Updated: Apr 8
Digital detox: a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
Picture this: your entire life revolves around your phone, computer, tablet. If it’s got a signal and a screen, you’re on it. Not necessarily because you want to but because you have to. You use technology for work, for school, for information, for entertainment and honestly for pretty much everything you do. Sounds terrible right? But for many of us this is a daily reality and a necessity. Technology is convenient, keeps us connected and allows us to do more work than with traditional methods. But using technology outside of necessary times is also dangerous and increases stress levels.
There is a clear difference between necessary technology usage — which can be categorized as tech which is actively for work or school — and technology used passively, or tech which is used for entertainment or pleasure. I am incredibly guilty of media overconsumption and being over-reliant on technology outside of work. Sometimes you just want to binge an entire season in a single weekend, again guilty! But how is our over-reliance on technology compromising our health and how might nature bathing a digital detoxing be the solution?
How is Technology Hurting Our Health?
Tech Neck - In my posture corrector article (Posture Correctors: An In-Depth Review) I discussed the causes and effect of tech-neck. The short version is that our heads aren’t meant to look down for long periods of time. Looking down at your phone adds several pounds of pressure to your neck and shoulder muscles which leads to tightness, pain and headaches.
Insomnia - Phones emit blue light which is known to interfere with our circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle. Being on your phone at night, especially before bed, will really wreck your ability to have a long and restful night of sleep.
Depression - Some studies have found a link between constant media stimulation and depression. Increased passive phone usage can contribute to feelings of restlessness, anxiety and loneliness.
Work Hate Relationship- People who actively use media for work at home will experience an increased inability to relax, a decreased ability to disconnect and will be overall more exhausted. Work is for work, home is for home but with more people working from home, it’s harder to distinguish work time from home time.
Negative Outlook or Worldview - Excessive phone usage and media consumption can also make you feel negatively about yourself or the world. These feelings can develop into anxiety or depression if left unattended.
These are pretty serious symptoms. Everyone wants to live a pain-free, sleep filled and happy life but an over reliance on our phones can ultimately hurt our health. What are we supposed to do though, short of becoming hermits? This is where digital detoxing comes in.
Doing a Digital Detox and When It’s Right for You!
So, what is a digital detox? Experts define digital detox loosely as “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.” For many people a complete digital detox might be impossible. After all, technology is all around us at all times! I’m not asking anyone to go live out in the woods with a hoop for entertainment or anything, but let’s talk about the two different types of digital detoxes.
The Complete Digital Detox - The most Spartan type of digital detox, you will be cutting your media usage cold turkey. No phone! No tablet! No computer! Nothing. You are going to have to remove all technology from your reach. You won’t be able to engage with any media at any time. Obviously very few of you will feel the need to do a Complete Digital Detox for long periods of time, just a weekend will be enough to begin to feel the effects!
The Specific Temptation Detox - Which apps do you feel you spend the most time on; Mobile games? Social media? YouTube? With a Specific Temptation Detox you would eliminate one type of media consumption, for a certain amount of time. I utilize this detox nightly. As someone who really likes to play mobile games after work, I have a problem putting down my tablet before bed. Instead, I’ve planned out my media consumption from the time I get home to the time I take a shower. After the shower I won’t get back on my tablet at all. I typically make lunch for the next day, do the dishes or lay down to watch a movie with my boyfriend. Doing this has helped us connect more as a couple.
While the concept of digital detoxes are great, their execution can be difficult when we’re surrounded constantly by technology and media. This is where the Japanese concept of forest bathing, the mini-detox, comes in.
Forest Bathing - A Mini Detox
The concept of forest bathing, or ‘shinrinyoku’ (森林浴) which combines the Japanese characters for ‘forest’ and ‘bath’, started in Japan as a kind of ecotherapy in the 1980’s. Now, the idea of forest bathing might conjure up that weird neighbor who likes to walk in their backyard naked, but the ‘bathing’ part of forest bathing has more to do with immersion than nudity. In the same way that you might immerse your body in water when you swim, you can immerse your body and mind completely in nature.
What I mean by that is that every sense should be immersed in nature. You should see the leaves creating intricate shadows on the ground. You should smell the sunshine. You should taste the fresh air which tastes completely different than house air. You should feel the crunch of leaves (or sand!) under your feet. Become immersed in nature and, this should go without saying, leave your technology behind.
Forest bathing doesn’t even have to be just sitting, even though there’s nothing wrong with just sitting and enjoying the sunshine, there’s plenty of things you can do -
Meditate - take a deep breathe and just breathe, let your mind wander!
Collect things - an activity not just for children, take the time to collect pretty flowers or shells to take home with you.
Practice yoga - fresh grass or sand can be a great yoga mat! I love the feeling of sand between my toes and shoes are drastically overrated anyway!
Sing or Dance - Whatever makes you feel joyfully connected to the earth and to yourself.
This mini-detox time can be invaluable for improving your health and well-being! Take a trip outside and remember how good the sunshine feels!
If you want more in-depth information on digital detoxing check out “Digital Detox: The Ultimate Guide To Beating Technology Addiction, Cultivating Mindfulness, and Enjoying More Creativity, Inspiration, And Balance In Your Life!” by Damon Zahariades.
Li L, Griffiths MD, Mei S, Niu Z. (2020). Fear of Missing Out and Smartphone Addiction Mediates the Relationship Between Positive and Negative Affect and Sleep Quality Among Chinese University Students. Front Psychiatry. 27(11)877. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00877. PMID: 33192635; PMCID: PMC7481466.
Thomée S. (2018). Mobile Phone Use and Mental Health. A Review of the Research That Takes a Psychological Perspective on Exposure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 29;15(12):2692. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15122692. PMID: 30501032; PMCID: PMC6314044.
Zahariades, D,. (2018). Digital Detox: The Ultimate Guide To Beating Technology Addiction, Cultivating Mindfulness, and Enjoying More Creativity, Inspiration, And Balance In Your Life! Independently Published.