How To: Digital Detox for Mental Health

What’s a modern man to do when he’s feeling simultaneously over-connected online, and disconnected from the real world?

It can be tough to unplug in 2022. Sure, it’s a challenge that in no way, shape or form resembles the difficulties our ancestors faced on a daily basis in their battle to simply survive. But it’s a struggle relative to the times – in a world slap-bang in the midst of a global pandemic.

On the heels of two years of on-again-off-again lockdowns and restrictions, men have turned to the online world for shopping, work, dating and entertainment. We drag ourselves to virtual conferences with our colleagues during the day, and play war games with bros half a world away at night. We’ve ditched hunting spears for Uber eats, and replaced our Friday night bar hookups with unsolicited dick pics on Tinder… and sad wanks to cam girls who call us only by our screennames. Even our beloved strip clubs – the last bastions of the boys’ night out – became soulless streaming services in the early 2020s.

All of this has been designed to keep us connected and make our lives easier. But the paradox of all this constant connectedness, is a feeling of being disconnected. And feeling disconnected suuucks. It’s shit for our overall wellbeing and mental health, which is why leaders like the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (MHF) recommend ALL of us make unplugging from our devices – and spending more time in nature – part of our regular routines.

Here’s how you can increase your wellbeing by ditching those pesky devices with a digital detox… even for just a few minutes a day.

Small Breaks = Big Benefits

For many of us, unplugging entirely for extended periods of time is unrealistic. There are urgent emails from clients, call from partners and family, calendar alerts about important appointments, and texts from people whose lives you are literally responsible for – your kids.

While it might not be practical to announce that Daddy’s going off the grid for three straight days, taking mini – or even MICRO – breaks from your phone, laptop and other devices is doable for most of us. Leave all of your devices on your desk and take a 30-minute walk in the middle of the day. Implement a no-devices rule during family dinners each night. STOP TAKING YOUR PHONE WITH YOU TO THE GODDAMN TOILET. Try going screen-free for at least half an hour every night before bed to let your brain relax and prepare for sleep.

Go Full Man vs Wild

If you can, unplugging entirely for at least 24 hours is a great way to restore your sense of wellbeing. How that looks will be up to you. It might mean going hiking with your buddies through one of New Zealand’s great national parks and sleeping rough under the stars. Or taking the kids hunting for the weekend. Or whisking The Mrs off for a luxury stay in an off-the-grid glamping hut.

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand – and countless other wellness organisations – assert that spending time in nature has a positive impact on mental health, so getting out of your comfort zone and experiences the great outdoors will maximise the benefits of your digital detox. However you do it, keep your phone switched firmly in the OFF position, unless there’s an emergency. And, no – checking the footy score doesn’t count.

Increase Face Time at Work & Play

Make an effort to increase face time with your family, friends and colleagues. And when we say face time, we mean real life, face-to-face contact… not iPhone’s janky in-built video calling app.

We spend around percent 35 percent of our waking hours each week at work, so connecting with people in real-world ways is vital if you want to feel good 9 – 5. Instead of emailing a question to Jane in accounts, swing by her desk and talk to her in person. Make the effort to eat lunch in the break room with other people, rather than hunched over your desk while finishing a report.

Outside of work, it’s just as important to connect with family and friends in the real world. Studies show social media can increase feelings of FOMO, give us a filtered view of the lives of others, and increase feelings of inadequacy. Instead of checking Facebook to see what your inner circle’s been up to, make plans to meet up with them IRL. Go out for dinner, take the kids to the park, hit a club, or just pop round for a beer. Connecting with the people in your life face-to-face means engaging in an unfiltered, two-way conversation. That’s more meaningful, REAL and beneficial than a double-tap on the ‘Gram.

Detox YOUR Way

Making small or incremental adjustments to your use of technology can add up to better mental wellbeing over time. Implementing changes that suit your life will ensure you’re set up to succeed. Try some of these quick-fire unplugging options and see what works for you.

  • Turn off push notifications on your phone
  • If one app in particular is taking up too much of your time, restrict use to a certain time of day
  • Enable Do Not Disturb mode during family time, or as soon as you get into bed
  • Delete work email apps from your phone so you can only access them via laptop
  • Try implementing no-phone-zones around the house, like the bedroom
  • Kick it old school and buy an alarm clock, so you can avoid having your phone right beside the bed
  • Get involved in an activity that doesn’t require technology, like a new hobby or sport
  • Change your smartphone display to greyscale, which can make it visually less alluring
  • Limit yourself to one screen at a time to limit overwhelm
  • Read an actual paper book, magazine or newspaper rather than your fake-news-filled Facebook feed
  • Keep your phone in your back pocket – or leave it at home – if you’re out with friends

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