In the era of the ‘screen face’, ‘text neck’ and ‘cell phone elbow’, are we in need of a digital detox? Life coach Sam Wigan illuminates the addictive power of technology and shares the steps we need to take to create space in a saturated digital world.
“Technology opens up huge new and exciting possibilities for us, but we simply have not learnt how to integrate what it with healthy ways of being and doing”
Our smartphones have increasingly become an extension of ourselves. With around 59% of adults in the UK suspecting that they may be addicted to their devices, we have become acutely aware of the murky relationship we share with our technology. For most people, the concern is that their digital dependencies are starting to have a knock-on effect on their work, relationships and mental and physical health. In conversation with life-coach Sam Wigan, we speak about the importance of taking a step back from the digital realm to create space for a more mindful, balanced way of living.
FACETIME: WHY TECHNOLOGY IS ADDICTIVE
According to communications regulator Ofcom, one third of the UK population respond to messages throughout the night and the average person checks their phone up to 200 times during the day. Speaking to this impulse, Wigan explains that “You don’t even realise you are doing it. You are being driven by chemical and neurological conditioning that makes it impulsive.” The effect of this conditioning is that we are always on, always on the surface, and are being far less productive, healthy and happy than we could be.
WHAT ARE ITS EFFECTS?
Poor sleep is just one of the negative effects of this conditioning. “There is a growing body of research that now illustrates the importance of sleep for your brain function”, explains Wigan, “and we are disrupting our sleep with our devices”. Most pertinent to this disruption is the blue light that is emitted from our device screens which has been scientifically proven to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle.
With regard to our relationships, it only takes personal experience to recount the times that we have been distracted from our real-life interactions because of our devices. The simple presence of our phones, even when we are not using them, has been shown by social psychologists to take the focus of our minds elsewhere. Research has shown that when we do use our devices in the presence of others during real-life interactions, our companions can develop negative emotions toward us and themselves.
With our devices pulling us away from face-to-face interaction, studies have shown that increased screen-time has started to affect the ways we communicate. Whilst we are becoming more social and more connected, the ties we create tend to be weaker and we could be losing grip on our interpersonal skills.
IIII. Mental Health
Whilst overuse of mobile phones puts a strain on our eyesight, hearing and posture, recent studies suggest that ‘maladaptive’ use could be lead to increasing levels depression and anxiety in users. As the portal to all our friends, social media accounts and news, this could partly be down to an exaggerated ‘fear of missing out’. We also rely on our phones to avoid awkward conversations and situations which creates a negative relationship with our devices, positioning them as a coping mechanism.
Commenting on the collateral damage to our health, Wigan explains, “technology opens up huge new and exciting possibilities for us but, we simply have not learnt how to integrate what it with healthy ways of being and doing”.
THE DIGITAL DETOX
To counteract this, many people, including executives at Apple and Google, champion making the bedroom a screen-free zone in order to get a better night’s sleep and wake up with the ability to be more focused and productive throughout the day.
By turning our attention away from our screens we can start to enjoy the present moment, connect more meaningfully with our peers and achieve mental clarity and calm. “Ultimately”, says Wigan, “in taking a break from our devices you can expect to sleep better, get more done, improve your relationships and have more quality time for what is really important to you.”
Leave your phone charging in the kitchen at bedtime instead of beside your bed. Invest in an alarm clock rather than using the alarm on your phone. After an initial adjustment period, you will be more relaxed and sleep better.
Read books rather than tablets with backlit screens.
Consciously turn your phone off. Try making it your rule to switch your device off when In the company of friends, or for the weekend.
Commit to one meal a week where you turn your devices off for its entirety.
Leave technology at home and spend some time outside. Go slow, enjoy, listen to your body, notice the environment around you. You might be amazed at how good you feel and how much more inclined you are to maintain your exercise routine.
Keep a journal to track the benefits of your digital detox. Become an expert in tracking what works for you and do more of that.
Based in Wiltshire, UK, Sam Wigan has been a student of personal development and self-awareness for 20 years. Most notable among his long repetorie of achievements, he is the co-founder of Beluga Bean an online female-focused coaching service, corporate training facilitator with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.