There is no doubt that technology has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. From the moment our digital alarms wake us up, to our late night review of the day's Facebook events while watching our favorite Netflix series, we're more connected to our electronic devices than ever before. In fact, according to a Nielsen cross-platform study, the average American adult spends 11 hours a day interacting with electronic media. That's almost 46% of our time, whether we're awake or not.
According to the U.S. Census of 2013, 84% of Americans own a computer. This easy access has us spending around 60 hours a month (2.5 full days) interacting with technology. And the younger generations are even more connected. A Pew study found that 24% of teenagers in America are almost constantly online, with 92% going online daily and 56% accessing the internet several times a day. These numbers show quite a bit of technological interaction in today's digitized world; it's likely that most of us rarely give our phones, tablets, and laptops - not to mention, ourselves - much downtime.
Why Do a "Tech Detox"?
We can all attest that technology is wonderful. It's brought us some of the most beneficial advancements we've seen (within the shortest time spans) in the entire existence of the human race. Even with the positive progress we've made, could all of this beneficial technology actually be negatively affecting our bodies and minds? After a "tech detox" run by Fast Company last year, 35 business people provided a resounding answer in the affirmative. The results of that study found the following benefits:
We remember things more easily (and more clearly) when we are less distracted. Without the distraction of smartphones and other computers, the infiltration of information is slower and more conscious, allowing our brains to better store and process incoming information - and then remember it later.
Deeper Social Connections
Less time eyeing technology screens means more time to make eye contact with other individuals, and begin to deepen those relationships. Plus, without looking down at phones, tablets, and laptops, the study found that our posture naturally improves.
Settled deeply in our lives full of tech, we are often performing multiple tasks at once, pulling our attention in a variety of directions at all times. Without these distractions, we are less mentally taxed and better able to truly focus on the conversation or task at hand.
It's very easy - and tempting - to go to bed without truly going to sleep. Checking our phones at bedtime, when we're already laying down, doesn't allow our bodies the opportunity to effectively power down. Putting ourselves to bed naturally, with no tech distractions, leads to higher-quality sleep.
The study found that when separated from technology, people are more likely to engage in self-reflection regarding their personal goals and interactions. Without digital distractions, we become more flexible in our daily lives and more thoughtful about ourselves.
Taking Time Away From Technology
A little vacation from technology sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? But how do we realistically fit that into a life full of constant technological interactions? Here are a few ways to ditch that device, and soak up some of the benefits of a tech detox.
Detox During the Workweek
Few of us can spontaneously grab our camping gear and hit the road indefinitely, but there are still plenty of ways to get a bit of non-tech time during the workweek.
- Take short walks during the day - and leave that phone at your desk! Walking is not only good exercise and a mood booster, but gets you out into the sun for a dose of that precious vitamin D.
- If walking is too slow-paced for you, grab a bike or a skateboard and satisfy your need for speed. These activities require you to focus on a singular task, which can keep you from trying to grab that phone in your pocket.
- Swim, surf, paddleboard, or kayak. Pool or lake-related activities will get you away from those water-adverse technological devices.
- Grab the leash, and give your dog a good workout at a nearby park, or around the green spaces within your city. If you don't have a pet of your own, offer to relieve a friend's pup if they work long hours - you'll be doing all three of you a favor.
- Fit in some fitness. Gyms may be full of televisions, and fellow exercisers scrolling through their smartphones while they ride the stationary bikes, but you can find some solid downtime by stepping into a guided class. Consider an after-work yoga or weights class to fit in some time away from tech, while doing something great for your body.
Detox on the Weekends
- Get involved in local community events such as races, hikes, or charitable events where you'll need to focus your time on the individuals around you.
- Go camping, and turn off your devices for the weekend. Or, take a nature-filled day trip to the woods, where that 'pesky' internet service can't reach you.
- Go golfing. Leave your phone in the car and get onto the green. Golfing is a great stress reliever. Plus, it can help you reconnect with friends and get in some exercise while you're at it.
- Pick up a team sport. There are plenty of adult leagues these days for the athletically inclined. And when you've got teammates relying on you, you don't have much time to reach for your technology mid-game. Check out your local sports clubs, like VAVi or the YMCA, for leagues in your area.
Technology is a fabulous addition to our modern lives, but even great things should be consumed in moderation. Incorporating some technology-free time into your lifestyle can elevate your mood, lower your stress, and help you remain physically fit. Research shows that spending time without tech distractions strengthens your memory and focus, improves your sleep, and helps you to nurture your social connections. Even 30 minutes a day can be greatly beneficial to your overall health and mental well-being. So put down those devices, get outside, and take a little detox from technology. You'll be glad you did.