Digital Detox – Do we need a digital timeout?

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We wake up in the morning to the sound of our smartphone alarm and go to sleep in the evening in front of the laptop. It is normal now for modern technologies to accompany us throughout the day. However, the "always-on" mentality quickly causes stress: that's why it makes sense to take an occasional digital break.

Digital detox means very deliberately foregoing digital media for a while. Whether you radically cut out all screens or just some aspects of the digital world is up to you. No matter in what shape or form – this trend appears to be popular. 44% of the respondents of a survey by the digital association Bitkom stated that they had already tried a digital detox. And it's worth it: the newly gained time can be used for many other valuable things.

When it gets really hard

If you need help with your 'fasting', you can get it from an unusual source: "Digital detox? There's an app for that!" This sounds like a contradiction in terms but apparently it actually helps many users. Many apps take a playful approach to renunciation. One app for example sets the smartphone to flight mode for a specified period of time automatically. If you want to go online before the time expires, you need to pay a virtual fee. But even small initial steps make sense - for example, simply switching the smartphone to silent for a few hours so that you don't look at the display every time you receive a message, or setting up smartphone-free zones, such as the bedroom.

If a few hours without smartphone are not enough for you, you might like the latest trend from the US. So-called detox holidays combine internet withdrawal with wellness. The program features massages, facials, yoga, and meditation. The rule is: No Smartphones allowed! But even over here, offline holidays are becoming more and more popular and are now offered in a wide variety of destinations - from Wi-Fi-free forest huts to shielded mountain villages and old monasteries to total radio silence in jungle or desert camps. In some resorts, there is even no electricity at all: you really can't get more digital detox than that!

Body and mind benefit

But do detoxes actually do any good? Scientists say 'Yes'. Neck pain, increased strain on the eyes, reduced attention span, stress, and depression – all those are symptoms of excessive technology consumption. Our sleep habits also suffer. The blue light of screens prevent the body from forming melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone. One should generally not use electronics before going to bed. If you have the internet at your fingertips at all times in the form of a smartphone, your problem-solving skills might also suffer. Why try to figure something out if you can just Google it?

Smartphone detox promotes the creativity and productivity of its users. Another important aspect: constant smartphone use has a negative effect when spending time with friends and family. It is much nicer when everybody is not gazing at their mobile phones but rather into each other's faces. The time that is otherwise spent on smartphones, the internet & co. can be used for many other valuable things: Relaxation and self-care, social contacts, sports, hobbies or simply taking a deep breath in nature.

The right balance

Detox literally means "poison removal". Referring to technology as poison might be taking it one step too far. When using smartphones and Co. responsibly, they can make our lives a lot easier. But a detox can help you become more mindful of your digital life. The goal should be to find the right balance between online and offline.

Tips for the digital balance

  • Smartphone off the bedroom: The bedroom should be a place of rest and recovery. Checking messages before going to bed, reading a few emails, a quick look at Facebook... All this prevents much-needed relaxation. Better: ban the mobile phone from the bedroom and get an analogue alarm clock.
  • Really enjoy social closeness: Put your mobile phone away when you are with other people! Whether it's with friends in a restaurant, at a family meal or even just at breakfast with your partner - the smartphone doesn't belong on the table.
  • Plan occasional digital time-outs: Smaller digital time-outs are worthwhile to clear your head from time to time. For example, one media-free evening per week.
  • Switch off push notifications: When your smartphone alerts you to every incoming email or message, you feel the urge to check it all the time. So it's better to turn off notifications and only check messages when you want to and have the time.

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