So, I mentioned the word ** detox **. Don’t worry, it’s not the kind you might expect. The detox that Tom and I have been enjoying this past month has been of the digital kind.
With Tom’s stroke in December, it brought on an understandable flood of messages. The messages were coming in from every angle: WhatsApp, email, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, phone calls and voice notes, and for the first 12 days of Tom’s hospital stay I had both mine and Tom’s phone to look after as Tom’s vision, nausea and fatigue meant that he wasn’t able to mentally cope with his phone. I had to be extremely strict with myself to set some clear boundaries so that I could rest myself, whilst also carving out the time to get back to messages.
People felt helpless being so far away, so I wanted to get back to everyone and give them the update they deserved. I felt very lucky to be there by his side, watching his progress and being able to help in whatever way I could, by just being there for him when he opened his eyes. It gave me a lot of thinking time and made me realise just how much technology features in our lives on a day-to-day basis, and it was only when I gave Tom’s phone back to him on his 8th day in hospital, when he said he was feeling slightly better, that I was able to watch the impact of Tom’s iPhone on his energy. He had his phone for no more than half a day to read the messages on Facebook and listen to the football scores, and it totally wiped him out.
The day after he could barely open his eyes, he was fatigued to the bone. I took his phone away from him again to take away the distraction and told him I would keep everybody updated so he didn’t have to, all he needed to focus on was rest. It made me realise how much we tap into our energy reserves on a constant basis, without even giving it a second thought on the impact it’s having on our energy levels. I, like so many others, have become completely hooked on technology – It’s difficult to go anywhere these days without noticing that the majority of the room are on their smartphones.
From emails, google, and WhatsApp, to social media apps, music and even books, our portable small screens have got us covered, & it’s all available at a fingertip and a WIFI connection. Let’s begin with the positives – as there are so many. Technology is incredible and it has totally revolutionised the way we live, and allowed us to achieve things that wouldn’t be possible without. I have been especially grateful for it this past month to feel close to friends and family whilst being on the other side of the world, to be able to WhatsApp Tom’s CT and MRI scans to my brother-in-law and medical friends to seek their opinions, to be able to have our friends children send us videos of them presenting us with their latest magic tricks or jokes to make Tom laugh – it was priceless.
FaceTiming our family from the hospital bed whilst they enjoyed various courses on Christmas day with three generations sat around the dining table – what a luxury. We no longer need to go into a bank to be in charge of our finances or go to a music concert to follow our favourite music artist – we can follow their profile and behind the scenes via InstaStories. Wondering how many steps you’ve walked today? Your phone will tell you. Wondering where you can find a healthy ready made hummus and how many grams of protein/fat or carbs it contains to fit in with your macro goals? You’re just a few taps away from knowing. We are more connected than ever, we have access to more information than ever before, yet a lot of us feel more disconnected than ever with real life and meaningful connections, and if we’re not careful it can take a toll on our health – both physically as well as emotionally.
Enjoying a digital detox every now and again, or making an intentional effort to bring more awareness to how often we actually use our phone I believe would do our bodies and minds the world of good. There’s nothing better than being unplugged…I know some of my best memories have been created when I’ve intentionally left my phone at home and just enjoyed a long walk, surrounded by nature, with great company. This photo is one of my happiest memories from October 2017, when Tom and I decided to go on a hike in Menorca to enjoy an afternoon away from our laptops.
There was work we ‘had’ to do, but going on a hike recharged us both and we got on so much better the two of us for the rest of the week and were able to give much more to our work for having had the break. Research has found the average user picks up their phone more than 1500 times a week.
Do we need to be using it this much? Are there any negative health side effects from living in such an online world?
Let’s consider a few….
1). ANXIETY AND A FALSE SENSE OF URGENCY
If the thought of being away from your phone fills you up with a sense of anxiety then let’s take a moment to stop and ask why? Emails can be accessed 24/7, but they can also wait for you to be in work time to respond. Setting boundaries for work and play are so important to set and manage expectations, whilst giving you the freedom to disconnect and be present with real life.
Do you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and have to keep up with what everyone else is doing? If so, remember to stay in your lane, enjoy you and your world, and ask yourself, how does scrolling through notifications make you feel?
If it brings you joy, or fills you up with positivity then fantastic, if on the flipside if it fills you with anxiety, a feeling of not enoughness or like you’re missing out, then perhaps making a deliberate switch off from the online world every now again would be a welcomed step?
2). IMPACT ON VISION
There are some concerns about the regular, overuse of backlit devices, including smartphones, on vision. According to research, if you were to compare the strain on your eyes from using these devices for an hour, it would be the equivalent strain on your leg muscles from running up and down stairs for an an hour.
Here is a very practical suggestion to help support your eye health:
Adopt the 20-20-20 rule – Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and make your eyes look 20 feet/six metres into the distance. If you are a regular smartphone user, allow your eyes to look into the distance more often.
3). BEING PRESENT
Far too often people spend a great majority of their time engaged in their screen. Take a moment to look up from your smartphone at what is on offer around you. Look at the clouds in the sky, the leaves changing colour, squirrels bouncing around or birds making their nest. Look at the person who you are enjoying lunch with with your phone safely places in your bag and not on the table, say thank you to the person serving you and look into their eyes whilst doing so – take note of what is happening around you. Instead of burying your face in your phone enjoy the walk home from work or the bus/train and talk to someone new.
You can experience so much joy capturing and being present in many of life’s little moments. The artificial lights from smartphones, throw the body’s biological clock out of sync, often resulting in compromised sleep quality. For this reason, it’s really important to have a set rule to be phone free beyond a certain point in the evening. Quality sleep is so important for all areas of health.
Research has shown that blue light which is a wavelength of light that is emitted from devices has been singled out as more significantly disruptive to sleep than other colours on the light spectrum. It delays the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, disrupts circadian rhythms, stimulates the central nervous system and may influence negative changes in mood. How does a digital work in practical terms? I know it can be hard to pull away from our fast paced lives, and so I invite you to do a 24 hour digital detox.
Escape the distractions of everyday life, social media and the constant bombardment of notifications, for a set intentional period to digitally detox, explore, and essentially disconnect to reconnect. Remembering what truly makes us human and holding onto and nurturing these deep social qualities is so important, as otherwise we run the risk of being mindless anti-social drones.
Regular social media sabbaticals in order to look up from our phones, and reconnect with ourselves and the world is a must. How about challenging yourself to go completely offline for 24 hours? If you can’t because of work, just switch off or delete all your social media apps for 24 hours and see how you get on. Pick your day and go for it – I do mine on Sundays and pop it onto Airplane mode, at least when I’m actively relaxing such as going on a walk, or cosying up on the sofa with a cuppa and enjoying family time.
Thanks so much,