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How to Prescribe Yourself a Digital Detox

Dennis Relojo-Howell

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Whether it’s a computer, a smartphone or even a satnav, many of us are guilty of spending hours on end staring at a screen. Owning several devices and constantly scrolling, clicking and sharing have become an acceptance of modern life – but are you in need of a digital detox?

Digital detox is a temporary period of fully disconnecting from all digital devices to focus on social interaction, reduce stress, and be fully present in the world ‘offline’.

With an increased number of people being admitted into rehab for screen addictions, the dangers of excessive screen time are becoming more and more apparent. Next to cannabis, screen and gaming are the second most common addictions that Yes We Can Youth Clinics sees young people being admitted for. Loneliness, depression, distraction and sleep issues are some of the dangers commonly experienced with device overuse, affecting mental health and well-being.


It is highly recommended that you have a think about how much time you (and your family) are spending looking at a screen and whether you would benefit from a digital detox.

Jan Willem Poot, Founder of Yes We Can Youth Clinics gives us four ways you can switch off:

1. Periodical bans

Give yourself a certain period of time in which you are not allowed to look at a screen. These periods can start off small but should increase as you lose the dependency on your device. Banning technology at mealtimes and an hour before bedtime is a great place to begin. Be in the now and enjoy your meal with the people around you and begin to wind down your brain for a good night sleep. Jan Willem says: ‘Looking at a bright screen before bedtime tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. The eyes channel the bright light directly to the brain, shutting down the sleep switch.’

2. Practise mindfulness

It is s a great way to switch off from the constant hubbub of technology. How many of us are guilty of watching TV with our phones in our hand, sending emails, scrolling through Instagram or texting friends? ‘Take just 10 minutes out of your day to switch off everything and close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing, how your body feels as you inhale in through the nose and out through the mouth. Once completed, take note of how you feel, both in body and mind,’ says Jan Willem.

3. Get outside

Get yourself out in the fresh air and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s going for a walk, a cycle, or simply taking a book and sitting on a park bench. Jan Willem says: ‘Fresh air and a change of scenery do wonders for your well-being and state of mind.’

4. Get an app for your smartphone

Apps have been created to monitor your device usage and report how many times you check your phone a day. Most of us are aware of being on our phones a lot but seeing specific data showing how many hours we ‘waste’ on our mobiles is enough to shock you into a digital detox. ‘I am also guilty of double screening, having an app on your phone will make you realise how much time you spend on your device,’ says Jan Willem.

Takeaway

Technology can be incredibly useful and educational, providing us with the tools for creativity, connectivity and enjoyment, but if technology and your devices are dominating your life and having negative effects on your relationships, then it begins to become dangerous.

Yes We Can Youth Clinics is a 140-bed clinic in the Netherlands specialising in treating young people (13–25 years old) with complex behavioural disorders, addictions and related behavioural problems.

This summer sees the introduction of a new international clinic with English programme to cater to the growing international demand. For more information their website


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and has a weekly column for Free Malaysia Today. 


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