When it's time for a digital 'detox'

You see it every day; everyone is too distracted to carry on a conversation, complete homework, or pay attention to the events right in front of them. We feel lost without our phones and if your phone breaks or becomes lost it creates instant panic. Parents don’t talk to their children on a stroll to the park; they’re on the phone. Couples don’t talk directly to each other over dinner without glancing at their phone or finishing an email they “need” to send. It may be more convenient and help you avoid issues you don’t want to deal with, but our reliance on our smart phones and screens is taking a toll on everyone’s and physical health. The key to reconnecting and focusing on each other is to schedule in weekly digital detox days not only for yourself but your family.

With so many distractions, we’re taking in more information than ever before, but we’re not able to process it and apply it to our lives. The end results are shorter attention spans, lack of focus, and reduced eye contact. Psychologists list five warning signs that you need to detox:

  1. You have more difficulty making decisions. It’s true; reliance on smart phones is associated with lower problem-solving and analytical skills. The immediate accessibility of contacts, texts, and internet access isn’t always a good thing. According to Dr. Nathaniel Barr, the brain needs to think to grow.
  2. You’re too distracted to read an article or anything from beginning to end. With excessive information coming into the brain, you reduce your ability to filter and become distracted, moving quickly from one distraction to another.
  3. You become clumsier. Researchers have found, with the use of brain scans, that multiple neurological changes happen with too much screen time. They suggest that too much screen time can cause atrophy and shrinkage of the gray matter, which is largely responsible for functions such as planning and organizing. 61% of pedestrians using their phone veered off course in a study from Stony Brook University.
  4. You can’t function without your phone. Most phone users rely totally on a GPS to navigate them, sacrificing the ability to read a map or know which direction you’re heading. Being aware of these things is deductive reasoning, a thinking skill.
  5. Your life is on speed dial. You’ve become more impulsive, you have a sense of urgency, and you can’t think or meditate about decisions. Being resourceful means being able to think and rely on your own thinking skills. When you feel like your smart phone is in charge of your decisions, it’s time to detox. Too much instant gratification creates a lazy brain – one that is prone to giving up too soon and is reluctant to take risks.

How to heal and detox:

  1. Work on puzzles.
  2. Read books from beginning to end and reward yourself for finishing them.
  3. Complete crossword puzzles.
  4. Shut your phone off when you walk and drive. Allow the brain to notice surroundings again.
  5. Get a paper map and go for a hike or trip on the weekend. Give yourself time to wander  – it’s good for your brain.
  6. Have at least one meet up a week with a friend where you’re sitting and talking with eye contact.

Technology will not stop and wait for your brain to catch up. To keep your sanity and increase your quality of life, give yourself permission to take a digital detox. Your mental health relies on your ability to take care of you and those you love.

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