In our busy 21st century lives, we use digital technology for nearly everything we do. On a day-to-day basis it can be astounding how much we rely on it. Texting, emailing and tweeting on the move have become the daily norm for most of us, and recent research suggests this is having a damaging effect on our health and wellbeing. There is, however, a new trend emerging involving digital detoxing: switching off technology and enjoying a break from the digital world.
Technology and social media detoxing has been proven to have noticeable effects on both our physical and emotional wellbeing, and one of the most popular times to go tech-free is while on holiday. If you are unsure whether you could survive without your phone or want to know more, read our digital detox guide and consider taking your own break from technology on your next holiday.
First things first, what is a digital detox? A digital detox is a period of fully disconnecting from all digital devices, including phones, laptops and televisions. No quickly checking your emails or liking a photo on social media. This is about completely avoiding all electronic devices in order to reduce stress levels and focus on real-life social interaction.
According to research, the average person checks their phone a staggering 200 times a day - that’s more than once every six and a half minutes. One in four people spend more time online day-to-day than they do sleeping, and teenagers send on average more than 3,400 electronic messages a month.Dr. Sally Ann Law, a personal and executive coach, says: "Overuse of technology can make us anxious - we worry that we're missing out on something or that our lives are not as fun/exciting/interesting as those of our friends". This is evident in the now widely recognised phrase ‘FOMO’, meaning ‘fear of missing out’.
Here at holidaycottages.co.uk, we conducted a survey to find out about the role technology plays across the UK. Over 25% of our respondents said they check their phone every 10-30 minutes, and surprisingly the majority of this percentage were male. People aged 25-44 spend the most time on their phones. Nearly 60% of people also admitted to checking social media multiple times every day.
With handheld technology playing such a prominent role in our lives and causing a negative feeling so strong that a new term has been coined because of it, it’s not surprising that many of us are looking to completely switch off from technology when we can.
As a society we have grown dependent on technology, but this is also having a negative effect on our health and wellbeing. Technology is to blame for a number of physical health issues, including eye strain, headaches and tendonitis. Phones are also covered in bacteria and germs, which can cause spots and blemishes on our faces.
Think the physical effects are bad enough? The psychological damage is even worse, particularly when it comes to social media. Anxiety, sleep deprivation and loneliness are all negative side effects of overusing technology. Digital detoxing, whether that’s simply reducing the amount of time spent checking Instagram or going completely off the grid for a few days, can really help to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Dr. Richard Graham, Technology Addiction Specialist at Nightingale Hospital, says: By restricting the time you spend using technology, you can focus on the 'real world' much more, and will be encouraged to enjoy social interactions in person rather than through a screen". Carole Ann Rice, a Life Coach, author, and columnist, agrees: "Completely unplugging allows us to unwind, get perspective and mindfully enjoy simple pleasures".
Our survey results show that people are aware of their overconsumption and would like to cut down, with a large majority (72%) saying they would like to do a digital detox. People from the North East of England are the most enthusiastic, along with 25-34 year olds from around the country, which is interesting given that they are also the biggest phone users. The largest demographic of phone users could soon become the biggest group of digital detoxers!
Twenty five percent of people feel ‘frustrated’ when they are disconnected from the online world, while 20% say they feel ‘anxious’. Yet over a third of people say that they feel ‘free’ when they are disconnected from technology, which suggests that in many ways we are slaves to technology and should be aiming to liberate ourselves by disconnecting more often.
Blogger Amelia Littlejohn’s whole job is based around the online world. She believes social media can have a negative impact on our self-esteem and confidence, saying: “It's so easy to compare yourself to others on social media - you'll see these people with seemingly perfect lives and wonder why you can't be like that (which is natural) but it's so important to detach yourself from those feelings, remember people only show the good bits and live in your own world instead of fretting about someone else's.”
It’s time to start taking frequent breaks from the digital world in order to improve mind, body and soul…
You know the what and the why, so next up is how to digital detox. Starting on a day-to-day basis, small changes in your daily life can have a huge impact, such as swapping an hour of TV for reading a book or turning your phone off and hiding it out of sight for at least an hour a day.
Dr Sally Ann Law says: “Start by setting rules to exclude technology use at certain times of the day/during certain activities. For example, no phones at the table; no phones when out for the evening; no checking Facebook/Instagram/Twitter etc right before bed. They could then build up to taking a decision to not consult phones on holiday, for example.”
Amie Dawson, a personal trainer and blogger, who did a digital detox while on her honeymoon last year, gives her top tips: “Completely remove yourself from your phones and laptops - get out of the house and leave them at home. It's far too tempting to just have a quick check if you have them with you. Also, just turn all notifications off! If you don't know you're getting messages, emails, etc. you don't feel the need to check as soon as a notification pops up. It's the best thing I ever did.”
Here are our top tips for digital detoxing on a daily basis:
- If you live with others, enforce a ‘phone stack’ rule, making sure all meal times are tech-free with phones left in a pile in the other room.
- Have at least one room in your house or flat that is completely screen-free to encourage relaxation and calmness instead of a digital distraction. Bedrooms are a great room to keep screen-free as this can also help to improve sleep.
- Take up a new hobby like yoga, joining the gym or even just going for a walk after work. Leave your phone in your bag or your locker and give yourself time to think and breathe.
- Cooking is another great way to destress. Cook with certain foods such as coconut, dark chocolate and banana, which are known to boost serotonin and help you relax.
Book a Holiday
A digital detox can last for as little or as long as you’d like. Our survey results show that the ideal length for 31% of respondents would be a week, while 28% would prefer 1-3 days and 15% would love to take an entire month away from their screens.So why not escape the grips of technology and book a holiday? Use your time away as an excuse to switch off entirely from your digital life.
Nichola Ludlam-Raine says: "For a full on detox I would recommend booking a mini break or weekend away somewhere with limited phone signal and without any Wi-Fi; or you could agree to turn the Wi-Fi off for the majority or all of your stay."
This may sound obvious, but the location of your digital detox trip should be somewhere that you'll enjoy, doing something that you'll find rewarding. You don't want to feel like you're restricting or punishing yourself, otherwise it won’t have the intended effects. Here are some of the top destinations we recommend for your digital detox:
Known for its calming, destressing qualities, the beach, complete with fresh air and vitamin D, is the ideal location for anyone looking to relax and unwind.
Amelia Littlejohn says: “I love going to the seaside - the beach is somewhere I've always found so calming. I find people aren't on their phones so much - everyone’s just enjoying being in the fresh air.”
The south coast of England boasts some of the most beautiful coastal towns and cliff walks in the country. Stretching from Kent to the west coast of Sussex, there are plenty of idyllic spots to choose from.
Cornwall is renowned for its rugged and stunning coastline, with long sandy beaches inviting you to stroll, sunbathe or surf. This is the perfect location for detoxing from the digital world.
For those wanting to disconnect in the north of England, the beaches of Northumberland offer a chance to escape from technology and reconnect with nature.
If you’re feeling stressed, physical exercise is just what the doctor ordered as it helps to increase endorphin levels, leading you to feel calm and clear-headed. Head to the mountains for exercise, fresh air and that feeling of being on top of the world.
Snowdonia is home to the highest mountain in Wales and some of the most striking scenery the UK has to offer. Not only will you get your mountain fix, you’ll struggle to get phone signal whether you want it or not!
If you’re looking for a quiet walking holiday, look no further than the Peak District, with sprawling scenery and dramatic rolling hills.
The Highlands in Scotland are the ideal place for an electronic detox thanks to their remoteness and vastness.
Being completely cut off and in the countryside means you can leave stress behind and focus your mind on nature and your immediate surroundings.
Places don’t get much more picturesque than the Cotswolds, with chocolate box cottages, winding streams and rolling hills.
The New Forest is the dream getaway for anyone looking for total peace and quiet. Enjoy wild ponies, forest strolls and beach walks in this beautiful National Park.
Head deep into the Yorkshire Dales National Park for a guaranteed detox from the digital world, thanks to intermittent phone signal and wavering Wi-Fi.
Or get to exploring the quaint charm of the Norfolk Broads, where you can sail, paddle-board or swim in between visits to the region’s charming villages.