Rakhi Beekrum.
Rakhi Beekrum.
Many people underestimated the amount of time spent on the phone and the number of times they check their phone.Picture: pexels.com
Many people underestimated the amount of time spent on the phone and the number of times they check their phone.Picture: pexels.com
Durban - WHAT'S the first thing you do when you're standing in a queue at the checkout line? Or when you're waiting for someone to arrive for a meeting?

Without even realising it, checking our phones has become a reflex action. It's almost as automatic as a bathroom break for most.

While we cannot deny that technology has made our lives easier in so many ways, it can also distract us from what is important in our lives.

So when I speak of digital detox, I'm in no way suggesting that you give up all technology for weeks at a time, but there are simpler adjustments that you can make.

You can start by making small changes; and once you see the benefits, you could perhaps consider longer detoxes.

How can you tell if you could benefit from a digital detox?

* Does your partner (or parent) complain that you spend too much time on the phone?

* Do you lose track of time, scrolling mindlessly on social media?

* Do you find it difficult to end an online game?

* Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning?

* Do you take your phone into the bathroom?

* Do you look at your phone during meetings/social events?

* Do you have neck aches due to poor posture (possibly related to too much smartphone use)?

* Are you less productive because social media seems to eat your time away?

* Do you suffer from FOMO (the feeling of missing out) due to information overload about what everyone else is doing?

* Do you feel that there's no time to do things that you would really love to?

So, how exactly do you go about it?

* Start by thinking about all the devices that you use regularly. Are there any that you could completely eliminate?

Here's the scary (but essential) part - work out how much of (non-work-related) time you spend online every day. If you need help, there are apps that can help you track this.

Most people who use apps such as Moment or Checky realised that they completely underestimated the amount of time spent on the phone and the number of times they even checked their phone.

* Start small - change smaller habits, and once you've achieved those, you can make further changes.

* Set yourself a time limit for technology use each day, and decide where and how you will spend that time online.

* Consider how much of what you are doing online, you can do in other ways. For example, speak to someone instead of text, write a thank you note, read a physical book, use your memory instead of Google, etc.

* Eliminate technology during certain times or events. For example, no technology while eating, no technology in the bedroom, etc. This fosters healthier relationships and encourages communication and connection. It may feel awkward at first, but you'll be grateful.

* Use alternatives that are less distracting. For example, an actual alarm clock will prevent the need for your phone in the bedroom. Or, if you love music, listen on an iPod or other appliance/media player that does not have other distractions. I've found this works well for many parents complaining of teens who need music to study, but get distracted by messages and social media.

* Turn off notifications on your apps, so you only see notifications when you log in. Also, decide on particular times of the day to check your email and reply immediately. Do not allow your emails to download automatically.

* Delete any apps that you have identified as time-wasters.

* Un-follow negative people on social media or simply hide their posts, so you are not exposed to them.

* For optimal sleep, turn off all screens at least two hours before bedtime (this includes television, smartphones, computers, etc). Rather do something more relaxing that will help you sleep better.

* Everything is easier if you have company, so if you decide to go on a digital detox, do it as a family.

Disconnect from the outside world sometimes, so you can connect more meaningfully to those most important to you!

You'll feel so much happier not knowing what's going on in everyone else's lives, because you'll spend more time enjoying your own life.

* Beekrum is a psychologist in Durban North with over 10 years of experience in marital therapy. You can follow her on Facebook (Rakhi Beekrum - Psychologist) and Instagram (@rakhibeekrum)

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