Digital detox: How and why to recharge your mind

Mom and daughter in tent

Many of us have had a Snickers bar or two and could probably eat the candy bar every day. But, we know it’s not nourishing. A candy bar is not a hearty meal with vegetables, protein and fruits. Instead, it’s a quick sugar fix that wears off. Then, we want more and more of it. If we only ate candy bars – as tasty as they are – our health would deteriorate.

Digital devices are very similar. The constant connection to others, and even the sound of a ringtone, give us instant gratification. But that gratification quickly wears off – just like a sugar fix – only to leave us wanting more. As a result, our health is impacted in more than just one way.

We are spending more time than ever before watching videos, browsing social media and swiping screens on tablets and smartphones. Research shows the average American adult spends more than 11 hours per day interacting with media on digital devices. We are developing a digital addiction.

Technology can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. When we are constantly connected, it can cause psychological issues, such as distraction, expectation of instant gratification and even depression. Physically, it can cause vision problems, hearing loss and even neck strain.

Here are a few steps you can take for a digital detox to recharge your mind and improve your quality of life:

  1. Plan quality time with others. Before sitting down at the dinner table, put your phone away and ask others to do the same. This will make room for conversation and, if practiced frequently, it can improve your relationships and quality of life.
  2. Change your ringtones. If you have to keep your phone around due to your work or profession once you get home, change the tone of your notifications to distinguish work-related calls over calls that can wait until later.
  3. Delete unnecessary apps. You’re likely hoarding apps. You need your phone for calls, texts and emails. Do you really need all those other apps? Be selective. Keep one or two that you absolutely need.
  4. Schedule some offline time. Make sure to put your phone down to relax for a couple of hours, especially before bedtime. Multiple studies have shown that blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. Set your phone on sleep mode and disable any buzzing, as that could also lead to distracting emotions and thoughts. It can even cause anxiety that can interrupt your sleep.
  5. Set the example. Don’t forget, if you’re a parent or have young children around, they’re paying attention to your every move. If you put your phone down, this will teach them to do the same.

If you treat your phone as a luxury item instead of a necessity, you’ll soon realize that it’s meant to be enjoyed sometimes but not lived by. And just like you wouldn’t eat a candy bar every day, you should consider putting your digital devices away more often. This will help you build meaningful relationships and take care of your physical and mental health. Plus, it’s good to detoxify once in a while!  


Kerry Ellis

Kerry (Tex) Ellis Sr., LCSW-C, is a mental health clinician at Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Mental Health Specialists. To schedule an appointment, call 410-571-9000.


Originally published Sept. 9, 2019. Last updated Nov. 4, 2020.