Research has shown that we check the tiny ‘tyrant’ in our purse (that is, our phone) once every 12 minutes, with that number likely higher in recent days. To the rescue, we’ve rounded up experts including Unplug Meditation founder and CEO Suze Yalof Schwartz, author Nicholas Carr, the Pulitzer Prize finalist behind The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains ($9.04, Amazon), and Adam Alter, Ph.D., and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and The Business of Keeping Us Hooked ($15.16, Amazon), for six easy ways to detox from digital overload
1. Wake Up Serenely
Starting your morning positively triggers a mood-boosting effect that will ripple throughout your entire day, says mindfulness expert and Unplug ($12.99, Amazon) author Yalof Schwartz. “Instead of reaching for your phone first thing — something 80 percent of us do … that’s proven to spike stress — take a few minutes to concentrate on you.”
How? Set intentions for the day or enjoy a cup of coffee while gazing out the kitchen window. “When I wake up like this, it makes me feel good and helps me lead a more productive day.”
2. Embrace the Good
Our gadgets often represent work responsibilities and must-do’s — so much so that just looking at them can dial up anxiety. The relaxing solution? Write down three positive things you can do with your device, such as taking pictures of the sunset or enjoying a FaceTime chat with a friend. Once you check them off your “to-do” list, set your device down.
Retraining your brain to have a more positive relationship with tech breaks the toxic addiction to constantly check it. Says Yalof Schwartz, “This creates space for self-care and human connection, triggering the release of happiness hormones and lowering anxiety.”
3. Set Your Boundaries
An easy way to disconnect? Turn off notifications. “Instead of the phone telling you when to look at it, you make the decision when you want to,” says tech expert Carr. Even a short break can lead to big rewards: Studies show turning off notifications for even just one day significantly reduces stress.
4. Slash Email Stress
Once you’ve allowed yourself breaks from your devices, it is possible to reintegrate them into your life in healthier ways, promises Alter, a NYU associate professor. He notes that the average person checks her email about 15 times per day, ratcheting up anxiety with every click. The tension-taming solution? “Just check your personal email three times per day, say, 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.” he suggests. Researchers found that people who were limited to three email check-ins per day experienced dramatically reduced tension.
5.Cue ‘Happy Apps’
You’ve likely heard of Marie Kondo’s clutter-busting strategy, which encourages us to hold an item in our hands, and if it doesn’t “spark joy,” let it go. The same principle applies to your apps. Scan through your phone and purge the ones that no longer serve a purpose; keep ones that make you smile, like a meditation app, suggests Yalof Schwartz. Simply tidying up what we see will relax us instantly.
6. Put Tech to Bed
If you’re in the habit of reading a device in bed, switching to your phone or tablet’s blue-light filter can help you fall asleep more easily. Or simply “tuck in” tech by giving it a bedtime, urges Carr. “Looking at email or social media messages can create anxiety as you think about how to reply,” he says. “Instead, give yourself space to truly unwind —technology is there to serve you, not the other way around.”
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