Credit: Jeshoots
By: Cheryl Chiew

Since the Singapore government declared citizens stay home and social distance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been constantly using my phone to stay connected, over the past 6 months. However, due to an increase in my screen time and anxiety, I decided to go on a 48-hour digital detox to improve my mood. Because that detox went so well, I decided to go on a 72-hour detox with no intention of stopping!

What is a Digital Detox?

A digital detox is when you voluntarily abstain from using social media and other digital devices for a certain amount of time. According to Google, some of the benefits include an improved sleeping schedule and work-life balance, better mental health, and reduced feelings of FOMO. 

Similar to how eating clean improves our physical health, digital detoxing has been touted to cleanse our minds.

Digital Detox Rules

I intended to carry out my digital detox on Monday and Wednesday mornings and made sure it revolved around my work lifestyle.

Here were my rules:

  1. Focus on one screen at a time.
  2. Only use social media for work —I work in Social Media advertising.
  3. Turn off all notifications at 5:30 pm, after work is over.
  4. Only use the phone to communicate with friends, including texting if meeting up with someone
Lesson 1: I primarily reached for my phone, to get rid of negative feelings

Throughout each workday, I realized that anytime I felt overwhelmed, bored, or unmotivated, I would have the urge to scroll through TikTok or Instagram. Initially, this was hard to overcome without my phone as a distraction. However, I had no choice but to complete my assignments, which allowed me to quickly let go of unpleasant thoughts and pace myself at my work. By the end of each day, I felt much lighter.

Lesson 2: I paid more attention to my hobbies and relationships

Usually, after work, to unwind, I would watch a movie or play mobile phone games. However, without these options available I had to find alternative ways to entertain myself. 

On Monday, I went for a 90-minute walk and meditated at the park. Tuesday evening, I was able to finish reading a book, in addition to reading 14 chapters of a new one. The following evening, I had dinner and drinks at a friend’s house and didn’t even realize the meal lasted 5 hours.

 I also found the motivation to exercise and finally moved on from ‘The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,’ after 8 months. Disconnecting allowed me to better connect with myself and the people around me. I was also more mindful of rooting myself in the present and feeling in control. I felt like I was living, not going through the motions.

“A digital detox is when you voluntarily abstain from using social media and other digital devices for a certain amount of time.”

Lesson 3: I do not need to constantly respond to demands 

Switching off my phone’s notifications at 5:30 pm meant I spent 16 hours a day disconnected from the outside world. This taught me that people will not call you unless it is an emergency and that it is okay to put off work, errands, or social media requests for the next day if it is not urgent.

Eventually having to constantly switch between screens and tabs to work, interact with others, and fulfill certain chores can be exhausting. There is so much more peace in doing things at your own pace, one task at a time.  

Going On A Digital Detox

After only three days, I was surprised by how much calmer I felt. And while I still feel jittery at times, I have been able to manage my feelings of distress and become more patient, which is why I will continue to work on cutting down my screen time!

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