When was the last time you were without your phone for more than an hour? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone.
In a study commissioned by Nokia, it was estimated that on average, Americans check their phones 80 times a day, and millennials, 150 times per day! These numbers are alarming. Nevertheless,it’s no surprise that we are digitally dependent. We have come to rely on our devices for essentially everything, but the negative effects are more extensive than you might think. In this post, I want to talk about the impact this dependency can have on our health and why incorporating a digital detox is crucial to our overall wellbeing.
Impact of digital dependency:
Some consider smartphones the new cigarettes. Research has found that smartphone use triggers dopamine production, the same pleasure-related neurotransmitter that is released when an addicted smoker takes a drag of a cigarette. Many of my patients talk with me about their struggle with social media—constant comparison and the need for approval from likes and follows—this behavior can cause anxiety, body dysmorphia, stress, depression, and isolation.
2. EMF or electromagnetic frequencies
Electromagnetic frequencies are emitted through cell phones, WiFi and Bluetooth devices such as portable headphones, fitness watches, and sleep trackers. Studies have shown that this exposure impacts our health at a cellular level causing damage to the nervous system. My patients who suffer from chronic illness and weakened immune systems like Lyme disease, report an increase in inflammation due to EMF exposure. EMF sensitivity can present itself in a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea, warm and burning sensations, and fatigue.
3. Eye Health
It’s no secret that staring at screens all day is bad for our health, but just how bad? Our eyes are not accustomed to this kind of continuous strain. Research has found that blue light emitted from digital devices can cause our retina to change. Essentially, blue light can kill what are called photoreceptor cells that live inside the eye and are responsible for converting light into signals that stimulate biological processes. Damage to these cells causes macular degeneration, which occurs when photoreceptor cells in the retina die. Our risk of this type of damage significantly increases as we age.
So, what are realistic ways to detox when we depend on digital devices daily?
For most of us, digital devices are an absolute necessity, so how can you combat the negative effects its constant stimulation? A digital detox is not easy, but making these daily adjustments can make a big impact on your overall health:
1. Limit Screen Time
In my home, we have a no phone rule at meal times and after 8pm. Embrace the time you have with the ones you love, give them your undivided attention and buy a good, old fashioned alarm clock instead of using your smartphone.
2. Embrace Boredom
Remember when staring out the window was just about the only thing you could do on a road trip? Since smartphones, boredom is a distant memory. Try putting your phone on airplane mode when you’re commuting and tune into some self-reflection. Watch what this time can do to your mood. It’s amazing what 10-15 minutes of silence can do to start or reset your day.
3. Digital Fasting
A digital detox may sound impossible at first, but the best way to truly detox is to do a digital fast—no phone or tablet for an extended period of time. Start small, turn on airplane mode during meals and evenings, remove devices from the bedroom, stop using devices two hours before bed. Work your way up to making two days per month device-free and if possible, every 3-4 months go four days and ultimately once a year go one entire week device-free.