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Disconnect and Thrive: How to Do a Digital Detox Right

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Remember when there was no internet? Or there was internet, but it was like this very difficult thing to access? Remember when you actually had to call people on the phone and meet them at the time you decided on instead of texting them every five minutes to change the time and give them pointless updates? Remember when you didn’t keep your phone out when you had dinner with your family? Or when your nightstand was filled with books to read instead of electronics to charge? You probably can’t.

We’ve all had that moment when that you’ve become disgusted by how tethered we are to technology. You may think about going totally cold turkey, but after 20 minutes of not being near a phone, the inevitable outcome is a serious case of technology FOMO. Arianna Huffington is trying to change that.

This past week at The Huffington Post’s second Third Metric conference on redefining success, a group of high-powered women discussed the major benefits and difficulties of a full-on digital detox. Huffington and Mika Brzezinski, the hosts of the conference, as well as Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine, embarked on a total digital cleansing in December of last year. They swore off social media, email, and any other digital distractions. “We started this conversation that was really about, how can we support each other as women to actually create breathing spaces in our lives, to end this addiction, to take care of ourselves at the same time fulfill our obligations?” Huffington said. “That was what really led to the Third Metric.”

Leive talked about how it was very tough at first and she felt some major phantom phone pain. But eventually she worked through it which led her to observe, “The thing you notice when you are off your phone, is everyone is on theirs.” She wrote on Huffington Post about the phenomena of everyone being on their phone all the time:

Like, literally everyone. Young, old, indoors, outdoors — from couples at restaurants to large groups at bars to a grandma in the pew in front of us at midnight mass on Christmas Eve (I kid you not). Almost every single person you see has their eyes and fingers glued to a device.

Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, chimed in about the difficulties of trying to be better about technology on a daily basis, especially as a mother of a young child. “A lot of people always ask me what my rules are for my son, but no one ever asks me what my rules are for myself,” she said. “I found that he copies and emulates a lot of my behaviors, so it’s unfair for me to tell him, ‘No, you can’t play with mommy’s phone right now,’ and I’m texting. I think it’s very important to set boundaries and guidelines for ourselves and live by them if we expect our children to be good digital citizens.”

A digital detox isn’t go to be easy, but the emotional and physical benefits will make it worth it. Research has shown that too much time with technology can disrupt sleep patterns, hinder the ability to think deeply and increase stress. Leive noted that studies also show that conversations are actually richer when everyone doesn’t have their phone next to their fork. So how does one prepare themselves for a digital detox? Here’s how to make this cleansing a little easier:

1. Decide on a goal.

This is really up to you. A detox from technology doesn’t mean you have to live like a Amish person. It could be something as little as turning off your phone at night or only checking your email once on the weekend. Figure out what is going to be most logical for you meaning it won’t jeapordize your job. If you are able to do a bigger detox, maybe coordinating with a vacation from work, then you can consider a bigger detox.

2. Prepare for withdrawal symptoms.

It is not going to be easy. You are going to want to reach for your phone….A LOT. You may get a little bored and worry about what you’re missing or not responding to. But eventually, it will pass. And of course, you can implement settings that will let important calls through or talk with your family and friends about when you would prefer them to call, text or email you. Also, get a detox buddy. Leive said part of the reason her detox was successful was because she had someone to hold her accountable! You don’t want to mess with Arianna!

And perhaps you need some technology to help you with digital detox. Sounds counterintuitive but certain apps will actually help you with this. One is Freedom which blocks the internet entirely for up to eight hours! Or try Anti-Social. This app blocks social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube so you have to communicate with the people around you the old fashioned way: talking face to face! Crazy!

3. Make it count.

The whole purpose of this detox is to be in the moment and see what you have been missing. Schedule a dinner with friends or family and really pay attention. Take a day trip. Heck, just go down a street you have never been down before or just look around your street (you’ve probably missed some things because you’ve been on your phone!).

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