It’s become one of the most popular travel trends and for a lot of parents, it's a nagging but seemingly unachievable goal; to cut down on the amount of time you and the kids spend staring at screens and instead make an effort to connect with loved ones. But where to start and what to do? These nine tips will help make sure your digital detox really works!
It’s all very well following the latest health trend – juice fasts, colon cleanses, digital detoxes – but unless you are doing it for the right reasons it won’t be sustainable. Don’t feel guilty about the amount of time you spend using digital technology; after all it makes life easier, more efficient and often more fun! If however you find yourself scrolling through another boring Facebook feed long after you should have been asleep or you get twitchy when your phone is out of reach, perhaps it is an idea to take a break and explore other ways of finding fulfilment. Why not partner with a friend and do it together for moral support?
Digital devices have become so much part and parcel of modern life that it is easy to forget how much we rely on them. Skills that we used to need such as reading a road map have become irrelevant to everyday life (until our sat navs lose signal!) Before embarking on your digital detox, take an inventory of all the phones, tablets and computers that you use. It could be interesting to see how many you have and prioritise which you really need.
In today’s society we have come to expect people to be available 24/7 and it is hard to step back from this mentality. Disappearing without a word could be confusing for friends and work colleagues, so ensure that you tell everyone what you are planning to do and for how long. They are likely to be supportive as most people understand how much digital devices impact our lives and the need to get the balance right. Post a status on each of your social networks and set up auto-replies for your email accounts so that your contacts can reset their expectations of how and when they can get in touch with you, and when you will respond.
One of the main things that keep us glued to our phones is the constant ‘ping’ or buzz of notifications: you’ve been tagged in a photo on Facebook, someone has commented on your Insta-story or your boss has sent through just one more email before the weekend. It can be tempting to be on call 24 hours a day, and it’s particularly tough to say ‘no’ when everyone else seems to be doing it. However, for your health, it is important to have allocated rest time and not feel that you need to respond to every communication immediately. By turning off the push notifications, you will be able to check manually at your own convenience and feel more in control of your time.
When you spend so much time doing something, cutting it down (or out) can seem almost impossible. However, thinking of it as an opportunity to take up something that enriches your life is a great way to stay motivated. When you think about reaching for your phone to browse Instagram why not do a quick yoga session instead, or if you are at work simply take a couple of minutes to meditate and clear your mind. Use your new-found time to take up that class you’ve always wanted to do, or try a new and exciting hobby to connect with people you haven’t met before. Keeping busy with interesting activities will help you dispel the feeling that you are missing out by not engaging on social media (see the next point!)
It is a well-known fact that people love to only show the best bits of their lives on social media, choosing to edit out the dull and miserable parts in order to create a glossy image. One Instagram model chose to leave the platform a few years ago as she was fed up of taking over 100 pictures every time she wanted to post; inevitably there would only be one or two ‘perfect’ enough for the platform. People don’t post about arguments with their spouse, ‘snap’ their kids refusing to put their shoes on or tweet about the fact that their washing machine just broke down. No matter how good someone’s feed looks remember that it is a tiny, edited snapshot of their lives and it is useless to aspire to something that doesn’t exist. Instead, invite a couple of close friends over for dinner or drinks and have a good old-fashioned catch up (no selfies allowed!).
At the start of a detox you may be tempted to fling away your digital aids with abandon, run away to the woods and live in a eco-yurt. As appealing as this may be, remember that in general digital technology is an integral part of life and it would be difficult to manage completely without it. After all, why lug bored kids and a trolley full of shopping around the local megastore every week when you can have it delivered to your door? Instead of imposing a complete ban on yourself, set achievable goals that you will be happy with. As a start perhaps decide to put your phone away for one hour before bed or try not to look at it for a set time period when you wake up. As you get used to being without it, try increasing the time spent away from your tech until you feel refreshed.
People who diet or try to quit smoking are more likely to succeed when they do it with someone else; when one of you feels like giving up the other can motivate and encourage, decreasing the likelihood of quitting. If you are the only one in your family not on your phone it could seem like a pointless exercise. After all, one of the benefits of a digital detox is to engage with those around you more, right? Try ‘phone stacking’ at the dinner table or when everyone gets home from school, even for a short while. Have everyone put their phones in a box and the first one to take it out does the washing up after dinner! This may encourage more conversation and could be a fun and friendly competition to bond over.
Of course, you need something to look forward to at the end of your detox and an unplugged holiday may be the perfect answer. Reward your commitment with a mini-break or all-out family holiday to somewhere with lots of nature and outdoor pursuits. The more distractions the better as the temptation to start uploading your holiday pics to Facebook may be strong!