Body & Fitness

What is a digital detox and why do you need one?

You’d try a clean-eating plan or cut back on alcohol and caffeine for your health, but have you ever considered taking a break from technology?

Do you spend your workdays in front of a computer screen, consult your phone multiple times an hour from the moment you wake up in the morning till your head hits the pillow at night, and spend a fair chunk of your leisure time watching TV or streaming content on your tablet?

Do you sometimes do all these things at once? Then you’re at risk of digital burnout – and your tech habits could be making you sick.

As technology use becomes ever more ubiquitous and our smartphones accompany us everywhere we go – demanding our attention whenever we receive a call, an email, a text, a tweet or a status update – studies are showing just how toxic the constant distraction and exposure to screens can be.

What is the 5:2 digital detox?

The idea is to give yourself a complete break from screens of any kind for two days a week. The results, Jo Formosa promises, will surprise you.

“You’ll feel calmer and at peace,” she says. “It allows your nervous system to slow down and relax, and it encourages you to be in the moment, giving you a lot more time and opportunity for thought and reflection.”

Take these tips for kickstarting your 5:2 digital detox – and sticking with it

Draw up A schedule

Decide which days you ‘re going to detox on and mark them on a calendar, choosing days that you expect to be less challenging for you. You don’t have to do two entire days or even two days in a row – try four half-days, or even just one day at first. Be smart about it so you don’t set yourself up for failure.

Plan ahead

Prepare yourself for how it will feel to be without the devices you’ve come to rely on for so many things, such as appointment reminders and weather checks. Also, map out any travel routes (no Google Maps!) and take care of any urgent online banking and bill paying in advance.

Inform your ‘ecosystem’

That means family, friends and co-workers. Advise them ahead of time that you’ll be offline on your chosen days, so they don’t get worried when you don’t respond. Post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too, so your whole social sphere knows you’re taking a break from technology and that they shouldn’t expect to hear back from you until your detox time is up.

Set up an email auto-response

Treat your personal email like your work email. This will help alleviate any anxiety you have about being able to switch off

– you’ll have put systems into place so you are in control, not your devices.

Use your phone as a phone only

Turn off all notifications, including texts, apps and email. Don’t use your phone as a clock – get an alarm clock and start wearing a watch again (but not a smartwatch). To further reduce interruptions during your time out, put your phone on silent. Some phones also have a Priority mode which means you only receive calls from designated people e.g. your partner, your parents, your kids.

Divert your calls

People will leave voicemail if their call is about an urgent matter. So turn off your phone and, if you need to, check your messages just once a day.

If you fall off the wagon, jump back on

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even spending half a day tech free is better than nothing – you’re still making progress.

Schedule activities

Plan some genuine ‘face time’ with friends and family, and ask them to put their phones away, too. You might even inspire them to try a tech detox, and maybe on the same days too, so you can get some proper downtime together.

Get plenty of zzzzzs

Try to be in bed by 10pm, or get eight hours’ sleep, on the two ‘fasting’ days. This will help your system to recharge.

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