Digital Detox: Towards Mental Wellbeing

“One-third of workers in India are facing increased burnout due to lack of separation between work and personal life”, reports Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index in the wake of the pandemic. Invariably, burnout and lack of work-life balance is resulting in the inability of most Indians as well as others across the globe in managing mental wellbeing. 

An additional challenge has been the increased digital engagement leading to psychological, social, and physical problems with continuous lockdowns due to the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, the pandemic has been one of the major sources of disrupting mental wellness and calls for a digital detox to set clear boundaries. The idea is to unplug every once in a while and share a healthy relationship with our devices. 

The Impact of Over Digital Connectedness

The lockdowns have resulted in a situation where most of us are plugged in over 12-15 hours a day. Be it for professional or work purposes or for leisure, we are glued to our screen much more than what is mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. The result is skewed mental wellness and wellbeing evident from wide-ranging explicit and implicit conditions, including:

  • According to the Sleep Foundation, increased digital connectedness is likely to interfere with our body’s sleep clock impacting how long and peacefully we sleep. They believe that electronic devices emit an artificial blue light that can suppress the release of the body’s sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. 
  • At the same time, another research shows, “70% of participants checked social media on their phones while in bed, with 15% spending an hour or more on social media while in bed.” Prolonged use of social media right before sleeping can lead to insomnia, anxiety, self doubt result in disturbed sleeping patterns. Fact of the matter is that, “a study of 82 young adults found that the more they used Facebook, the more their life satisfaction levels declined.”
  • On the face of it, our digital devices are an effective way to relieve stress. However, being plugged in 24/7 is likely to turn tech into stress. For instance, tech stress clearly reflects anxiety and the need to keep checking one’s emails, texts, social networking accounts, etc. This results in an inability to relax and one constantly remains worked up.

Mental Wellbeing: A Healthy Relationship with our Devices

Be it students struggling with e-learning fatigue or professionals facing challenges with working virtually, it is equally important for everyone to go for a digital detox or disconnect from their devices to preserve their mental wellbeing. Here are a few ways we can kick start our journey unplug from the virtual world to march towards mental wellbeing:

  • Complete vs Intermittent Detox: A complete digital detox might be an over-commitment for most of us. Owing to the lockdown and work/ study from home routines, completely giving up our devices may not be practical and feasible. However, unplugging intermittently can be an effective means to mental wellbeing. Based on your daily schedule, it would be a good idea to demarcate a couple of hours, most likely at the end of the day, when you completely refrain from using your devices. Make sure this is applicable to all devices including laptops, phones, tablets, etc. for true impact.
  • Create boundaries and respect them: Even intermittent detox can be overwhelming for many. In such a situation, you can set limits for when digital connectedness is allowed, and when it is not. Like your devices, you also need to recharge your mind every now and then. It is best to decide situations when you will refrain from using any device and actually mean it. For instance, when you are sitting with your family, or when you are having your meals, most importantly, just before and after bedtime. This will help you concentrate better and enjoy life experiences in real-time.
  • Bucket the detox categories: There might be times, especially for working professionals, that leaving devices behind for even a few minutes is difficult. There is no reason why a digital detox towards unplugging cannot be transformed for such a situation. Here it is important to detox digital connectedness that is not very important. For instance, social media detox can be achieved, even without leaving one’s devices for a couple of hours. Simply turning off notifications and alerts and not logging into social media accounts does the trick. It is important to identify which form of digital connectedness is having the maximum negative impact on your mental wellbeing, and unplugging yourself from the same to recharge your mind. 
  • Question yourself: There is no rebuttal to the fact that digital connectedness is addictive. It frequently happens that after being plugged for hours when someone asks us what we have been upto, we have no answer. Therefore, for an effective digital detox that goes beyond the said number of days, it is important to question yourself. Every time you take out your device, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. If the answer adds value to your life and wellbeing, go ahead and mingle with your device. If not, refrain from that one tap.
  • One device at a time rule: While this might not indicate disconnecting, but it points towards avoiding multiple connections. This suggests that as a part of your digital detox, you should limit your digital connection to only one device at a time. For instance, if you are working on your laptop, avoid checking your texts and notifications on your phone. Firstly, connecting with multiple devices at once can be tiring for the mind and, hence, contribute poorly to mental wellbeing. Secondly, different background lighting, size, and pixelation of different devices can lead to headaches and heaviness in the eyes. Therefore, if you can break off the relationship with your devices, keep it one at a time. 

Take the First Step Today

The longer your procrastinate taking your first step towards digital detox and unplugging, the more difficult it will get. There are certain ways you can set yourself for success. Firstly, try to get the support of your family and friends. If they know that you are trying to unplug, they will help you by not engaging in digital devices when around you. Secondly, it is best to celebrate small wins. For instance, if you go for an hour without indulging with any device, treat yourself with your favorite dessert. Finally, you might want to try apps that help limit screen time and prevent irrelevant notifications from catching your attention. The bottom line is that you have to gear up the courage to unplug from the virtual world and everything else will follow.