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#15: Digital Detox: Take time away from your screens

When you read this newsletter, I’m in the middle of a four-day digital detox. I’m spending time with my family without any digital devices. It’s something I do every once in a while and I consider it very important.

In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine a day without using our smartphones, tablets, computers and the like. We use them to stay connected with friends and family, work remotely, shop online, and entertain ourselves. While digital devices have undoubtedly made our lives easier, it’s important to recognize the dangers of their excessive use and the benefits of taking a break through what’s called a digital detox.

One of the biggest concerns when using too many digital devices is the impact on our mental health. Stress, anxiety, and even depression are often the result of our relationship to our screens. Studies have shown that the incessant stream of notifications and information can overwhelm our brains, dramatically shortening our attention span and leaving our nerves frayed.

The impact on our physical health is equally dangerous. Sitting in front of a screen for extended periods of time can cause eye strain and blurred vision, headaches, neck and back pain. In fact, significant negative changes in posture are becoming apparent in younger people. The blue light from screens disrupts our sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and decreased productivity.

Finally, the excessive use of digital devices can negatively affect our social life. Spending too much time scrolling through social media and superficial chatting with friends online leaves little time for meaningful face-to-face interactions. Ironically, feelings of loneliness and isolation can surface despite the feeling of connection to a large group of online friends.

I absolutely believe that the digital devices we use daily have incredible benefits, but at a huge cost if used too much. Therefore, I try to schedule periods of time when I take a break from them to reset my mind and body. This digital detox can be as short as a few hours or as long as several days, weeks or even whole months. Here’s some of the benefits you can expect:

Improved mental health: By taking a break from the constant stream of sensory input, you can calm your nervous system and normalize your neurochemistry (especially the “reward” hormone dopamine). You’ll have more time to focus on mindfulness activities, such as meditation or yoga. Instead of unconsciously comparing yourself to others online, spend time focusing on your inner self and exploring your emotions in more meaningful ways.

Better physical health: Interaction with your devices usually takes place sitting or standing in awkward positions. When you replace this time with natural movement, your posture will improve and you’ll alleviate pain and discomfort in your eyes, neck and back. In addition to having more time to exercise, your sleep will improve. Both of these will boost your energy levels and overall health.

More meaningful social interactions: When you take a break from social media, you’ll have more time for face-to-face interactions with family and friends. Instead of passive entertainment, spend time by talking and listening, taking walks and playing with each other. This can help you build deeper connections and improve your overall social life. Online communication is not the same thing as real-life interactions!

Increased productivity: Without the constant distraction of digital devices, you’ll have more time and focus to work on the things that are truly important to you. While multitasking has long been hailed as a virtue, it is quite the opposite. By singletasking, you’ll be way more productive. Real breakthroughs are only possible in the flow state, that feeling of complete absorption and focused attention, where you are fully immersed in what you’re doing and feeling a high sense of enjoyment. And if you haven’t guessed already, flow is only possible without distractions!

What’s your relationship to digital devices? Have you ever done a digital detox? I invite you to take a break from your screens with me. It can be challenging at first, but it’s very rewarding. Go ahead and try it this weekend!


Yours, Ulrich

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