The idea of “detoxing” from email or social media for the sake of your well-being continues to grow in popularity. And taking a break from the digital world certainly makes sense. However, like food or alcohol detox, swearing off technology might make you feel better for a while but it probably won’t impact your lifestyle long-term.
Here are some of the signs that digital distraction is becoming a problem:
- Your interpersonal relationships aren’t as strong as they used to be or you’re not connecting with your family in the same way.
- You can’t be with someone without being connected to a device.
- You hide how much time you spend online.
- Screen time is affecting your sleep time.
Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer suggests developing healthier “digital nutrition” habits. “Just as we can overdo it on junk food, we can overload on junk data or suffer from ‘info-obesity’. That is, consuming so much information online that our brains simply can’t absorb it,” says Brewer, a spokesperson for the Australian Psychological Society.
She recommends abiding by what she calls ‘the three Ms’, a checklist to apply to digital technology to help prevent it from becoming a distraction from relationships, productivity, or precious downtime for your brain.
Mindful. When you’re online, be clear about what you’re doing rather than simply “grazing” or scrolling mindlessly. Brewer suggests setting a timer to keep your browsing time under control.
Meaningful. Do you have a purpose for what you’re doing online? Does whatever you’re reading or commenting on relate to your goals and values? Does it enrich you in some way? Or make you feel anxious or down?
Moderate. This means using digital technology in moderation as well as being moderate in how you respond online. “We used to pick up a pen if we had something to say, which helped us think about what we were saying. It’s important to pause and think before you post a comment or hit send on an email,” says Brewer.
It’s good advice for parents to pass on to children, too. “Often kids are handed a $1000 device but not shown how to use it in a balanced way,” she adds. “It can be a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do.’ If you want your children’s use of digital technology to be balanced, make sure your own use is, too.”
And remember to set a digital sunset. The bright light cast by smartphones, tablets, and laptops disrupts your brain’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps you nod off. Brewer suggests switching off at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.