Our attitudes towards the digital world are very contradictory. Many researches show that most of us consider the Internet the best source of information and knowledge. Moreover, online presence increases the chances of finding a job and facilitates most everyday activities. Almost 80% of teenagers develop their interests and passions in the digital world. 60.2% feel calm and happy when using the web. However, this is only one face of the digital world.
On the other hand, 2 out of 3 Internet users declare they consider themselves addicted to technology. Over half of Americans spend between 3 to 5 hours on their devices only for personal purposes, whereas 43% spend even more time on that. And still, 40% of people have never taken any digital detox in their lifetime.
Are you unsure about whether a digital detox could benefit you? Consider how frequently you feel like you’re losing time when using the Internet. Or do you feel like you’re spending too much of your life staring at screens and wishing to make a change? Do your leisure activities always involve digital technology?
Digital detox refers to taking a break from technology and electronic devices to avoid feeling overwhelmed by excessive information and stimuli. This can help you focus better on your present tasks, reduce stress levels, and experience more happiness in your life without the need to be constantly connected online.
Digital and dopamine detox – what’s all about?
Digital detox is a way to limit exposure to digital stimuli, which can lead to fatigue, irritability, anxiety, concentration issues, and physical health problems when experienced at high intensity. To prevent this, digital detox suggests moderation in the use of technology devices such as smartphones (known to be particularly addictive), laptops, gaming consoles, tablets, TVs, and even smartwatches.
A digital detox is a form of detox that involves limiting exposure to technology which can stimulate the release of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure. Dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by different substances and activities. Consider how you feel after enjoying a delicious meal, purchasing a desirable item, soaking up the sun, or working out. If you experience a sensation of happiness or satisfaction, it’s thanks to dopamine.
Our brains are generally unable to differentiate the abovementioned activities from those performed in a digital world. When you play video games, watch another Netflix series, scroll your Instagram feed, or watch the new video of your favorite YouTuber, dopamine will be released.
Even though these activities may seem enjoyable and innocuous, they can potentially develop into behavioral addictions such as binge-eating disorder, shopping addiction, addiction to tanning, or exercise addiction.
How do you get into a digital addiction?
The reward center in your brain, which is responsible for creating memories and habits related to the feeling of pleasure, is greatly influenced by dopamine. By watching funny videos on TikTok, for instance, your brain links this activity with joy and satisfaction through this neurological system.
As you work, you start feeling tired, bored or frustrated. You realize that taking a break to relax would be great. You remember a funny video that made you happy earlier and felt rewarded. This encourages you to take a TikTok break which you deserve.
However, the cycle doesn’t stop there. When an action triggers the release of dopamine, it creates a desire to repeat that action. As the reward center in your brain is activated repeatedly, you may feel the urge to seek stronger or more frequent stimuli in order to experience pleasure and happiness.
When you get used to feeling pleasure from a certain activity, you might start needing more of it to feel satisfied. In the digital world, this could mean checking your favorite apps or games on your phone more often or buying things more frequently from online stores.
But what if you are unable to do it for some reasons, such as a discharged phone, no internet access, or being scolded by your boss for using your phone instead of working? This can result in physical and emotional distress.
According to Jo Barnes from Your Lifestyle Business, you might experience feelings of irritability, anger or high levels of anxiety. You may also have headaches, shallow breathing and find it challenging to concentrate. You feel restless and keep thinking about your desired actions, finding it hard to remain seated.
If you think that the behavior of someone who uses digital devices excessively resembles that of a smoker who feels the urge to smoke another cigarette, you are on the right track. When digital devices are used for a long time, the brain releases dopamine, but not as much as when substances are consumed. Nevertheless, this still stimulates the reward center of the brain in an unhealthy way and decreases the impact of dopamine.
Digital detox – why do you need it?
In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly challenging to differentiate between the digital world and reality. This boundary is becoming more and more indistinct. For instance, a typical teenager would find it hard to determine the amount of time spent in school compared to the hours spent glued to their smartphone. They tend to keep it close at hand, even during lessons.
This is a common dilemma that affects many of us. While studying or working on a laptop, it’s easy to lose track of how much time we’re spending on actual work versus scrolling through social media or watching memes. This applies to students, people working from home, and other social groups as well.
Taking a digital detox can be beneficial for everyone, regardless of how busy they are. Throughout the day, even quick and effortless activities like eating a candy bar or checking social media can stimulate our brain’s reward center and cause a dopamine rush.
However, a digital detox is especially useful when you start to lose track of your screen time; when the responsibilities at home, work, or school pile up, and you play for another hour instead; when you realize that the whole day has passed and you have spent more time in front of the phone screen than with your loved ones; finally, when you find yourself canceling other plans more and more often just to sit in front of your laptop.
Digital detox in practice
Simply being aware of a problem does not automatically lead to change. Otherwise, we would have an easy solution to most of our difficulties. For example, you may know that late-night smartphone scrolling can make you feel tired and moody in the morning. You may even feel regretful and worried about it, yet still continue to engage in the behavior. That’s when a digital detox can help. Taking a break from your screen time will help reset and refresh both your mind and body, allowing you to focus on more meaningful tasks in the future.
By engaging in activities that don’t require technology, such as going for a walk, reading, or playing board games with family members outdoors, you can break the habit of relying on your phone or laptop and start creating meaningful relationships with people around you. Plus, a digital detox can help decrease stress and anxiety levels, increase self-awareness and productivity, improve sleep patterns, and so on.
But let’s not forget about the incredible benefits of travel as a digital detox. Imagine exploring new places without the constant distraction of notifications and social media. You can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings, connect with nature, and appreciate the present moment. Whether it’s hiking through breathtaking landscapes or savoring local cuisines, travel offers a chance to escape the digital realm and experience the world with all your senses.
By the way, you can make your experience much easier by ordering your passport photo online.
Therefore, if you feel like you’re spending too much time in front of a screen and it’s having a negative effect on your well-being, then it’s time to take a digital detox. Get out of the house and explore the world around you; get in touch with your loved ones and make more meaningful connections; focus on yourself and rediscover what makes you happy. A digital detox can help you reset and start over! At least keep a small desk plant – all in all, the presence of nature, even in such a symbolic way, is fruitful for your mental health.
You don’t have to commit to a long-term detox if you cannot afford it or don’t have the time for it. Even short breaks, such as taking a day off from all digital activities can help, too. What matters most is that you take action and make an effort to improve your well-being by slowing down and being mindful of how much time you spend online. This way, you can avoid overstimulating the reward center of the brain in an unhealthy way and decrease the impact of dopamine. Good luck!
Michal Jonca is a travel, food, and trail running passionate who visited 40+ countries on four continents. He is a Travel Leader for the adventurous travel company Solisci and the Community Manager at US Passport Photo.
Only this year, he enjoyed his workation in Thailand, Turkey, and the Caucasus republics.
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