Feeling tired? Tethered to your screens? Always “on call”? These days, it’s an almost universal complaint – and our devices are largely to blame. All too often, they’re our constant, and exhausting, companions, crying out for attention as they ring, buzz and whirr from the second they wake us up in the morning until the moment we shut our eyes for the night.
In today’s culture, some of this digital connectivity may simply come with the territory. But left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on our sleep, our relationships, our mental health, and, not to mince words, rules many of us to the point of addiction. So the question is, how do we tame the tech beast? The answer: recognize tech’s addictive tricks and fight back with a few of these “self-defense” tips. Soon, you’ll be the master of your digital domain! Here’s where to start:
Know the enemy.
All the constant scrolling and searching through Instagram, Facebook, news, emails and texts activates the same pleasure receptors in the brain as drugs and alcohol — you get a rush of the happy hormone dopamine. But the search for the next high takes a toll, from tech injuries and dry eyes, to anxiety brought on by FOMO (fear of missing out), depressing news feeds and constant exposure to electromagnetic fields and blue light. There are no shortage of reasons why our over-digitized lives are putting us through the mental, emotional and physical ringer so getting off the merry-go-round – or at least pumping the breaks – is imperative.
Eat with your utensils, not your phone.
Make the commitment to put your phone away during meals you share with others. Eating alone? Do it more mindfully by putting the phone down or powering it down while you’re eating.
Put your “out of office” to work.
Create automatic messages for your time away from devices to let people know that you check messages only during specific time slots. This will alert them that your response times may be delayed.
Opt out once a week.
Take a weekly technology fast by dedicating one full day (Saturdays or Sunday usually work well) to keeping devices tucked away. Think of it as your digital Sabbath.
Opt out during the day.
Create tech-free periods, for example on the commuter train, bus, or Uber ride. Use these screen-free times to enjoy some music, engage in a few moments of meditation, read a paperback book, or stare out the window and watch the world go by.
Turn off notifications.
That’s right, all of them. Regain control over the tech beast by putting yourself in charge of when to view what you want to view. Turn off the noise and distractions by turning off all notifications for emails, texts and every application on your computer, phone and portable devices.
Use tech to manage your tech habit.
Apps like Moment, Freedom, and Breakfree place timers on internet and social media use—or even block them entirely for chunks of time—so you can build a healthier, more balanced relationship with your devices.
Hide your apps from yourself.
Keep only your most basic apps – like calls, text and maps – visible on your home screen to reduce the temptation to go down the app rabbit hole. Hide time-sucking apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in folders on the second or third page to make them harder to access.
Go hardcore – and step off the social media go-round.
Take the bold stance of removing yourself from all social media and see what happens. Notice how you feel about not tracking the daily comings and goings of your friends and followers, and how much more time you have to do other things.
Consider leaving your phone at home!
Unless perhaps you are in law enforcement or a professional first responder, remind yourself that the likelihood of a true emergency that requires you to be instantly reachable is fairly low. So when you’re going out on short walks or errands, leave the screen at home – and enjoy the world around you as you go about your business, even if it’s only for a few uninterrupted moments at a time.
Rewire yourself and your family.
If technology addiction is taking over your family, I recommend looking into practical ways of loosening its grip by reading the books Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids—and How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras, PhD, and The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert Lustig, MD.
In the end, it’s all about balance, and being mindful that tech is a tool, and a useful one at that, but unless you take charge of it, it will take charge of you, so don’t let the machines gain the upper hand.
Adapted from my book, How To Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.