The fact we're glued to our screens much more - sometimes to a harmful degree - is nothing new. In this tough year, though, we've had to turn to our screens more to connect with family, friends and colleagues. "Zoom fatigue" is now a new word suggestion for the Collins dictionary.
If this year has taught us anything, it's that we need real-life connections, but that doesn't make it easy to break bad habits.
Here at Tribal, we're firm believers in switching off over the festive period so that we can unwind and reconnect with family and friends. So, we asked our tribe to share their top tips for a digital detox over Christmas, that will hopefully carry you into a brighter new year too.
But first, here’s a brief recap of why it’s so important.
Why A Digital Detox Is Important
In 2014 UK adults already spent an average of 8 hours 41 minutes a day on screens (that's more time than the time they spend asleep) and checked our smartphones every 12 minutes. Since lockdown, there have been reports of 70-80% extra screen time usage.
Study after study shows that too much screen time can have harmful effects on our mental health, negative changes in brain function, decreased productivity and, ultimately, our happiness. When we’re online, we’re not always living in the here and now and we don’t see what’s really going on behind the posts.
12 Top Tips To A Happy Digital Detox
We’re sharing our top tips for a digital detox but we know it's all about finding your happy balance with digital. Some of us may need to take more drastic measures while others may find that small habit changes are all that's needed.
You know what they say: the first step is understanding if you have a problem and to what extent. And knowing your starting point means you can track your progress and stay motivated.
Lots of our tribe use screen monitoring apps as a reality and progress check , such as Social Fever and Quality Time on android or Moment on iOS (although many of the latest iPhone models comes with these apps’ features already built in.
Screen monitoring technology shows your current and average total daily usage, a breakdown of time for each app and some even let you see how you compare with the average user. (If you want to know, that is - some of us admitted to it removing any smugness that we "weren't that bad"!). Many apps even send reminders when you're stuck in scroll mode for too long and even let you block apps on your phone.
Resist The Curiosity Bait
We’re innately curious creatures and so why put temptation in your way with notifications? It’s easy to say that you’re in full-focus mode or that you’ll switch off at 5pm but it’s much harder to do so if you hear that familiar “Ping” and see a work email come in.
This may explain why turning off notifications was a well-touted Tribe tip. If something is urgent enough, people will find a way to reach you. And if you really must check something you can – but do it on your terms not because you couldn’t resist checking!
Recharge Whilst Charging
Charging phones at bedtime is the norm but it’s not exactly great for their long-term battery life. So, if we’re honest with ourselves, we probably really do it because we can't bear the thought of our phones being out of action for the hour or two it takes to charge fully!
Lee Welch from Microsoft once shared this handy tip with us that can help you break the always-on cycle:
"Have a central charging point for all mobiles in the house and have a 'no phone' period each day where they're all charging."
It’s good for your mental health and your phone battery’s health too, so it’s a win-win!
Make Certain Rooms Phone-Free Havens
Many families may ban phones at the dinner table so that everyone is fully present but what about the rest of the time? It can be too easy to think, “I’ll quickly take this call” or, “I’d better respond to this message”.
A few of us have started to implement "phone-free" sanctuaries in certain rooms or placed a ban on phones in living areas at certain times of the day. It can help keep everyone more present in the moment and the extra effort forces you to consider whether you really want/need to use your phone.
The Ban Box At Specific Periods
This tip may seem obvious but how many of us have said, “I’m going to try to use my phone/watch TV less” and then done nothing?
Over the festive period, some of us are planning to completely switch off for a day or two to make the most of missed family time. Others have already implemented one or two screen-free blocks per week - starting small and replacing it with fun and connection-full activities.
Out of sight is out of mind and so a common way to get everyone on board is to have a ‘ban bin’ or box at specific periods (or you could go further and have someone hide them!)
It’s hard to detox if your friends and family expect a nearly-instantaneous reply. Just like with your out of office, it’s okay to set healthy boundaries that let people know when you’re taking a screen break.
It doesn’t need to be a public announcement (although LinkedIn lets you set your status to away and some people use a WhatsApp status or Facebook post to tell people they’re not checking in). One of our tribe has simply let their inner circle of friends and family that they don’t check messages on certain days or at certain times, so if something is urgent, they should call.
Remove The Need For Willpower
If you’ve watched The Social Dilemma, then you’ll remember the iconic scene where the mother locks the phones away in a safe box because nobody could fight their urges.
It may seem a little extreme but removing temptation is proven to be much more effective than exerting willpower.
None of us have paid £50 for the kitchen safe box but the Cold Turkey app was tipped, where you choose to block your phone for a set period. You can still receive incoming calls but it really is cold turkey – there are no workarounds!
If you’re looking for something a little less extreme, you could try deleting the social apps off your phone (doing so forces you to make a conscious choice.)
Get The Swear Jar Out
We’re all human and give into temptation. Every time someone breaks the digital detox period why not use the phone equivalent of the swear box? Apparently, it’s highly effective after the first few days (just not so much for the holiday fund’s health!)
Alexa And Siri May Be Your Best Allies
For all the cutting-edge IoT tech built into Amazon Dots and the Google Nest, they can also be a huge help when it comes to detoxing from digital. Here are some of our tribe's favourite ways to use it to replace go-to digital resources:
- Cooking instructions
- Home workouts (instead of YouTube ones)
- News updates
- Fact-checking something that comes up in a conversation
- Searching for (and dancing to) their favourite music
- Santa meditation (yes, you read that right!)
Reconnect With Nature
During lockdown many of us made a conscious effort to take daily morning walks to step away from the screens (and get out of the house). Getting fresh air and reconnecting with nature can lift your mood and put you in the right mindset for the day.
It also acts as a vivid reminder that there are lots of things that technology can't replace and that taking in your surroundings, as opposed to being distracted, is much more satisfying!
One of the age-old behavioural tricks for breaking bad habits is to have a replacement habit that's just as rewarding. It's hard (and often dangerous) to be glued to a screen when you're dancing, cycling or running.
At Tribal, we've started a Strava community to help motivate us to be even more active - where every mile we clock will go towards a charity fund. You don’t need to be part of an active community though as a FitBit can provide you with just enough motivation and reminders to keep you moving.
Use The Break To Discover New Ways To Connect
The festive period is perhaps one of the best times to think about a digital detox. Yes, you may have a tradition of watching Christmas films together or the Christmas special of your favourite shows and that’s okay.
Many of us also bring out the screen-free games and activities that we find the most fun and engaging. Whether that’s a game of Dobble, dancing or singing competitions, building Lego or even a traditional game of charades - all of them can help inspire new future routines.
It can’t be like Christmas each week (and it wouldn't be special if it was) but finding regular times that fill the house with laughter is surely one of the best ways to ditch the screens?
We hope that some of these digital detox tips help you find your happy balance, where digital helps foster your relationships with those in the real world. Here’s to family, friends and better connections that help our mental health in 2021.
Here is a downloadable PDF on the 12 ways you can digitally detox for a happy balance.