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7 signs you need a digital detox, according to an expert

Young married couple using smart phone ignoring each other addicted digital detox to the internet and social network - man and woman phubbing in the living room - family people loneliness and technology lifestyle concept
A medical expert has revealed seven ways to know if you need a digital detox. (Getty Images)

In this digital age it can be hard to stay away from screens. It feels as if we go from one screen to another throughout the day, which could be why it’s important to have a digital detox every now and then.

It’s a popular sentiment too, with Google searches for ‘benefits of social media detox’ up by 80%, ‘phone detox’ searches up by 52%, and ‘unplugged digital detox’ searches up by 40%.

Studies have found that excessive screen time can be detrimental to our mental health, leading to increased instances of anxiety and depression, particularly among children.

"Our smartphones keep us connected and give us access to information quicker than ever before, but for some people social media has the power to harm our wellbeing," Dr Naveen Puri, medical director for Bupa UK Insurance, says.

"Your smartphone might be one of the first things you look at when you wake up and before you go to sleep – and this could be a long-built habit. Having constant access to our devices can make it difficult to put them down and find the right balance in our usage. Breaking these habits can take some time, but it can help you to build a better sleep routine, improve focus and keep relationships in check."

So, how do you know when it’s time to reduce your screen time and go on a digital detox? Below, Dr Puri reveals the seven signs that mean you should consider going cold turkey with your phone.

1. The accounts you follow don’t make you feel good about yourself

Dr Puri advises taking a moment to think about how your social media consumption makes you feel.

"If you feel worse about yourself after spending time on your socials, it might be a good idea to look at the accounts you follow," he says.

"Remember, you don’t have to follow anyone that you don’t want to – especially if following their account makes you feel bad in any way. Try unfollowing or muting any accounts that bring you negativity to help you spend less time scrolling."

Mixed race young female looking worried and stress while reading bad news on her mobile phone. Technology concept.
Consider a digital detox if you don't feel good about yourself after looking at social media. (Getty Images)

2. You suffer from comparison culture

If you find it hard not to compare your life from others you see on your social media, you may be suffering from comparison culture.

"Looking at other people’s accounts can make it easier to compare your life against theirs," Dr Puri says. "Don’t forget that what’s posted on social media doesn’t always replicate real life. A person may only post about their good days – we often don’t post about days that aren’t so good."

3. You’re obsessed with likes

"If the number of likes you get on a post affects your mood, it’s time to make a change," Dr Puri advises. "Where possible, even hiding the number of likes you get on a post can help to break the connection between likes and your sense of self-worth."

4. Your screen time exceeds two hours a day

Dr Puri says you should keep track of how long you spend on your phone each day, and if it exceeds two hours per day then you should consider a digital detox.

"Many smartphones provide a weekly summary of your smartphone usage – taking a deeper look and viewing your daily average can help you to identify patterns and when you might be more likely to get caught in a scroll hole," he adds.

"Research indicates that screen time outside of work shouldn’t be any more than two hours a day. Try to slowly replace that screen time with another more physical activity, such as a walk in nature or a workout."

5. You never switch off notifications – or your phone

"Hearing notifications going off throughout the day can be a big distraction, making it harder to dedicate time away from your phone," Dr Puri says.

"Dedicated time away from your phone can help you be more present and less reliant on your device – so try silencing your alerts or switching your phone off at set times a day."

6. You’ve fallen out of love with your hobbies

"If you used to have hobbies that have fallen by the wayside, for example, reading, workouts or musical instruments, it could be a sign you’re spending too much time on your phone," Dr Puri explains.

He adds that taking a digital detox and ensuring you’re spending less time on your phone can help you to reconnect with your interests.

"You could even try to follow social media accounts connected to your interests to help broaden your knowledge and enhance your hobby," he adds.

Smiling African American guy student holding smartphone reading sms message while studying in library, selective focus. Black male teacher holding pile of books using scheduling app on mobile device
If you have stopped hobbies like reading in favour of your phone it might be time for a digital detox. (Getty Images)

7. You feel stressed or angry if you can’t access your phone

"When a lifestyle habit spirals, losing access to it can have a negative impact on your wellbeing," Dr Puri says.

"An unhealthy relationship with your phone may make you feel like you’re no longer in control of your usage. It can also be a symptom of an underlying problem with your mental health, like anxiety or depression."

How to do a digital detox

If you notice yourself agreeing with any of these signs, it may be time to consider a digital detox. To do so, set limits on how much time you spend on screens and place a ‘curfew’ of sorts where you don’t look at your phone.

For example, if you normally go to bed at 10pm, stop looking at your phone at 9pm and try not to let it be the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning.

You can also try picking up a book and reading at times where you would normally scroll through social media, to train your brain to want to read during that time instead. Or use that half an hour to fit in a workout of some sort.

Less time spent on a screen means better mental health. So, we’re all for it.

Mental health: Read more