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Digital Detoxing for Mental Health Awareness Month

For Mental Health Awareness Month, what would it look like to take a vacation from your phone?

The topic of social media as it relates to our mental health has always been of big interest to me. Personally, I’m a big fan of social media (so much so, I’ve made it my job). When I was a kid, (90’s baby woot, woot) I saved up all my pennies to buy a little digital camera and record my life 24-7. At the time, I awkwardly shared my badly cut videos and pictures on Facebook. 

Today, social Media is multi-dimensional. On one hand there’s an endless supply of inspiration, the open communication, and the community based mindset. However, as we begin to share and consume more and more, we give up pieces of ourselves and our time. How do we keep our offline and online mental spaces balanced? I lost a grip on this balance and my brain was beginning to cloud. Like an addict I couldn’t keep myself away from my phone. If I’m not on the phone, I’m numbing my brain down with another digital activity (like watching Netflix). I forgot how to sit with my own thoughts. It was time to stop all of this, and disconnect from the digital world to connect with my inner world. 

The Agenda: Go Completely Dark on Social Media for 48 Hours

Step 1: The Lead Up

To lead up to this break, I had already started to consciously use my phone less. I say consciously, because this truly cannot happen without you actively stopping yourself from picking up that phone. A lot of us are conditioned to check our phones when our mind checks out or we’re bored. We pick it up whenever we’re moving from one activity to another (i.e. just got home, finished work, came out the shower etc.) I’ve stopped picking up my phone in the in-between minutes and flowed from one activity to the next easily. This alone brought my screentime down by 40%.

Step 2: The Detox

Next was to completely shut out social media. I turned off all notifications (emails as well) and moved these time consuming apps to the last slide on my home screen. For the daring, I challenge you to delete completely from your screens. Once I went dark on social media, more light came in my life. I think it’s important to state here that you should detox on a day that you are also not doing anything in particular. It’s easy to stay off your phone when you’re preoccupied with friends or any other activity. There’s beauty and creativity that lives in boredom. Stare out the window and daydream ☁️. It took some hours to kick in, but soon my old patterns of thinking came flowing back into me. I welcomed my wild ideas in like an old childhood friend. It was not just the type of thoughts, it was the way they came in: cool, calm, collected, and flowing like a smooth river.

The Lesson: Find a healthy balance of online and offline activities

1. Saying we’re going completely digital free in this day and age is simply not realistic. Besides, while social media gets a bad rep sometimes, it can actually be quite a beautiful thing. The key is to simply not let it consume or distract you. What I recommend is to find and commit to rituals outside the digital realm. Some options are:

– Read a physical book, the kind with pages (I started a book club with my dad!)
– Commit breakfast, lunch, and dinner as digital free zones
– Pick up the art of joint rolling (if you’re in your work hours, here’s a guide to microdosing for productivity)
– Paint, draw, dance, journal and see where it leads you
– Garden, go for a walk, meet a neighbor, get outside and connect with others and/or nature

2. The other key is to try and avoid looking at your phone every time you switch from one activity to the next. I realize this is when the most time disappears. When I manage to pull myself out of the digital hypnosis, I end up going into the next activity kind of hazy and unsure of what I’m doing. 

The simple act of disrupting your train of thought too many times an hour is incredibly damaging to your well being. Continuously disrupting your brain can lead to shorter attention spans. Your brain is trying to fit all its thinking into the remaining hours of the day that are not spent on the phone, and ultimately feel hectic or chaotic. After my digital detox, I felt 10000 times more grounded in my feet, more like myself, and confident in everything I am. Give your brain space and time to roam freely and explore all parts of your inner world. Ever wondered why shower-thoughts is a thing? Those are 10-15 minutes of pure uninterrupted thinking time, and is when we come up with the silliest or greatest ideas and philosophical questions.

Basically, my point is, stop interrupting your brain with your phone. Get bored and let the mind wander. Express your thoughts in the form of journaling or sketching or dancing! Rather than giving your time to your digital companions, give it to yourself. 

About the author:
Bianca is the Marketing Coordinator at BARBARI and has been with the company for a year and a half now. She’s recently also begun her career in writing, and is now a contributing writer for the Cosmopolitan. Having grown up in three different cultures, she’s always held a unique perspective of the world and how it operates. Check out her personal blog at TheLifeEnthusiasts.com and follow her on Instagram at @biancabiancak

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