Do you need a digital detox?
Animation credit: Steve Cutts - www.stevecutts.com
I love tech. I have loads of gadgets and sadly, I couldn’t envisage life without my smart phone, AirPods or MacBook. In fact, I run both my businesses almost entirely via my laptop and phone, so I need to be on them every day, otherwise, you know, I don’t get paid and I’ll die.
A couple of years ago I began to wonder what this was doing to my brain and my body. When I worked in an office, they’d have an ergonomics specialist come in every so often to adjust our work stations. They’d carefully go through seat height, desk height, lumbar support, right angles blah blah blah. I would faithfully follow their excellent advice for a full 3 minutes before crossing my legs, hunching forward and squinting too close to my screens (oh yes, I had three of those blue-light-flickering beasts in front of me).
Every so often I’d have to go and get my neck readjusted by an osteopath, then it was acupuncture, then it was shedloads of magnesium so I could sleep through the constant aching. Gradually I realised I needed to control my screen use. It wasn’t just my posture suffering. I found myself constantly and idly scrolling through social media; googling anything that popped into my head – and instantly forgetting the information once I moved onto the next topic of interest. My melatonin (an important sleep hormone) became inhibited at night as my brain was over-stimulated from the blue-light emanating from my various screens.
I then heard about people doing Digital Detoxes. Yes, this does sound daft but actually, it can be really beneficial if you feel you’re engaging with your smart phone more than with the real world. To do a full-on Digital Detox, you would ideally go to a lovely yoga retreat in a nice sunny country, tell your friends, family and colleagues that you’re opting out of the daily grind for a week or two, then turn off all your devices and chant some oms for the duration of your stay.
If you’ve done that, please write to me and let me know how it went. I won’t believe you of course and will assume the email came from a spambot.
How can you take control of your digital urges in the real world? Well in fact you don’t have to go all out and ritually burn all your tech at the next full moon. Part of the answer is unbelievably…more tech!
Just a few days ago, Apple released its iOS 12 update. Within the new update, Apple have added Screen Time in the iPhone settings. With this you can:
Select Down Time in which you can schedule your phone between specific times to only alert you when someone is calling. This is useful at night as a way to keep your phone on and active (for emergencies say) but stops you accessing your apps.
Set App Limits where you can set daily time limits for particular apps or groups of apps (e.g. Social Media).
There’s some other cool stuff as well and of course you can override these settings whenever you like, unless you’re a kid and your parents put them on your phone. The main point is, the settings serve as a reminder of what you’re doing. It pulls you back into the present and into reality. So instead of drooling in front of your screen, you are prodded to make a decision, “do I really need to look at another ‘amusing’ cat picture?”
Why does all this matter? Well apart from messing up your sleep quality and causing you to develop a fat-pad* at the back of your neck, studies have shown that excessive screen time can have a significant negative impact on working memory performance. That said, an in-depth review of all the literature found that research on the cognitive impacts of smartphone technology is still quite limited.
*Otherwise known as kyphosis or more disturbingly: Buffalo Hump! Caused by the pressure of your head being constantly thrown forward:
Regardless of the research; how do YOU feel about your screen use? Are you aching and squinting and bleary-eyed when you wake up in the morning? Do you sometimes feel disconnected or suddenly realise you’ve just spent half an hour on Instagram and don’t remember a thing? If this feels familiar, then maybe it’s time to take steps to limit your screen time.
A final tip for late-night gamers, busy entrepreneurs and Facebook scrollers: either wear orange-tinted glasses or download free software like f.lux to ‘warm up’ your screens at night. This turns cold blue light into warm orange light which allows your melatonin to build up during the evening and makes you sleepy by bedtime. Many new devices already come with this screen-warming technology built in – so use it!
We hope this inspires some of you to turn off your phone and speak to an actual human. If you have any questions, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
This LDN Nutrition blog contains some affiliate links. All products mentioned are used and loved by the author and if you click these links we get a commission. You don’t have to click the links, it’s just so you can be easily directed to the products we’ve mentioned if you’re interested :)