After a challenging two years filled with on-again, off-again office closures, there’s been little differentiation between work and home life, with the line between both worlds becoming very much blurred. So, it’s no wonder then that as this year comes to a close, we’re looking at ways we can digitally detox.
But, according to one psychologist, that might not be the best idea. “The fact that so many people want to switch off at the end of the year suggests that the way in which people have been interacting with their digital devices isn’t helpful or sustainable,” says Tara Hurster, psychologist and founder of The TARA (Therapeutic Addiction Recovery Assistance) Clinic.
Hurster says there is a real pendulum swing that often creeps in around New Year’s and Christmas — a notion that we must push through to the end and then crash.
“The question that comes up for me is more around what can we do throughout the year that facilitates the end of the year not needing to feel so big,” she says.
“I work with people who are very successful in areas of their lives, yet have significant struggles with drug and alcohol use. This is very similar to technology and other digital devices because it flows with the same dopamine.”
Hurster says the risk in trying to switch off completely is that you might replace one addiction with another. She suggests asking yourself, ‘What do I tend to pick up when I put my devices down? Is it alcohol, for example? Am I simply switching from one distraction and coping mechanism to the other?’.
So, what should we be doing then if we shouldn’t be looking to switch off at the end of the year completely? Hurster suggests taking the time throughout the year to bring balance.
“Remember, stopping isn’t the same as changing. So, if you have done Dry July or a digital detox only to find yourself in a similar habit in no time, that shows how stopping doesn’t actually sort out the problem.”
In short, when it comes to switching off, Hurster advises you work on changing your digital device habits and restoring a healthy balance that’ll work year-round between being on them and switching off, rather than doing one big digital detox.
Delete Social Media Apps
Though this might not work for everyone, deleting some social media apps from your phone means you’ll have to actively go to a computer and login to the platform you want to check, says Hurster. “That means you’ll have to make an active decision to spend some time on there,” she says. If you don’t want to delete all your social media apps, try just deleting one, or at least turning off all their notifications.
Turn Off Notifications
Which brings us to Hurster’s next tip: turning off notifications on your phone in the settings. “This can be a great way to reduce the external driver of the phone telling you to pick it up,” she says. “Or if that’s uncomfortable, then simply turn your phone on silent, which will mean that you won’t be pushed to pick up your phone, yet you will still see the notifications when you do check it.”
Be Aware of Your Addictions
Finally, Huster says to notice what you swap out for when you put down your phone. “It can be really helpful to speak with a professional about your relationship with technology, the same as it is helpful to speak about your relationship with drugs and alcohol,” she says. “Managing our stress in helpful ways gives you back control over your life.”