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Can Taking a Digital Detox Improve Your Mental Health?

In today’s world, technology is nearly impossible to escape. Research shows that, on average, we spend about ten hours in front of a screen each day. Digital life may be alluring, but spending time online comes with serious consequences.

The digital world can keep people connected, but it can also set up expectations that people should always be connected. So if you’re noticing a decrease in mood or an increase in stress, you may be wondering--can taking a digital detox help improve the quality of your mental health? Let's get into it.

What Is a Digital Detox?

A digital detox is an intentional period of time where a person stops or significantly lessens using cell phones, tablets, computers, and TVs. Though it’s nearly impossible to completely remove technology from your daily life, a planned digital detox can help regain a sense of control around your relationship with technology.

A digital detox can also refer to abstaining from or reducing the use of specific apps or platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook. For example, you might not be able to take a digital detox from your work email, but it may be possible to set a boundary around the times or places you use specific technologies.

A digital detox is an intentional plan for reducing your use of technology to regain more balance based on your individual circumstances and needs. If you feel like your screen time is out of control, take a closer look at what a digital detox might look like for you.

How Can a Digital Detox Improve My Mental Health?

Researchers have found time and time again that increased use of technology is associated with increased rates of anxiety and depression. In addition, social media can induce “FOMO” (fear of missing out) as you scroll a highlight reel of your friends’ most postable moments.

Consider this: digital consumption floods you with information at all times, which can put your brain into a constant state of stress. You may feel hypervigilant, waiting for the next news story to break or anticipating a text from a friend. This level of hyperarousal can put a strain on your nervous system and may create an imbalance between times of stress and calm.

A digital detox can help regulate your nervous system. Constant digital consumption creates a perpetual feedback loop--you post and receive feedback, news breaks, and you read the comments, and newsfeeds are constantly flooded with new information and opinions.

But making time for a digital detox might help you pull yourself out of that feedback loop and regain control over the information you take in. This shift can improve your mental health by reducing anxiety and feelings of comparison that can lead to depression.

Is There a Healthy Way to Use Technology?

Of course! Technology is a regular part of daily life, and there is no avoiding it completely. Technology can connect people and allows you to access information whenever you want or need it. Technology and the digital landscape can be a beautiful place. It is so ingrained in our daily life that it’s important to learn how to work with technology in a mentally healthy way.

How can you start to use technology in a more healthy and balanced way?

Set Boundaries

This could look like only checking your work email on a work device in your office or only scrolling TikTok after dinner. It may be helpful to share these limits with other people in your life, such as your boss or coworkers.

Detox From "Time-Suck" Apps

You opened Twitter, and suddenly 45 minutes have passed--do you even remember what you saw? Take a mindful detox from apps that suck up your time with little value.

Be Honest With Yourself

Check your screen time if your device allows, and be honest with yourself about your technology usage in order to make meaningful changes. How can you lower that number a bit? What changes would you need to implement?

How Often Should You Do a Digital Detox?

This answer varies from person to person, and there is no right way to do a digital detox. However, it’s important to understand your own usage patterns and the cues that things have become unbalanced.

It may be helpful to answer these questions:

  • Is your screen time interfering with your real-life relationships?

  • Are you mindlessly grabbing your phone without any real reason?

  • Do you feel anxious or stressed when you can’t check a notification right away?

  • Are you neglecting your responsibilities because of your technology use?

If you keep answering yes, it’s a good time to check in with yourself and consider a digital detox.

Regularly monitoring your technology use can support a healthy balance, and allow technology to support your life instead of control it.

At The Mental Health House, we support balanced living and help our clients develop healthy tools to cope with stress. Technology can be a wonderful asset, but we want to ensure it isn't your escape or sole source of happiness. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you.

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