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Unplug to Recharge: How a Digital Detox Can Improve Your Mental Health

While technology is not inherently bad, however, excessive technology use can take away from activities such as sleep, exercise, and socializing, which are essential for our mental health.

Aarushi Chadha
Most experts recommend cutting back on apps that make you feel worse or stressed out

Digital detox refers to a break from using electronic devices or certain social media apps for a short period of time, a few days to several months. While on a digital detox, people tend to avoid text messaging, scrolling through social media, playing video games, and watching the news or other television programs.

Social media detox is a major part of digital detox. While social media allows us to connect with people all over the world and have quick access to news, however, constantly using social media can have several negative effects on people’s mental health. For instance, negative social media experiences can affect our self-esteem and even trigger depression through social comparisons, feelings of isolation, and experiencing cyberbullying.

Negative Impact of Excessive Screen Time and Social Media on Our Mental Health

  • Effects on the quality of sleep- The use of digital media can interfere with the quality of our sleep in many ways. For instance, screen time can replace time spent performing physical activities, such as exercising, which helps us sleep at night. Prolonged exposure to the light emitted from screens at night affects melatonin production, which can disturb our circadian rhythm resulting in loss of sleep. Poor quality of sleep can increase irritability and is linked with the risk of obesity and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

  • Effects on our self-esteem- Excessive consumption of content on social media websites can make people compare themselves with influencers and celebrities. Comparing ourselves with a fabricated image of a person we have never met can lead to body image issues, negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and self-harm.

  • Can cause depression- While social media and digital media, in general, can connect us with people all around the world, they cannot replace intimate relationships that feel real and close. Spending excessive time in front of screens takes us away from the real relationships in our lives and affects our personal life. It also leads to a sedentary lifestyle which is linked to depression. Research conducted on the effects of screen time in adolescents indicated that dependence on smartphones, frequent messaging, and fear of missing out, particularly before bedtime leads to a lack of sleep, which is associated with mood swings, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts.

How to do a digital detox?

A digital detox can mean different things to different people. For most people, having a digital presence is imperative to their job. And for them, cutting down on screen time is a more realistic approach rather than completely ditching technology. Therefore, the first step of a digital detox is realizing your unhealthy habits when it comes to using technology.

Most experts recommend cutting back on apps that make you feel worse or stressed out. You can also cut back on apps that you mindlessly scroll through and apps that you check out right before going to sleep. The aim of a digital detox is to improve your self-control and form a healthy relationship with technology.

Turn off notifications- Getting constant updates is unnecessary and distracting. Therefore, turn off notifications to social media apps, news apps, and other apps while working and relaxing.

Take time away from screens- Make it a habit to walk away from screens at least once a day, whether it is for going out on a walk, cooking, gardening, or running errands.

Create goals for yourself- After determining your unhealthy habit when it comes to social media, set a goal for yourself. For instance, if you spend a lot of time on Instagram, then start your digital detox by setting a time limit on your time spent.

Make your bedroom a no-tech zone- Make your bedroom a tech-free zone by not using your phone or watching television once you have entered your bedroom. Use an alarm clock instead of your phone to wake you up.

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