Apparently, we are spending 30 hours a week on average on our phones, that’s double from just 6 years ago. I have been encouraging my clients to partake in a ‘digital detox’ during retreats for many years. Yet every year, it seems harder and harder to get people to part with their devices. There is no shortage of studies that link social media usage with a decline in our psychological and psychosocial well-being. However, a digital detox isn’t simply about our social media addictions, it’s about the addition to the actual phone, it’s about unhooking yourself from the sense of security being with your phone brings you.
I’m going to suggest that our phone additions are worse than any carb, caffeine or sugar addiction because once we lose our sense of self-reliance, we have handed over the feeling of safety and comfort to something that fundamentally does not have our best interest at heart. Not even close.
Last June I went on a retreat where my phone was confiscated from me for 7 days. I had read in the literature that ‘phones are not allowed’ which I assumed meant we weren’t allowed to walk around with our phones, and that surely, once alone at night in my yurt, I would have access to all the comforts my phone brings me. When it came time to physically hand over my phone, I had a complete meltdown that honestly surprised me. An actual addicts response. I cited reason after reason why that ‘wasn’t going to work for me’. After a big fuss, I was told that I could keep my phone, but I would have to leave. On my final call to my partner before powering off, he said to me, “This is who you are, you’ll love it“.
Any quantum shift or seismic transformation starts with the awareness of the discord that needs to shift. My meltdown showed me with absolute clarity that my phone was too closely related to my sense of security. The gifts that this opportunity brought me were tenfold. Remembering that I know how to keep myself company was a big breakthrough. Handing over my phone was one of the best things I have done for myself in a long time.
DOPAMINE + CORTISOL
Dopamine allows us to you feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. When life pats you on the back and you have that feeling of accomplishment, you get a dopamine surge. Some even equate high dopamine levels with feelings of euphoria. It’s no wonder then that exposure to anything that activates an increase in dopamine can become addictive. On social media, we search for the dopamine high from the extra likes, the approving comment, being noticed by someone important or even aligning our views with someone highly valued by a large number of people. Dopamine creates a sense of reward for being seen and appreciated. Just like anything that makes us feel good, we often need higher and higher amounts in order to get the feeling we’re looking for. Dopamine ‘mining’ or scrolling addictions associated with dopamine spikes can cause desensitisation to actual human connection and personal accomplishments. Not surprising that dopamine and its association with social media addiction are linked to depression and anxiety.
Cortisol regulates a wide range of processes in the body, including metabolism and the immune response. Cortisol is commonly known as our ‘stress hormone‘. It gives us the energy to get out of bed in the morning and other useful things, like dodging actual danger. What we want to avoid though, are excess cortisol level spikes caused by unnecessary stress When you read something online that makes you feel a deep sadness for humanity or become angered at government or anything that triggers a feeling of being cheated, manipulated, left behind, left out, professional or social anxiety, jealousy, unworthiness etc.. all these emotional experiences can lead to spiked cortisol secretion. Too much cortisol can cause inflammation in the body which is understood to be the root cause of all diseases not to mention the disruption to our sleep patterns and other hormone imbalances.
HOW TO DETOX FROM TECHNOLOGY
There are literally dozens of ways to do a ‘digital detox’ ranging from simply limiting screen time in the evenings, no devices in the bedroom, deleting apps, changing your apps and home screen to black and white and of course, actually being offline and away from your phone for days on end.
Your relationship with your phone is personal and so is your (potential) addiction to it. A digital detox starts with an honest look at your relationship with your phone. Ask yourself what are you getting out of it, and what is it taking away from you? Is your time on your phone spiking your cortisol or draining your dopamine?
THIS PROCESS REQUIRES A DEEP TRUST IN LIFE ITSELF
But what if my family needs me? What if something bad happens to me and I need help? What if something bad happens to someone I love and I don’t know about it until it’s too late?
These are real questions and concerns, but they are also how we have been programmed to believe we are not safe without our phones. Identify honestly the level of fear you feel when thinking about being without your phone in the evenings, for half a day, a day or even a few days in a row. Ask yourself what you are afraid of and if it’s a real threat?
If you live alone and/or being without your phone feels too frightening for you, you could set up a system for your most important person/people to check in with you every evening via email that you can read and send from your laptop before you retire.
16:8 INTERMITTENT PHONE FASTING
Phone-fasting is a system to free yourself from your phone addiction. Or at the very least, test if you have a phone addiction and if so, how deep the addiction lies.
16:8 Intermittent phone fasting means in a 24 period your phone is OFF for 16 hours and ON for 8 hours.
An example of a 16:8 phone fast is to turn your phone off (not silenced, OFF) at 6 pm and turn it back on at 10 am. This is a completely reasonable amount of time to be disconnected and connected to your phone. You can of course choose which time to power off and then count up 16 hours from there the end to the fast for that day.
If this feels too much, maybe start with a 14:10 fast with your phone off for 14 hours and on for 10. An example of a 14:10 phone fast is to turn your phone off at 7 pm and on again 14 hours later, at 9 am.
As you feel more empowered and start to experience the myriad benefits of your cellphone liberation, you may even choose the occasional weekend fast. Phone-fasting on retreat is of course another way to experience the deep benefits of complete cell phone liberation.