Do you feel stressed, overwhelmed and tired? Do you want to practice self-care but not sure where to start? One easy and practical way to find more time to practice self-care is to stop spending time on social media. Try a digital detox and see how your life changes.
“A digital detox refers to a period of time when a person refrains from using tech devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media sites.”Kendra Cherry from Very Well Mind
It’s important for you to understand what digital detox includes, before you make a commitment to do it.
What the research says
How much time do you think you spend on social media? I bet you think it’s only an hour or two a day.
Americans spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media. That’s CRAZY!!!
Are you someone who has to check their Facebook a few times a day? Or is it Instagram or YouTube? Maybe you like NPR, reading the news or checking your emails ten times a day.
You may think it’s only a few minutes, but it is actually longer. What you’re forgetting is that those 2 minutes add up. Before you know it, you are spending several hours on your devices.
Social media negatively impacts your mental health
When you look at social media, you take away your attention from the present moment. Overtime, it is a disservice to your self-care. This is because you are taking your attention away from the present moment, and distracting yourself with something else.
According to research from the American Psychological Association, around 18% of U.S. adults shared that technology use was a significant source of stress in their life. This is because of the constant need to be connected, check emails, text messages and social media accounts.
Researchers in Sweden even found a strong link between heavy mobile phone use and higher levels of stress, sleep problems, and symptoms of depression among young adults.
Why does this happen?
My guess is that you look at a post on social media and then start comparing yourself to that person and their life style. You may ask yourself, “Why don’t I have a big house and two kids? Or “Why am I not on vacation in Tahiti?”
In a fantastic article on HuffPost, writer Lindsay Holmes explains how social comparisons lead to depressive symptoms. She shares how to practice new mantras to alleviate those negative feelings.
“Detoxing from your social media can be a opportunity to focus on what’s important in your own life, without comparing yourself to others.”Kendra Cherry from Very Well Mind
When you start comparing yourself to others, the stress response in your brain is activated. This increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones). Over a long period of time, these high levels of stress hormones wreck havoc on your physical and emotional health. As a result, you have a higher risk of developing depression and other mental health problems.
How to abandon social media
Learning to take a break from your devices can benefit your physical, emotional and mental health. More importantly, you will find the time you need to practice self-care, and invest in your wellness.
For some people, it is easy to completely detach from all of their devices for a set period of time. For others, it is easier and more beneficial to set boundaries and use the devices in a constructive and purposeful manner.
In her article “Does your Life Need a Digital Detox”, Dr. Bocci explains how you can eliminate some of the social media apps on your phone. Perhaps you can delete your account from an app you’re not using. Or you can try reducing the number of devices you use. Lastly, you can put concrete time limits on social media or certain apps.
If you want more helpful ways to pursue this goal, check out Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. This book helps you understand how to better use your screen time to maximize what you need, rather than screen time controlling your day-to-day life.
Set realistic expectations
Do you need to use your phone and social media accounts for your job? If yes, then perhaps you set an expectation that after work, you stop using social media at home.
Or are you someone that really wants to challenge themselves and remove social media from your phone and other devices for 30 days?
If you are someone who wants a more structured plan, you can check out this fantastic 7 day media detox plan, my friend Catherine put together on her website Blissful Mind.
Whatever expectations and boundaries you set for yourself, make sure that they are realistic and achievable. Check out my article on “Abandon New Years Resolutions and do these 6 Things instead” to learn more about setting goals.
Change your behaviors
Initially when you are doing a digital detox, you may wonder what you are going to do with yourself? You’ll suddenly find yourself with a lot of time, and your hands will be itching to pick up your phone, tablet or computer.
Try these activities instead
Perhaps you can start reading a book, going outside for a mindful walk, making a cup of tea or calling a friend instead of texting them. You can also start writing letters, journaling or trying a hot yoga class.
In addition, you may begin to feel anxious wondering what you are missing out on, since you won’t be checking your social media feeds.
This is a good opportunity for you to think about why you need to even go on to social media in the first place. You can explore and evaluate the role it plays in your life.
Think about it… there was no social media around 16 years ago, and people were still able to lead productive and quality lives.
If you think you are missing out on connecting with your friends, you may want to think about what type of friendship you have with that person in the first place.
We all define friendship differently, but what research has told us is true connection with a friend needs to be in person, not via Facebook comments you leave.
I loved the article Kira M. Newman wrote about her experience when she took a break from Facebook. I appreciate how she candidly explains what it was like for her, as well as the pros and cons of doing a digital detox.
On the other hand, there are some benefits of maintaining friendships on Facebook, especially when you have friends all over the world. Check out this Ted Talk and learn how there is a major benefit to having many social media contacts.
For the most part, your brain loves it when you connect with your friends and loved ones in person. The reward centers in your brain get activated, and you feel happy, valued and excited.
If you’re nervous about disengaging from social media for a while, you can always call your friends and tell them that you’re doing a digital detox and want their support. Maybe they’ll even join you!
Why I did a digital detox
A few years ago, I decided to do a digital detox for 30 days and got off of Facebook and Instagram. The reason I did this was because I realized that I would feel worse about myself, depressed and more negative then how I felt prior to logging onto social media.
Prior to my digital detox, I would see photos of people getting married, buying houses and having babies. There was a mix of emotions because I wasn’t experiencing those things in my life. I compared myself to them and I felt awful.
In addition, I was angry when I noticed that people that I thought were my “friends” were busy posting photos on their social media feeds, but not responding to my phone calls or emails.
Moreover, I realized that our priorities were different. Perhaps they valued how many “likes” they received, rather than an actual phone chat with someone who cared about them.
Lastly, the amount of time that I spent on social media, whether it was a few minutes or an hour, was time wasted. This activity did not add any value to my life. If anything, it depleted me of energy and overall life satisfaction.
What happened once I started my detox
Once I stopped going onto Facebook and Instagram, a lot of wonderful changes started happening.
I focused everyday on finding three things that made me happy and writing them down in my gratitude journal.
Instead of reaching for my phone every time I was bored, I practiced some mindful breathing and became more orientated to the present moment.
Most importantly, I found a precious resource…time. This additional time that I discovered from not being on social media added great value to my life.
I found more time to practice self-care, and focus on cultivating the important relationships in my life. I realized that my mood improved, I had more energy, focus and was more interested in pursuing creative projects.
In short, I felt immensely better.
What happened after my digital detox ended?
I wasn’t eager to return to social media after my detox ended, because I realized that I did not need these outlets. They did not add much value to my life, and I did not notice anything missing from my day-to-day routine, when I was not on the social media platforms.
I thought about my relationship with Facebook and Instagram. I realized that I disliked how I felt when I was on Facebook. On the otherhand, I appreciated my experience on Instagram.
Perhaps it is the way these social media sites are designed or maybe it is the content? I’m not sure, but I do know that I stopped logging onto Facebook, and just used my Instagram account once a day for 15 minutes.
Now I use social media primarily for my blog. I understand the importance of time, so I focus on connecting with my friends and family in person, and scheduling time for daily self-care.
To find more time to practice self-care and wellness, you can try a digital detox. By challenging yourself with a digital detox, you will find that you have more time. You can use this time to focus on discovering new hobbies, interacting face-to-face with your friends (instead of over text) and engaging in activities that bring value and joy to your life.
It’s not easy to eliminate all social media and devices from your life. It is important to figure out a plan on how you can go about this in a constructive and meaningful way. Once you start your digital detox, you will find that you feel less stressed, more mindful and more engaged in your self-care, wellness and overall well-being.
Have you tried cutting out social media from your life or doing a digital detox? What was it like for you? Did you learn something about yourself that you did not know before? Please share your stories and comments below.