a realistic digital detox guide

What is a Digital Detox?

A “digital detox” refers to a break or abstinence from using electronic devices, particularly if they are overused as a coping mechanism for stress (Radtke et al., 2021). It focuses on the intentional reduction of screen time to improve mental and physical well-being. Excessive screen use can lead to reduced attention spans, eye strain, poor posture, and social isolation.

Although it may not be realistic to do a complete digital detox in our modern world, there are still important strategies you can implement to reduce dependency and use devices more responsibly to improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety, and enhance overall wellbeing.

The Impact of Excessive Screen Time

Alarming Usage Statistics

  • Americans spend over 4.5 hours daily on their smartphones (Laricchia, 2023).
  • The global average is around 2.5 hours (Buchholz, 2022).
  • Children often receive their first phone at age 12, with nearly all having one by 15 (Digitale, 2022).
  • Screen Time and Its Effects

Average daily screen time varies by generation:

  • Gen Z: 6 hours and 5 minutes
  • Millennials: 4 hours and 36 minutes
  • Gen X: 4 hours and 9 minutes
  • Baby Boomers: 3 hours and 31 minutes
  • 48% admitted to “zombie scrolling” (purposeless scrolling).

A survey by Harmony Healthcare IT revealed:

  • 40% of respondents are trying to cut down on screen time in 2024
  • 27% doubt they will succeed
  • 36% believe they can go one day without their phone

Psychological Impacts of Screen Time

Constant Checking:

43% of Americans identify as “constant checkers,” frequently checking emails, social media, or texts, which correlates with higher stress levels (Vitelli, 2017).

Remote Work:

Increasing remote work blurs the line between professional and personal screen time, with 22 million Americans working from home (Punjwani, 2024).

Why a Digital Detox can Help Mental Health

Excessive social media use can lead to social isolation, decreased emotional support, signs of depression, feelings of missing out, and lower self-esteem due to comparison with others (Withington and Punch, 2019). The dopamine-driven reward system of social media can contribute to addictive behaviors. While smartphones help maintain friendships, facilitate learning, and provide entertainment (Lepp et al., 2013; Omar et al., 2016), excessive use is linked to:

Mental Health Issues:

Depression (Lepp et al., 2014), anxiety, sleep problems (Thomée, 2018), and musculoskeletal issues (INal et al., 2015).

Performance Decline:

Poor academic performance (Amez and Baert, 2020) and decreased productivity at work (Duke, 2017).

Social Skills Impairment:

Reduced ability to learn social cues and communicate effectively in real life (NAMI).

digital detox can help mental health

How to Start your Digital Detox:

  • Set a Curfew: Turn off devices every night.
  • Leave Your Phone: Keep it in another room when focusing on tasks or socializing face-to-face.
  • Turn Off Notifications: Disable non-essential app notifications.
  • Limit Social Media: Reduce the number of accounts and uninstall apps during the detox period.
  • Social Media-Free Days: Commit to having days without social media each week.
  • Set Weekly Goals: Limit the hours spent on social media each week.
  • Use Grayscale or Dark Mode: Make your phone less stimulating.
  • 20-20-20 Rule: Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, looking at something 20 feet away.
  • Create a Realistic Plan: Gradually reduce social media usage.
  • Notebook for Thoughts: Write your thoughts instead of posting online.
  • Use a Camera: Capture moments with a digital or disposable camera.
  • Phone-Free Bedroom: Keep your phone outside the bedroom and use an alarm clock.
  • Buddy System: Encourage a friend to join your detox.
  • Blocking Apps: Download apps to limit access to phones or block internet access for set times.

(Lifeline; Gen)

Embracing a digital detox can significantly enhance your well-being by reducing stress, improving sleep, and fostering deeper, more meaningful real-life interactions. Start small, stay committed, and enjoy the benefits of a balanced digital life.


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3. Digitale, E. (2022, November 21). Age that kids acquire mobile phones not linked to well-being, says Stanford Medicine Study. Stanford Medicine News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2022/11/children-mobile-phone-age.html?tab=proxy

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17. Withington, S., & Punch, A. (2019, October). There are costs from spending too much time on social media. Population Health Research Brief Series. https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/research/lerner-center/population-health-research-brief-series/article/there-are-costs-from-spending-too-much-time-on-social-media