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  • Darshana Ananth

Digital Detox 101: A Guide to Reducing Screen Time

If you're reading this, it's safe to say that you, like me, have fallen into the smartphone vortex more times than you'd like to admit. And, now you want to know how to reduce screen time to stay sane. We've all been there, endlessly scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or your favorite streaming platform, only to come out fuzzy-eyed and wondering where the time went. Especially with short-form content taking over the world, it’s harder than ever to stop the doom scrolling.

Did you know the average person spends almost four hours on their phone each day? This includes texting, scrolling, and tapping away at our screens with almost half of that time going towards social media. After experiencing this first-hand and trying out different strategies to not pick up my phone out of mere habit, I’ve put together a few techniques that help in curbing this phone addiction.

In this blog post, we'll dive into why we're so addicted to our phones, explore practical ways to cut down screen time and uncover some surprising benefits and digital detox tips.

Why We're Glued to Our Screens

While our phones make us feel connected to the world and our loved ones, we cannot deny the detrimental effect it has on our mind and body when overused.

  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): We've all been there - scrolling through social media feeds, watching our friends' stories, and feeling like we need to stay connected 24/7. In an attempt to stay connected online, we often forget to make meaningful connections in real life.

  • Endless Entertainment: Our smartphones are entertainment hubs. We binge-watch shows, play games, and scroll through memes. It's easy to get lost in this digital wormhole because it’s easy entertainment. Takes very little effort and keeps us amused for hours. When was the last time you put down your gadgets and just worked on your hobbies?

  • Notifications Galore: Ding! Ping! Buzz! Those notifications can be irresistible. Whether it's a text, email, or a new like on your latest post, they're designed to keep you hooked.

I need to take Instagram less seriously

How to Break the Habit

Before getting into how you can cut down on your screen time, I want you to take a minute to check your screen time on your phone. You can check this in your phone settings. First things first, awareness is key to identifying that you have a phone overuse problem. On your phone, you can usually check the time spent on each app and this is a great start to identifying your problem areas.

Here are a few ways to break the toxic cycle and build healthy screen habits:

  • Set Clear Goals: Start by setting achievable screen time goals for mindful phone usage. Gradually reduce the time you spend on your phone each day. Use built-in screen time tracking features or third-party apps to monitor your progress. You can start off by reducing 30 minutes of screen time per day, and then gradually increase to an hour the next week.

  • Create Phone-Free Zones: Designate certain areas or times in your day as phone-free zones. For example, the dining table, your bedroom, or during face-to-face conversations with friends and family. If you feel like you’re constantly having the urge to check your phone, put it away in another room or turn on Do Not Disturb (DND).

  • App Detox: Identify apps that consume most of your time and consider deleting them or at least moving them off your home screen. Out of sight, out of mind! It is really useful when you set time limits on social media apps. There is also an option to turn your screen to grayscale after certain hours of use. Do what works best for you.

  • Tech-Free Rituals: For many of us, our phones are the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we put away at night. Establish screen-free rituals like reading a physical book before bed, going for a morning walk without your phone, or practicing mindfulness meditation.

  • Find Hobbies: Rediscover old hobbies or explore new ones that don't involve screens. Whether it's painting, hiking, or dancing like nobody's watching, these activities will make you feel a lot more energized.

Disconnect, Not Disconnection

Benefits of Less Screen Time

  • It’s a no-brainer that your productivity levels will have a significant increase once you reduce screen time. You'll find yourself accomplishing tasks you've been putting off and feeling a sense of achievement.

  • Reduced screen time before bed can improve sleep quality. The blue light emitted by screens interferes with our sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep. It is best practice to cut off screens 1 hour before bedtime.

  • By putting down your phone during social interactions, you'll deepen your connections with friends and family. In my opinion, real-life conversations are much more cooler and meaningful than text messages.

  • Studies have shown that less screen time can reduce stress and anxiety. You'll have more time for self-reflection and self-care, which are crucial for your mental health. Screen time and mental health are closely intertwined.

Meditating Starfish

30-Day Challenge

Hopefully, now that you’ve absorbed all that information, you’ll want to take action. Right? So, here is a 30-day challenge where you can join me in reducing our screen time together. I recommend you track your progress on a calendar or journal or use a habit-tracking app. For the next 30 days, let’s try to reduce our screen time by just 30 minutes each day for a week. If that goes well, we’ll aim at reducing 1 hour each day the next week, and it goes on until you reach your desired goal.

So, there you have it! Breaking free from your smartphone screens is possible, and the benefits are well worth it. Don’t let your phone get in the way of making memories offline. As Ferris Bueller wisely said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Content/Stuff I’ve Been Loving:

  1. Books related to this topic: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, Make Time by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky

  2. This TED talk by Adam Atler is a great watch: Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy

  3. This app is a screen time tracker that gives you detailed insights into your phone usage: StayFree

Until next time 👋


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