SEVEN WAYS TO DETOX WITHOUT GOING OFF THE GRID
Turn off "push notifications"
Getting constant updates on what's happening in the world is informative but it can also be distracting. "If you're allowing yourself to get interrupted five times in a half an hour, you're never actually focused in that time," says Jesse Fox, Ph.D., head of Ohio State University's Virtual Lab Environment Communication Technology, and Online Research (VECTOR) Lab. One easy fix is to turn off as many notifications as you can live without.
Convert to black and white
One reason our devices are so alluring is that they're vibrant. Go retro, recommends David Greenfield, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. Many smartphones now allow you to change the settings so the entire phone appears in gray scale.
Put away your phone during meals
It's a common sight at restaurants: a gleaming smartphone next to the bread basket. And yet, research shows that, even if we're not checking our phone, simply having it on the table during a conversation can reduce the quality of the interaction, our brains are just waiting for it to light up, and as a result, we are not fully present. "The more energy we direct toward our devices, the less energy we're directing toward whoever is in the room with us," explains Elisabeth LaMotte, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.
Designate tech-free hours
Many of us feel "naked" when we're without our devices, but taking breaks from technology can do wonders for our well-being. "Start by designating a certain time each day that's tech-free like while you're eating lunch," says Adam Alter, Ph.D., a professor at NYU and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. "Then see how you feel after a week or so. Most people feel happy with the change, and they go on to expand it."
Make your bedroom a no-tech zone
"Most people use their phone for an alarm clock," says Dr. Greenfield. But when you reach for your phone to switch it off, it's easy to start scrolling through Twitter. In fact, it's best if you can leave your phone outside the bedroom at night and invest in an alarm clock. Also: If you're getting cozy with your cell in bed, it's less likely you're getting cozy with your partner, says Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., author of How to be Singe and Happy. Make your bed a device-free zone and invite greater opportunities for intimacy. You'll also sleep better. Screens' blue light tricks our brains into thinking it's daytime, which makes it harder to drift off.
If you've ever noticed that reading a book feels more satisfying than reading a tablet, you're not imaging things. Not only do books offer fewer distractions, but research suggests that when we read on paper, our minds process abstract information more effectively. Additionally, consider getting your news from a newspaper, says Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before.
Limit yourself to one screen at a time
When we're attempting to work or say watch television, and we start scrolling through Instagram, our brains go a little haywire. "Multitasking is really bad for us," says Fox. "If you are focusing on a task and you get distracted like, oh, I'll just click over to this other window or I'll just look at this text message it takes several minutes to recalibrate our brains back to the original task." Make a habit of only looking at one screen at a time to improve concentration and enjoyment.