Staying away from a screen sounds like an easy task to nail? Actually… it’s not always as easy as we’d all like to believe. How many times have you thought ‘I’m not going to check my phone as much today’, before looking down and realising you’ve been scrolling through Instagram for 2 hours? Or thought you would spend more time on something other than your phone only to spend the day in front of the tv?
It’s not your fault, really. We’re surrounded by screens. Even when we’re with other people we’re usually just immersed in a shared screen rather than our own individual ones and even when doing things that fully take you away from 21st century life and into nature, there’s always a good photo opportunity or a need for Google maps etc. There’s always a place for screens in everything we do, so taking time away needs to be very deliberate.
When you get used to having less screen time it does get easier, however it’s so easy for screen time to creep back in and all of a sudden you realise you’ve gone from waking up in bed, to phone, to computer, to TV, to phone, to bed, repeat. I’ve been trying a few different things to keep my pesky phone out of my hand and my eyes off the screens long enough to actually immerse myself in something a little more ‘real life’.
Taking a digital detox is such a great way to re-ground yourself. I’ve taken a digital detox a few times recently, whether thats for an evening, a day or a week, it’s surprisingly easy to move on from the break up with your phone when you have a bit of time apart and whenever I’ve done this I’m actually not that bothered about picking it back up again.
Before you focus on taking time away from screen, you need to figure out where your problem lies, or if you don’t necessarily have a problem and just want to take a bit more time away for mental health or other reasons, you need to know where you’re most likely to forget. For me that’s my phone. My phone is my vice at the moment so this is where I need to re-focus. I’ve implemented some changes that have made a huge difference to my day to day such as muting all my group chats on Whatsapp, blocking notifications from apps which cause me to reach for my phone or things that don’t interest me or need to take my attention away from what I’m doing and by setting up a weekly report which shows my screen time.
This is the thing that’s actually made the biggest impact on my digital life as every Sunday I have the chance to see in cold hard facts the amount of time I’ve been spending on each app, along with total screen time for the week. I can’t tell you how wrong I was about my screen time before I did this. I would never in a million years have guessed how many hours I was spending on my phone, as well as working at my desk full time during the day and apparently having some sort of social life and a boyfriend. Well, apparently I wasn’t getting much of any of those things as my phone was getting 100% of this time and attention.
When I first started this report I was spending around 12 hours a day across certain apps, but when I started to see the report on a Sunday (the best day to do this in my mind as you can start the week with reducing screen time in mind), I drastically reduced this. I went straight down to about 1 hour a day on apps that weren’t to do with work. It dropped so dramatically, yet my life didn’t change all that much, meaning I could easily take or leave the content I was consuming and it wasn’t as necessary as I’d previously thought.
Keep an eye for a week or so on what you’re consuming and what you would be doing instead if you didn’t have a screen to entertain you. Is there anything you miss? Any hobbies you’ve lost touch with? Have a little think about might just find that’s enough to make you second guess yourself when you reach for the phone/remote or on-switch and if you need to try something new completely, you’ll have identified your own personal digital danger zones!
Here are 6 different things I do when I want to be a little more off-screen.
I love reading. I always have and I always will, but I’ve noticed over the years that where I would have sat down with a good book, I now sit down with a Netflix series, a movie, a game on my phone, a social media app or YouTube. This is devastating! Recently, I bought a few books that I want to read and have them in a pile in my view on my desk. I know that when I have some free time those books are in my mind and I will make time to sit and read.
It’s funny how as humans we think the digital world is so addictive, when we were all addicted to something before the good old internet and we would be just as engrossed in something else if we were currently in 1995. Just as I can get sucked into a Youtube hole, an Instagram scrolling marathon or a Netflix series, I can get captivated by a good book and this is a great way to spend your time. Even if you don’t think you’re a big reader, if you’re reading this, you’re a reader!
Have you ever tried writing? Probably at school, maybe as a part of your job, but have you actually written anyone a letter, written a journal or tried writing something fictional since you were a child? Some of us may have done, but most of us have not. Writing is like therapy. You can start in one place and end up somewhere else. You can write down things on your mind, your frustrations, thoughts, feelings, goals and plans. You can write about people in your life or people you’ve made up – you can do whatever you like! Writing is about as free as you can be and there’s no limits and no controls. I’ve tried writing a book many times and sometimes I like what I’ve done and sometimes it’s complete crap! But who cares? No-one has to see it and no-one even has to know, but you might just find a great outlet for anxiety and negative thoughts, a great way to voice your thoughts without hurting others and you might just save yourself some money on a therapist by figuring out what’s going on up there.
If you don’t know where to start with writing, have a think about your favourite stories and write your own take on it. You can even buy dice which show images of different things to write about and you can create a story based on the pictures which come up when you roll.
The thing that’s saved my life many many times… yoga! Yoga is so great for you’re mind, body and spirit and is one of the best things you can do when you’re looking to avoid a screen. Yoga is freeing, relaxing and enjoyable, but at the same time is a discipline, needs focus and takes up a lot of brain power. I find that when my mind is racing or when I want to take my mind off work, stress or anything else, yoga will guarantee to do that. It does take me a bit of time to get through the ‘going over and over the things in your mind’ part of yoga and before I know it the class is over and I’ve spent so much time thinking about my breathing and poses that only yoga has been in mind for the past hour.
If you don’t know yoga well enough to do it without a screen, you could always find a yoga book, or use yoga dice for ideas on a flow. If you’re not the type of person who likes movement, meditation could be the answer. Meditation requires even more brain power and focus, while allowing your brain a break once you have it mastered. You can sit or lie and meditate over an object like a candle or a crystal, or you can just sit with your eyes closed and focus on an intention.
I think were at a point where 2020 and likely 2021 will be known as the year of walking. What else is there to do hey? That being said, there’s a reason why everyone has been making the most of outside space and the nature all around and that’s because it’s one of the most grounding and humbling things we can do. Getting out in nature can help put everything into perspective and is the best way to completely take your mind off anything that’s in your email inbox or your DMs.
Most of us are able to walk around our local parks and if you have to go a little further to find somewhere beautiful, that’s ok. Even if you live in a city like me, there will be somewhere you can explore and enjoy. Walking is soothing and great for your mind when done alone, but the great thing about walking is anyone can join. Meet with a friend or family member, your partner or someone from work and get reconnecting in the real world.
At lunchtime in particular I like to watch a Youtube video while microwaving some soup or at dinner I’m so busy consuming some content I just end up chucking something in the oven. This is not okay! Since Christmas, I’ve been ensuring that every meal I make I’m thinking about and putting my thought and effort into. I learnt this when doing an Ayurvedic cleanse last year and this principle has really helped me in so many ways. By putting more time and effort into your meals you’re harnessing the prana or energy from the food. I like to spend more time preparing meals and now create meal plans so that I eat a variety of different things throughout the week. I’m enjoying cooking more than ever and find that I’m excited to cook and looking forward to mealtimes rather than rummaging around hastily for something quick so I can get back to something digital.
Puzzle or Game
I actually love playing games. It’s something I never realised because guess what, I was too busy playing on my phone instead of playing in real life with real people! But since realising that I like board games and am surprisingly good at some, I’m more than happy to spend a few hours doing this instead of falling into a digital downward spiral. Playing games is a great way to spend time with others and is a fun way to get conversation started and relax and unwind.
If you prefer to do things by yourself, need alone time or just live alone, puzzling is a great alternative to board games. Puzzles are such a nice way to wind down and get absorbed into something physical. You can start small with something simple, or go all in and complete something really difficult! It’s a nice feeling when you’ve finished a puzzle and you can always frame it afterwards and use it as artwork!