Digital Detox

Art by Doug Chayka

According to Nielsen, we North Americans are spending a whopping 11 hours or more a day interacting with media on our devices. It’s messing with our sleep and, particularly with young people, increasing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

You may want to consider taking a break from technology if you think it is negatively affecting your:

  • moods, peace of mind and sleep
  • relationships with family and friends
  • relationship with yourself (genuine needs or personal goals are growing dim)
  • autonomy (you’re becoming addicted)
  • self-esteem (everyone else’s life appears bigger and brighter than yours)
  • motivation and focus (after mindlessly spending hours checking your devices throughout the day, you’re drained and foggy
  • anxiety level (you feel obsessive or compulsive about responding to email)
  • body (you experience back pain, excess weight and eyesight issues from sitting too much and staring at the glare)

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. These smart phones and apps were designed and engineered by a very small demographic and are highly addictive dosing us with dopamine.

Consider a detox for the rest of the week. Just like fasting, you’ll find after a few days off tech, the intentional reintroduction of it into your life will be more intentional. You may then be less prone to mindless distraction going forward.

Here are some tips for rebooting your life off-screen:


Instead of reaching for that phone in the wee hours or seeing it first thing in the morning, get an alarm clock. The kind you throw across the room can be cathartic. And use that precious morning moment rising with the sun to set your intention for the day or give your bedmate a little squeeze.


Log out of your accounts. Dedicate 30 minutes/day to interact with it. Set the timer. If you have a desktop computer, put the apps here and delete them from your other devices, especially your phone.

We curate our profiles to highlight our imagined selves for a “front-stage” audience, and edit out all the inevitable boring, unflattering, embarrassing bits. Studies have linked the use of social media apps like Facebook to depression in teens.

Unplugging allows us to focus on our own real experiences, instead of comparing our lives to what we imagine someone else’s might be.


The news is rehashed over and over throughout the week. Consider reading one quality newspaper a week. If you want more, pick an issue or two that really matters to you and deep dive with a trusted source.


Schedule 2-3 times a day when you will check your email, like 11am and 3pm. Consider turning off your notifications and logging out to resist temptation. Trust me, it can wait. Don’t waste five hours a day feeling anxious to respond like so many of us do, according to an Adobe survey.


Like smoking, there’s a “second-hand” effect, for those witnessing a family member distracted on his phone at the dinner table. Set consistent boundaries here and pretty soon everyone will reap the benefits. Consider ditching devices at mealtimes and turning off screens after 8 or 9 p.m. Interestingly, this is a common practice with many parents working in the tech world, including the late Steve Jobs.


  • Thrive launched an app called the The Thrive app that puts your phone in “Thrive mode” if you’re having a meal with your family, or doing paperwork, and if you want to be able to be un-distracted.
  • The recent versions of iOS and Android have inbuilt features that let you monitor your daily usage and sometimes even control your usage. These features can be enabled/disabled at your choice.
  • A series of Digital Wellbeing Experiments has been released by Google that let you do stuff like see how often you unlock your phone and minimize distractions.

Allow yourself the space for a digital detox and I promise the FOMO (fear of missing out) will pass. It may even evolve into a more delicious JOMO (joy of missing out).

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