We all need a break from time to time. Most of us lead busy lives with hectic schedules. This leaves us physically exhausted, and mentally drained. By the end of the day, few of us have any energy leftover to commit to our personal lives or hobbies.
This is not a healthy lifestyle. Yet, many of us do not know where to start making changes. Even though most of us recognize that our work-life balance needs improvement, we simply cannot find a solution that works.
Luckily for you, our experts put together a list of some of the best ways to unplug from the stresses of modern life. In most cases, this involves making only small changes to our relationship with technology. You might be surprised to find out how these lifestyle changes can transform your quality of life.
Do you feel like you could benefit from a little digital detox? Take the pledge to unplug and read our guide to breaking free from the snares of modern technology.
“Dumb Down” Your Smartphone
Many of us carry a smartphone in our pockets at all hours of the day. While having all-day access to a GPS, web browser, and media player makes our lives more convenient, they also present us with new distractions. Having a smartphone within reach causes us to be constantly preoccupied with “checking in” to see if we have any notifications or messages.
When are not mindful when our phones are on our minds. That’s why when our readers ask us how to unplug, we always point to their smartphone. Minimizing smartphone use is one of the best ways to unplug, and one of the easiest to commit to.
Strip it Down
Whether you use an iPhone or an Android device, you should remove any non-essential apps from your phone. The goal is to turn your high-tech smartphone into a minimalist phone. And best of all, you don’t need to be computer savvy to do it. If you managed to install any apps on your phone, then you know everything you need to uninstall them or change their settings.
A good place to start is by deleting any app you haven’t used in a few months. Then, go into your phone’s settings and manually turn off notifications for any of the unessential apps that you have decided to keep. For example, I only get pop-up notifications from my Gmail and iMessage apps—everything else is turned off.
Put Your Phone to Bed
Poor sleep hygiene is one of the worst maladies of modern life. These days, we are exposed to unprecedented amounts of artificial light. Through excessive exposure to light sources, our minds are tricked into believing that it is daytime. This causes us to be alert and wakeful when we should be sleeping.
The “blue light” from our electronic devices is the worst of all when it comes to ensuring proper sleep hygiene. This kind of light is enhanced so that it can be perceived by a higher number of receptors in our retinas. Unlike a regular lightbulb, your phone and laptop screen emit loads of blue light.
As a rule of thumb, make a commitment not to use your phone within an hour of bedtime. When you feel like you should be getting ready to sleep, plug in your phone at the opposite side of the room and do not touch it until morning. If you find the temptation to use it too strong, you can place it in another room instead.
After a few nights without your phone, you should notice a drastic improvement in your sleep quality. Without the constant buzz of messages and notifications, or the flashing flow of LED lights, you will be able to sleep without any digital interruptions.
Minimize Your Social Media Activity
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are some of the worst culprits when it comes to digital distraction. For many of us, these apps are the reason we reach for our phones most of the time. Worst of all, their addictive nature makes it even harder to put the down once it’s in your hands.
Luckily, there are ways to get around them. One of the best ways to unplug is to go into the settings for each app and disable their notifications. This means you won’t get any unwanted alerts when somebody likes your latest post or sends you a selfie.
The Social Media Detox
If you want to take a more extreme approach, you can deactivate your social media accounts for a period of time. For some of us, that means disabling Facebook for a day. For others, this means uninstalling all social media apps for weeks. The trick is to find a solution that works for you. Do not over-commit and insist on refraining for longing than possible.
Don’t worry, when you decide to plug back in to the social media world all of your profile information will still be there. That means you won’t lose any ‘likes’ or friends if you decide to take a break. In other words, you have nothing to lose by trying.
Give Yourself a Screen Time Allowance
According to a 2015 BBC report, the average child spends over six hours a day looking at screens. Now imagine how many hours the average adult must spend using technology per day. Since many adults work jobs that involve the use of computers, this figure is probably significantly higher.
An effective way to cut back on your daily screen time is to hold yourself to a diet. A digital diet, that is. By setting a time limit on the number of hours you can spend looking into a screen, you will find that you make more mindful decisions regarding technology use. Only have two hours? Chances are you won’t binge watch that season of The Office.
Remember to only set reasonable restrictions. If you average ten hours of screen time per day, then it is unreasonable to reduce that number to four. Instead, cut back by only one hour. If you find that too easy, try shaving off another hour. The key is to find a sustainable balance between too difficult and too easy.
Make a 24/7 “No Phones at the Table” Rule
We all know how frustrating it can be to sit down for a meal with somebody who is on their phone the whole time. In fact, many of us take it as a sign of blatant disrespect. Whenever you are in the presence of company, you should always make a commitment to attend to them and not your cell phone.
This rule applies to more than just the dinner table. Instead, try practicing it during all hours of the day. Whenever you find yourself in a social situation—whether at home, at work, or anywhere in between—resist the urge to check your phone.
If you are receiving an important phone call, ask to be excused and explain that it is an important call. Then, briefly remove yourself from the room. Try to keep the call short and apologize to your friend, co-worker, or family member once you have ended the call. This is a polite gesture, and it is one of the best ways to build rapport with someone in our hyper-connected society.
Rack Up Accountability Partners
If you are serious about cutting back on your technology use, one of the best ways to unplug is simply to tell other people about your goals. That doesn’t mean you have to go around the whole office and proselytize about the merits of deleting Facebook. Rather, mention it in passing to your significant other, roommate, or business partner.
The point is to make sure that there are people who are available to hold you to account. When others know about our goals, they naturally feel inclined to help you achieve them. By making your objectives clear, they can call you out whenever you reach for your phone or scroll through your social media newsfeed.
Take Up A (Small) New Hobby
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to write a novel? Have you thought about one day running a marathon? Well, even the most accomplished novelist and veteran triathlete had to start somewhere. By spending less time on electronic devices, you should make the most of your new lifestyle by trying out a hobby.
We recommend checking out your local community or rec center to see if there are any classes or workshops for you to join. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Gardening, walking, cooking, and cycling are all fun hobbies that are easy to pick up. At its core, unplugging is all about self-discovery. So, try something new—who knows what you find out there in the world.