by CLARE FLANAGAN
Technology is an integral part of daily life. Our alarm clocks are now just an app on our phone, the latest news updates come from Twitter, and even our school work has changed from just paper and pencil to an almost completely digital endeavor. And while all of these innovations can be wonderful tools, what happens when it all becomes too much to take in?
Unfortunately, I’ve become extremely accustomed with the effects of overstimulation, but I hadn’t taken any action to try to combat those stressors until recently. I had been extremely overwhelmed with everything going on in my life and decided to try taking a complete technology detox for an entire week. The only exceptions were things relating to work and school; everything else was off-limits. On top of this, I planned to meticulously track different habits of mine throughout the week to see if the detox actually had an effect on my life by comparing it with a “control day.” I hoped this mental health break would be as beneficial to me as I had seen it be to others.
The week started off pretty well with day one being much easier than I had anticipated. I ended up having a lot of free time in between my various activities, and with that time, I was able to start a new book I’d been wanting to read for a while. The second thing, I didn’t really notice until after day two, but it had already started to make quite a large difference in my life. The amount of sleep I was getting per night had almost doubled, which sounds absolutely insane, and to be completely honest, it was. By the third day, I no longer had to hit the snooze button, which is something I’m not sure has ever happened before. Ever. I didn’t touch the coffee pot a single time that week either, which was truly a miracle.
And even though I was feeling significantly less stressed and more well rested, I still had to really focus on not picking up my phone for one reason in particular: music. It is an integral part of my life, and having it ripped out of my day to day schedule was extremely hard. Not only that, but during the week, one of my favorite musicians had announced she would be releasing music during the time I was to be on detox. But as hard as this was, I decided to really try to stick through to the end--I’d be disappointed in myself for not being able to follow this through.
However, the fourth day did not go well. It started off okay, but there were a couple things that happened during the day that really messed with my head. So, I decided to take a short break from my technology detox to reach out to some friends to talk and listen to some music. At first when I picked up my phone, I was filled with the sense that I’d somehow failed a challenge, but as I talked to my friends and shuffled through some of my favorite playlists, I realized that had been just what I needed. Even though I broke the “rules” of the detox that was supposed to be helping my mental health, I knew that not using my resources could’ve been even more detrimental to my mental wellbeing. Afterwards, I decided not to cut out music completely, but listen to it when I really wanted to instead of just as something to occupy my time. I was able to recognize the difference between wanting something, and just wanting to silence my own boredom.
The rest of the week went extremely well, and I’m so glad I decided to challenge myself with this detox. Not only did I greatly improve my sleep schedule, but I learned a couple valuable lessons as well. The first being that, because we have instant gratification to almost all things in life, before we reach for the phone, the remote, or even another cookie, that desire should be be evaluated. Do you really want to peruse social media, or are you just looking for a way to pass the time (or dare I say, procrastinate). Taking a moment to consider your desires on these things can really free up a lot of time and improve self discipline.
The other lesson I learned is that technology is like everything else in the world; it’s best used in moderation. Constant access to technology can be stressful and overwhelming at times, and it’s important to remember it truly is a tool that can be beneficial to almost all aspects of one’s everyday life. Including mental health. So while I don’t plan on doing another technology detox in the foreseeable future, I’m hoping to continue to use my tech in a way that actually benefits me, instead of just using it to pass the time.