feel the anxiety caused by FOMO or the Fear Of Missing Out. Also, turn off those push notifications. You don’t need to know every time Aunt Jan likes your status-her online affections will still be there the next time you check-in. Trim down your friend list, filter through less nonsense, and only see the things you care about from people you care about, and have an overall more fulfilling social media experience. Delete apps you don’t use, unsubscribe to the blogs and podcasts you never check anymore, and remove the clutter from your phone. Lastly, use technology to your advantage. My iPhone shames me with weekly screen time updates. Take those readings to heart, and strive to do better next week. Is your phone’s screen time update not enough? Download an app such as Flipd, App Detox, or Space, all designed to help you stay off your phone or limit your access to your most time-wasting apps.
And finally, my favorite piece of advice for helping you through your digital detox is to get outside. Not only is vitamin D great mood medicine, but the endorphins we release from being active help also ward off depression and clear that ever-present brain fog. So put your phone on airplane mode and enjoy some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities the Ozarks have to offer. Take a bike ride along the 75+ miles of Greenway trails throughout Springfield or Two Rivers Mountain Bike Park in Highlandville, MO. Maybe take the kids to catch a fish or two at Fellows Lake, kayak down the James River, or float across Lake Springfield. Rather be on your feet? Take a jog at Busiek State Park or Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. A quick drive to Branson can have you taking in beautiful views and going for a swim at Table Rock State Park or hiking through Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area. Willing to drive a little further? Head south to Arkansas into the stunning Boston Mountains of the Ozark National Forest. Take a few days to backpack a portion of the Buffalo River Trail, or take a shorter adventure up the Round Top Mountain trail for amazing panoramic views of the mountains. And let’s not forget our other neighboring state parks, Roaring River to our West, and Bennett Springs to our East. Both are great for fishing, swimming, and hiking, and offer interactive programs for kids and adults alike. No matter your inclinations or abilities, the Ozarks have something to offer. So here is to our digital detox journey and a new chapter of resetting our brains, bettering our lives, and reviving the alarm clock industry.