Last week was the first day of summer and it got me thinking about doing a digital detox. However, Aliza Sherman and I were reviewing the final round of edits from our copy editor at Wiley for our forthcoming book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit due out in October. That task required a screen!
Now that task has been checked off my to do list, I am ready to pay attention to technology wellness again. The first thing I did was to take a walk at the Stanford Dish, a nearby nature hiking area, without my mobile phone. It is a amazing how a short walk in the woods, a park, or other natural area can make you feel good. And, ironically, the science to back this up also comes from Stanford University.
During my walk, I reflected on my participation last March in the annual National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour digital detox when you don’t use technology, Internet, or mobile phone in order to reduce stress. Last March, I tucked my mobile phone into a sleeping bag (see above) and turned off the screens.
It was like a reboot for my brain, but I found it really difficult to do.
I need to do a digital detox once a quarter or even once a month, not once a year. I also need to target specific apps or tech that I’m addicted to and are wasting too much of my time or making me temporarily blind.
My only challenge and why I don’t do digital detoxes more regularly is that I need to be available by phone for family members. But as everyone who owns a smartphone knows, the problem is that your mobile phone is no longer just for phone calls. Your mobile phone is an Internet and information appliance that you may depend on to navigate through your daily life. Take for example, when was the last time you consulted a paper map for driving directions?
Your mobile phone also has a lot of other apps that may be less essential, but with easy access to them in the palm of your had, you use them out of habit, not necessity. The prelude to a digital detox is a little self-awareness by tracking how much time your are spending on different apps and reflecting on why. The app “OFFTIME” can help you.
Once you know the offenders, there are blocking apps, like Freedom or others that target specific apps that you can use to take a tech mini-detox. But here’s a technique that I found really helpful when you need to use your mobile as a telephone.
Set Your iPhone to 1995 Mode
It’s called “1995 Mode” Simply turn off cellular data, WiFi and Bluetooth and this will allow you to only use your device as a phone.
Kicking Your Mobile Phone Addiction
One thing you should be aware of is something called “Mobile Phone Separation Anxiety,” where people do not like the idea about being away from their mobile phones and feel anxious when they are not holding their mobile phones in their hands. It isn’t a joke. The disorder was identified in this study, “The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion, and Physiology” published in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communications.
In a recent article in Psychology Today: iPhone Anxiety: It’s Real and Not Good For You offers a few self-assessment points to help you figure out how to better take care of yourself and figure out if you are suffering the effects of iPhone Separation Anxiety. The key is where your carry your phone. Is it in your hand all the time so you don’t miss an alert?
Some enterprising entrepreneurs have created a product just for the mobile phone addicted. It is called the “NoPhone.” It is a technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact. You can purchase one on Amazon.
Here are a few other techniques that don’t cost anything:
1. One-Hour Walk in the Morning Without Phone: I take a daily walk before I start working and have started to leave the phone on the kitchen table. I found myself getting in the habit of checking my fitbit or email while I was walking – and I wasn’t feeling the full benefit of my hour of solicitude. I admit it was hard to do at first, but I got over it.
2. Face Down During Meetings: I leave my phone in my purse and only use it when I need to check information as part of the meeting. Checking mobile phones during meetings has become a hot button issue for some nonprofits — some people do it because they are checking information to participate in the meetings, while others are using it to check out. There is a lot of room for people to make assumptions that could lead to making the meeting less productive, so it is good to discuss this in your organization.
3. Mobile Phone Stacks: This is when everyone turns off their phone and stacks them in the center of the dinner table with the rule that anyone who touches their phone before the bill comes has to pay the entire bill to keep everyone’s attention to the people at the table. As a family of four with everyone having their own cell phone, this is also a dinner table rule in our house.
4. Don’t Use Phone As Alarm Clock: If you use your phone to wake you up, you can fall into the bad habit of checking email or social media first thing in the morning. That’s not a great way to start your day and be productive and could lead to mobile phone separation anxiety. Experiment with a morning routine that is a technology mini-fast and that means buying a clock radio! I did this last December during the holiday break and it is a technology wellness habit that I have been able to keep.
Are you taking a digital detox this summer? What are you doing to take a break from tech?