5 Digital Detox tips to improve your wellbeing and human connection

By Pinnacle Health Group

Some of the most haunting statistics have come from recent studies, that suggest the average Australian spends 5.5 hours on their smartphone each day - that’s a third of our waking hours!

Increased screen time has contributed in part to higher levels of anxiety, poorer attention, and higher risk of burnout in the Australian population.

Now, a huge part of this is not entirely our fault. 

In addition to our emails now being hooked up to our smartphones, so we can access them anytime and anywhere (and out of our designated “work” time), there is also the sugary, dopamine rush of “push notifications” and alerts sounding or buzzing on our phone, begging for our immediate attention.

Even the best and strongest will power can be no match, and the simple process of reading a notification, or checking who has commented on our social media post, has been likened to the dopamine changes in our brains with gambling, and other forms of addiction.

However, there are some behaviours that we can all practice in order to reduce the feeling of being a slave to our device, and take back some control from the ever-growing screen-time. These practices can improve our overall wellbeing by reducing anxiety, and increasing the connections we experience with people in real time.

Here are 5 helpful tips that you can start right now:

1. Know your screen time. 
Most, if not all smartphones these days, have an in-built function to measure your daily screen time. Further, it can also break down which apps or programs you are spending most time on, such as social media, email or YouTube. 

Simply addressing the numbers now will help you measure how you are going with this down the track, and the same smartphone functions can help you to set limits or reminders to take a break.

2. Get an “Old School” Alarm Clock.
90% of Australian couples are more likely to reach for their smartphone in the morning than they are their partner! It’s no secret that phones have found their way into our lives and have affected our sleep patterns, so regaining some control of the sacred bedroom, with no smartphone, is a great place to start if this sounds familiar. Many people argue that the only reason they keep their phone in the bedroom at night is for it’s alarm clock properties - so take this excuse our of the playbook, and get an old school, simple alarm clock!

3. Schedule your “in-person” connection.
It’s so tempting to book in another Zoom Meeting with a work colleague, or feel like we have kept in touch with friends by liking their instagram posts. The reality is that, whilst it's so convenient and can be done from anywhere, it is important that we have meaningful human connection as well. Consider swapping your next virtual meeting to a coffee or walking meeting if your postcodes allow, and catch up with your friends (with smartphone devices on silent) and see how they are really going.

4. Audit your Settings & Notifications.
By doing a deep dive into your phone, there are so many ways in which you can adjust the settings to minimise distractions or attention-grabbing notifications. It is a good idea to turn off all banner-style notifications, sound alerts, and pop-ups from your apps - and consider batching your email through programs such as Boomerang, which ensure that you only receive email at certain times of the day. Failing that, simply putting your phone on airplane mode, and only switching it on when you need to use it can also do the trick.

5. Spring clean your social media. 
Do you really need to be scrolling that 3rd social media app late at night, and are those snackable bits of content helping with your attention and ability to focus? The science suggests that this is definitely not the case, and in fact the average office worker can only give 3 minutes of attention to a task at any one time (before being distracted, and likely reaching for the smartphone).

Social media apps are designed to maximise your attention on their app, and stay interacting for as long as possible - so it's worth checking in to see which social media apps you really use, or like using. It is a good idea to think about which posts improve your wellbeing and which don’t - and consider blocking some posts, batching, or even deleting the apps to rescue some attention and wellbeing back for yourself.

These tips are designed to help you reconnect in person, and digitally disconnect to optimise your own focus, productivity, and wellbeing.