Like it or not, we live in a digital world. We talk to friends online, make money online, even buy groceries online–and that time spent in the digital world affects how we feel in the real one.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to practice digital wellness, the concept of creating balance with your devices and reclaiming your time.
What Is “Digital Wellness?”
Luckily, you don’t have to delete Instagram, throw your phone away, or go off the grid to practice digital wellness. (In fact, I don’t recommend it!) It’s more about finding balance with your devices in order to improve your mood, your creativity, and your productivity.
Instead of blindly reaching for your phone whenever you’re bored or stressed, you can learn to use your devices with intention and take time away from them when you need to. Digital wellness recognizes that our devices can do great things but that they’re best used in moderation.
How to Practice Digital Wellness
Be honest with yourself.
The first step in any breakup is admitting things aren’t going well. The same is true with your devices! If you can be honest with yourself about your codependent habits, it’ll be way easier to break them. Take some time to really look at how much you use your phone, what you use it for, and how it makes you feel. It’s not a fun process, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Reduce your screen time.
The best way to measure your digital wellness is with your screen time. In our screen-driven world, the average adult spends over 7 hours a day staring at screens. For those of us who work at computers, that number is even higher.
Is reducing your screen time good for you?
You probably already know about all the negative effects of too much screen time: eye strain, fitful sleep, a more sedentary lifestyle, you name it. But the benefits of limiting your screen time go way beyond your physical health.
The less time you spend looking at screens, the more time you spend living your life. You can fill that time with hobbies that inspire you, quality time with friends, and (my favorite) self care. Plus, when you escape the addictive dopamine cycle your phone has you stuck in, you’ll feel more balanced and peaceful. It’s like breaking a junk food habit, but for your brain!
How much should I reduce my screen time?
The best answer: Every little bit helps! If you’re spending upwards of 7 hours behind a screen, try to cut back by half an hour each week. Try these tips as you’re getting started:
- Keep a book nearby, and pick it up when you’re tempted to scroll.
- Customize your phone’s “focus mode” to make it less enticing.
- Try a hobby that involves your hands, like crochet or coloring.
Ideally, you should spend less than two hours a day looking at screens (outside of work, of course). If that feels impossible, start small! Use an app to track your screen time, and reward yourself as you make progress.
But it’s not just about reducing screen time, but also becoming more intentional with how you spend your time online. Setting up your phone for more productivity, less overwhelm and more mindfulness can help alleviate some of the sensory overload you would otherwise experience. There’s some tangible and easy steps to help you do exactly that in this free Phone Detox guide.
Set firm work-life boundaries.
For those of us who use our computers and phones for work, less screen time equals less income. Instead of giving up your devices entirely, consider setting firmer boundaries between your work life and home life. This will help keep you off your phone when you’re off the clock.
What kind of boundaries should I set?
Start by setting boundaries around your bad habits.
- If you check your work emails in bed at night, charge your phone away from your bedroom. You can also set up parental controls on your devices to block your email app after a certain hour. (Sounds silly, but it works!)
- If you use social media for work, time block half an hour each day for “research” scrolling. Once that time’s up, put the phone down!
- If you have trouble “winding down” after work, create a wind down routine. For an hour after work, put on a podcast, set your phone down, and do things that remind your brain you’re at home, like tidying up or watering your plants.
Each boundary you successfully set (and keep) is a step in the right direction! And the more you practice setting boundaries, the easier it will become.
Don’t go “cold turkey.”
If you’ve ever attempted to cut out sugar or carbs, you know what happens: Suddenly, all you can think about is pasta and cupcakes. If you try quitting your phone “cold turkey,” you’ll have the same reaction. Instead of spending all your newfound time reading the classics or practicing yoga, you’ll be dreaming of TikTok and struggling with FOMO.
Instead, choose one digital habit to break at a time. Maybe this week it’s decreasing your screentime by half an hour. Next week, try logging out of your email app after 5pm. These new, healthier digital habits create a snowball effect, and eventually you’ll reach a day when you don’t think about your phone at all!
It’s all about balance!
Like any wellness “trend”, digital wellness is a suggestion, not a rulebook. Experiment with different strategies, use your devices when you need to, and give yourself grace. Our devices are designed to keep us hooked, so every minute you don’t spend staring at a screen is a win!