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“Dear Facebook friends – I’ve just realised that I spend WAY too much time in here so I’m going to deactivate my account for a while. If you need me, phone me instead…” How many times have you seen a Facebook friend declare to the world that they are going on a self-imposed digital detox? How many times do you look up at the clock and are shocked to realise that you’ve been Facebooking/Pinteresting/Gaming for hours past your bedtime – and it only felt like minutes? How many times have you seen your kids crane their necks over an iPad for an hour and wished that all your suggestions of outdoor play would stop falling on deaf ears?

The modern age of technology definitely has its pros and cons. Yes, we are able to connect to friends all around the world at the click of a button. Yes, we are able to conveniently plug into work from a pile of places other than our office desks. And yes, there’s so much more information available to us now than was previously the case via that bulky collection of brown and gold Encyclopaedia Britannicas that sat pride of place in the family living room. Remember them?!

But, connecting with friends online can constantly interrupt other day-to-day tasks when we become programmed to react to the ‘ding’ of a new notification. And many will tell you that the easy access and availability of work email can become quite the burden when you are self employed or wanting to impress your bosses or simply don’t know when to switch off . And yes, it’s the exciting age of information – but it’s actually more so an age of information overload.

Benchmark Psychology clinical psychologist Tania McMahon says many of us are in need of a digital detox. But she also acknowledges that completely switching off digitally is near impossible for most people, simply because so much of modern life depends on the internet. Work activities require email and internet access, most housekeeping errands such as banking and bill paying are more easily performed online, and social media messaging can be one of the most speedy and convenient ways to communicate with friends and family.

“The amount of time you spend online, in and of itself, does not always indicate whether you have a problem or not,” she explains. “In fact, it can be quite difficult to determine whether your Internet use is problematic, given that so much of your daily life is likely dependent on the Internet.”

With so much Internet use ‘necessary’, how do you know when it’s time to make a focused effort to cut back? When is it time for a digital detox? Tania says the most important warning sign that a digital detox is required is when your internet, technology or gaming use starts to interfere with your relationships, work or daily life.

“It’s hard to know when the habit officially starts,” Tania explains. “In adults, it becomes mindless clicking. You’ve not consciously made a decision to do it. The goal-directiveness is removed. You’ll be sitting in the car and the lights go red and, with the knowledge that you are going to be faced with seconds of boredom, you automatically think you need to reach for the phone.

“In kids, you start to see their digital overuse actually causing problems in other areas – they aren’t reading anymore, they don’t want to play outside with their friends and their school performance suffers. In short, when you start to experience negative consequences, that’s when you need a digital detox. A prominent researcher in the field once put it very succinctly saying, ‘Hobbies add to your life and addictions take away’.”

Andi Lew_03Best-selling author and wellness coach Andi Lew also commonly sees clients desperately in need of a digital detox. She’s just released her sixth book, Wellness Loading – Disconnect to Reconnect, which includes all the tools readers will need to take an holistic approach to digitally detoxing.

Andi says we all need to find a conscious period of time – whether that’s 15 minutes a day, an hour a day or even a whole day where you can make that work – to turn off the tech but, importantly, fill the void with something more purposeful.

“Spend the time reconnecting with yourself, with nature or with your community,” Andi says. “You need to have a purpose greater than yourself. That way you will live a more inspired life.”

She encouraged tech-frazzled people to get back to nature. Given that the human body is 70-80 per cent water and plants are 70-80 per cent water, Andi says that there’s a “connectedness” between people and the Earth that we need to embrace. She also encourages detoxers to use their down time to seek out and support their community – whether that’s volunteering in a homeless shelter or simply assisting a needy neighbour.

In Wellness Loading, Andi provides tips on how digitally detox and how to spend that time purposefully. A journal within the book keeps detoxers accountable for their journey and her mindful food recipes will have you eating closer to nature while you enjoy the tech down time.

Andi’s ideas on how to spend your digital downtime…

15 MINUTES A DAY: NURTURE VIA NATURE

  • Use the time to prepare food that brings you closer to nature.
  • Touching and preparing all-natural food can be as powerful as eating it.

1 HOUR A DAY: GET INTO THE OUTDOORS

  • Get outdoors but don’t think that this time needs to be spent exercising.
  • Walk barefoot on the grass, play with your child in the autumn leaves, throw rocks into the ocean – connect with the Earth.
  • Get artistic. Try a musical instrument, paint, draw patterns in the sand etc.

ONE WHOLE DAY: PAY IT FORWARD

  • Perform an act of service to connect with your community.
  • Do something kind for yourself. What’s your favourite thing to do? #doyou
  • Pampering. Think health retreat, yoga retreat, day spa. Make sure you do something that makes you feel loved and cared for.

So how about it? Has this article made you realise that you and/or your family needs a digital detox at some level? What amount of time are you willing to commit to making that detox happen? Remember, baby steps. How about starting by committing to haven’s Screen-free Friday Nights in May?

Every Friday morning this month, via haven’s regular weekly e-hub newsletter, we will provide you with ideas on how to spend your Friday night away from the TV, away from the iPad or lap top, even away from your phone – and reconnecting with your family, friends and more. Now that sounds refreshing, right? Sign up to the haven newsletter to get onboard haven’s Screen-free Friday Nights in May at www.havenmagazine.com.au and you could win a family pass to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Visit www.benchmarkpsychology.com.au and www.andilew.com

Every Friday morning this month, via haven’s regular weekly e-hub newsletter (What’s On Gold Coast & Brisbane), we will provide you with ideas on how to spend your Friday night away from the TV, away from the iPad or lap top, even away from your phone – and reconnecting with your family, friends and more. Now that sounds refreshing, right? Get onboard haven’s Screen-free Friday Nights in May at www.havenmagazine.com.au and you could win a family pass to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary by sharing what you got up to on our Facebook page (the next day!).

Belinda Glindemann

Belinda Glindemann  

Belinda knew she was destined for a career in communications and publishing from the age of 11 when her Year 6 teacher introduced her to poster projects and glitter pens. She completed her journalism cadetship in the Whitsundays and went on to hold various newspaper and magazine editor roles across Brisbane in a media career spanning more than a decade. When Belinda's not writing for haven, she runs her own PR agency, kid-wrangles two young daughters and drinks way too much sweet tea.