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Guest Viewpoint: Time for a digital detox?

Risks of being 'always on' - and tips to help beat them

While internet addiction isn’t an official diagnosis (yet), it’s pretty clear that some people struggle when they’re forced offline. Every time Facebook suffers an outage, or Twitter begins to load slowly, the outpouring of fury tells us that the internet is maybe too important to many lives.

People who compulsively use the internet suffer in their lives away from the screen. It causes stress and strain on interpersonal relationships, physical & mental health – and work. It’s difficult to give your career 100% focus when all you can think about is your Instagram likes. Concentration dips alarmingly when you’re distracted, and addiction – to anything – magnifies that a hundredfold.

Internet addiction is a strange thing to quantify. You likely use the internet a lot at work. But if you agree with several of the below statements, you may be beginning to show the signs of an addiction yourself:

  • I think about being online almost constantly.
  • If I’m not online, my thoughts are occupied with the next time I can b.
  • I have tried to control, my time online, but have struggled to do so.
  • I feel irritable or depressed when I can’t get online, and feel anger when the internet loads slowly.
  • My internet use has threatened my job, or a relationship with someone I care about.
  • I lose track of time spent online.
  • Being online helps me to forget about my problems.

Getting away from the internet—and most of our digital devices—can help us to both focus and relax at once. If you fast completely from your devices – the computer, your phone, even your calculator – you’ll find yourself revisiting skills and proficiencies you forgot you had.

Feeding numbers into software and getting an immediate result becomes a little numbing after a while, and you look for distractions. Getting back to basics and solving problems using nothing more than your brain and a piece of paper will sharpen your abilities, and help you to think about those problems in new – and yet, old – ways.

Of course, you shouldn’t dramatically throw away all your devices. They do make work a lot easier, when used properly. But reducing your reliance, and occasionally taking complete breaks, will be beneficial for productivity and mental health.

  • Set timers on your devices: most smartphones have free apps available to help, here.
  • Set a maximum of an hour for web use, a maximum of 15 minutes for gaming. Extensions for the major web browsers let you do the same thing on your computer—and block unproductive sites/social media entirely.
  • Be mindful: every time you find yourself reaching for your smartphone, stop and ask yourself ‘why?’ If you obsessively check social media, try to set a time of day to do so – lunch, or the commute home.
  • Fast: this sounds drastic – and it is, for most – but taking a whole week without switching on a digital device is a great way to ‘reset’ your reliance on them. Spend the time with your family, and reconnect with them without the distraction and glare of a backlit LCD dominating every conversation.

David Price is a wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured