The Digital Detox Diet.
Maxim Cramer – Tech Mentor
As we’ve settled into the new year, it’s that time again where we think of a good spring clean. Carpets get steamed, curtains washed, those niggly spots above the door frames dusted. Quickly, it spills over into other areas of life. Files are organised, clothes get colour coded, and food in the pantry gets checked for expiration dates.
Something I love doing is clearing out the cowebs in my brain. And I think I might not be alone here.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed that minimising device usage is a goal that has become increasingly popular. A digital detox, if you will.
Even if it’s not always specified as such. Because it can also hide under “spend more time with friends and family” or “feel less stressed at work”, “rest more”, “write that book you’ve always wanted to write”.
What all of these have in common, is that they require time and attention. Just as our phones do. We don’t have an infinite supply of either, so something’s got to give.
But technology is addictive. It has been designed that way, and to great success considering one in eight of us checks our phone whilst showering.
Every time you check social or you receive a like, a reply, a comment your brain fires off dopamine. It’s the chemical in our brains that make us do things. It causes the drive to seek and be rewarded, so we used to look for all the things that ensured survival, like food.
Now, we don’t have to look that far anymore. The buttons, the people, the information, is right there. It’s the unknown that also helps drive this neurochemical. Will there be a message? Who is it from? As I scroll through my feed, what might be next? All this causes massive spikes in dopamine and has got us hooked.
Over half of us feels queasy and uneasy when leaving our phone at home. This demonstrates a high dependency on our devices. I use my phone to pay for everything as well, meaning I regularly step out of the house without a wallet, but never not my phone! It makes me wonder what a world of less dependance looks like.
It can feel like there’s no escaping it. Not to mention, we use these wonders daily, also for all the necessary things like work email, calendars, communication and more. For me especially, my career as a software engineer centres around my usage of technology. And so I’ve thought a lot about how to find some sensible balance.
I look at it like any other drug. And so, I will share with you my drastically simple approach, one I return to time and time again.
Lock the phone in a drawer for a weekend.
Set it to airplane mode. Let it run out of juice. Go cold turkey, and cut it off.
It’s the only way to get the brain back into a healthy and helpful balance.
Now, of course we all rely on our phones to do a number of jobs. I will make a point of using kitchen timers and a real, physical alarm clock instead. I write my notes on paper, and keep pen and pad on the kitchen table. I make sure to, before I turn the phone off, write down any appointments I have.
When meeting friends, I let them know ahead of time that I won’t have my phone on me. I do fall back to my laptop if necessary, looking up how to get somewhere for instance. Archaic, perhaps, but managing my way through London becomes quite tranquil with only a few scribbles on a piece of paper in my back pocket.
For entertainment I read, as I have plenty of books on the shelf I haven’t gotten around too. I listen to music. I bake. I paint. I nap.
Doing this for a full weekend, Friday night until Monday morning, and believe me, I’m reclaim time and energy I never thought I had.
I am bored again! I laugh! I have deep, meaningful conversations with my loved ones. I think I even found myself gazing out of the window, daydreaming.
It feels so. unbelievably. good.
As the overwhelm subsides, I find the opposite becoming true. Time, rest, and space become addictive instead. My brain feels reset to neutral, and the power that the apps, the feeds, and the games had are no longer as strong.
I routinely plan these digital detoxes and reclaim my time. I believe it’s an essential strategy in your arsenal for modern life. It takes regular repetition to remind us of what our priorities are. Less time bent over a screen, and more time looking up and out. Just imagine… What will you see? What will you achieve? What will you feel?
So as you consider a deep clean for your home this Spring, I hope you give a weekend offline a chance, too.
Join a conversation with Maxim:
Beluga Bean is hosting regular conversations with Maxim for anyone seeking to feel more confident about the digital world. These take place in-person and online.
You can see a list of upcoming ‘Tech Connect‘ events on the Beluga Bean Calendar.