Breaking your Digital Addiction

How to take a breather from your devices and enjoy life!

“Connection is inevitable. Distraction is a choice.”   – Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

You are under the command of a great and powerful ruler. Tethered to your tracking device, deprived of the beauty of the world, you must experience life through digital means. Meaningful conversations, human touch, and stunning sunsets are forbidden.

With a millisecond light touch of my thumbprint on home, I WhatsApp-ed “ok” to my wife, swiped to Facebook and watched a friend’s video post on two vicious cats fighting. After four page scrolls, I swiped to Instagram to scroll down the fresh batch of Instagrams when I got interrupted, subconsciously frustrated, by a artfully crafted coffee served by the waitress at Herbs Bistro. I immediately switched back to my phone, snapped the coffee and shared. Within seconds, I felt a sense of satisfaction with 5 immediate likes! “Ping!”, a new notification on Straits Times app pops up with a “Breaking News – Major road closures as injured actor arrives at HK hospital”.

Sounds horrifying?

Surprisingly, this is not the plot of a new sci-fi thriller, but a close snapshot of the device addiction experienced by most of the world today. Long gone are the days of 9 to 5, and here are the weeks of non-stop emails, streaming conference calls, pings and notifications. Every time we hear a ping or feel vibration caused by a sudden stream of messages on WhatsApp, we get a little release of dopamine in our brains that magnetizes us to our smartphones. Hence, we end up with today’s situation of digital overload where we check our smartphones on average 221 times a day and 80% of millennials look at their phones the moment they wake up in the morning.

This doesn’t bode well for individuals or businesses because creativity and productivity need room to breathe and grow. Some of the most innovative and successful ideas have been generated from slow walks and long showers. Look at the life of the late Steve Jobs, the super successful Apple innovator. His achievements can be accredited to his philosophy of taking time to actually live, and appreciate, life.

When was the last time you spent a few hours without your phone, tablet, laptop, or computer? Digital addiction comes in all forms:

  • A young couple on a date, out to dinner. Both of them with phones out, checking emails, searching information, even sending WhatsApp messages to one another in a group chat when their partner is just seated across the dinner table.

  • Children quieted with tablets and games. You’d be hard-pressed to find a child today sketching, reading, or even just taking in the scenery.
  • City streets around Orchard Road and Raffles Place are full of pedestrians on the sidewalks and passengers on public transportation, heads bent down, reading, streaming and tapping away at their devices.
  • Toilet time. We can’t even use the bathroom without typing out a text or reading an email.

Orianna Fielding in her book unplugged how to live mindfully in a digital world highlights 12 key signs of digital overload.

  1. Checking your digital device first thing in the morning, getting up during the night to check for messages, and regularly using some form of digital device in bed
  2. Slipping away from activities with people in order to check email or social networking sites
  3. Checking your smartphone while at a meal with others
  4. Bumping into someone because you are paying attention to your smartphone instead of looking where you were going
  5. Spending little time outside, rarely taking breaks and often eating at your desk
  6. Finding it hard to complete a task without frequent breaking away to check email or unrelated websites, often checking the same sites repeatedly within a short period of time
  7. Getting distracted easily even when offline and finding it hard to focus fully on one area, or finding yourself unable to switch off your multitasking tendencies even when you’re not multitasking
  8. Spending little time in face-to-face interactions with friends. Choosing to spend time online rather than going out, preferring to use FaceTime, Video call or Skype to see people, even if you live near each other
  9. Being with family members but spending most of your time at home in separate rooms interacting with screens, often finding that one monitor is no longer enough to suit your needs
  10. Frequently using digital devices to entertain and keep a child occupied instead of talking, singing, playing or reading to them
  11. Going online or using a digital device when you feel stressed or want to avoid an unpleasant task. Using the Internet as away of escaping from problems
  12. Wanting to stop using your smartphone and finding that you just can’t, having tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to control your Internet use

If you can identify yourself with more than six of the signs, this may be an indicator that you may be living a digitally loaded life.

The good news is that there is hope. You can break your digital chains, or at the very least, loosen the shackles, and get free. The key is taking time to nurture yourself, treat your body right, and let the world fill you with wonder again. Here are a few ways to put down that device, and pick up your spirits.

1. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone.

Your bedroom is your sleep sanctuary. Nature Magazine published an article from a Harvard Sleep Specialist who discovered that all the light our phones, tablets, and computers produce are seriously hindering our sleep quality. A decent amount of quality sleep is essential for health and productivity. Gather up all of your gizmos and banish them from your bedroom. Try reading a real paperback book before bed or snuggling a loved one to sleep. You’ll wake up feeling like a million bucks.

2. Go on a walk. Outside. Phone-free.

Even a few minutes of nature can work wonders for us humans. A quick stroll in the park or alongside a river can increase energy, relieve stress, and improve your mood. Stuck in a concrete jungle? That’s okay! Even a little bit of sunshine and blue sky can do the trick. Just make sure to keep your device in the office or tucked in your pocket. Really focus on observing your surroundings and appreciating the beauty your corner of the world has to offer.

3. Treat yourself to a relaxing and healing experience.

To truly take a tech-break, you need to give yourself an experience so wonderful, you won’t even think about deadlines and voicemails. Science and medicine have begun recognizing the incredible benefits of massage. Beyond relieving aching muscles, sore necks and backs, massage can reduce anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. Furthermore, the act of massage increases spiritual wellbeing producing feelings of comfort and love. Take a mid-day massage break in your office or enjoy a treatment in the comfort of your own home. cloud9’s massage therapists come to you, allowing you a well-deserved break, returning to life rejuvenated, happy, and more productive. The good news is cloud9 will be launching in Singapore very soon, so stay tuned!

4. More face to face time, less Facetime.

We have evolved from in-person conversation to telephone calls to text messages to video calls. All of this technology is wonderful for keeping in touch with colleagues and loved ones afar, but why are we SnapChatting a person who is in the same building? Promise yourself at least one real life experience with a friend or loved one, at least once a week. Meet for coffee, cook dinner together, window shop- anything- just vow to keep phones and tablets in pockets and purses, and truly just enjoy good, old-fashioned conversation.

5. Create a relaxing home environment.

Your home is your sanctuary. Take the time to create an atmosphere that encourages creativity, relaxation, and happiness. If your space is a place of joy, you will find yourself wanting to partake in home life, rather than distract yourself from it with an App or social media. Clear clutter, decorate with live plants, scent your house with essential oils in a diffuser, and line your shelves with books you have been meaning to read. When you come back to your residence from work, leave projects and emails behind. Put your phone aside and just be home.

6. Turn off notifications and use your quiet modes.

Every application, from Twitter to WhatsApp, has a notification feature. Each time you receive an email, a text, or your favorite game has an update, your phone pings with the noise of your choosing. For some, this can lead to almost 200 interruptions a day. Take the time to go through your App settings and turn off notifications that are not crucial. Do you really need to know when your Clash Royale’s magical chest needs opening or when you need to prepare for war in Clash of Clans? No. Notifications off. Take distractions down a step further by silencing your devices when you are off work or even, gasp, putting them in airplane mode or turning them off altogether.

Work out which part of your day is most useful for you to connect to the digital world and limit yourself to just these moments.

Technology and social media are full of benefits and blessings. While cell phones and laptops have changed our world for the better, in many ways, we need to make sure that technology is your friend when we consciously use it, and not when it uses us.


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