Increasingly, our lives revolve around technology. At work, we’re constantly connected to the internet and using digital devices to manage our tasks. When we get home, we turn on the TV, play video games, or work on a personal project on the computer. Then in bed, we scroll through social media until we fall asleep.
While technology makes us more productive, exposes us to more information, and enables us to stay in touch with people we’d otherwise lose contact with, it also has some powerful negative side effects.
One of the best ways to improve your relationship with technology is to take a break from it. But why is this so important, and how should you do it?
The Negative Effects of Technology
Let’s start by exploring some of the most important negative side effects of technology to acknowledge, such as:
- Notifications and distractions. Most of us are constantly bombarded with notifications from new emails, social media activity, and more. While this keeps us abreast of new developments in our personal and professional lives, it also hijacks our focus and makes it harder for us to be productive.
- Constant connectedness. We often think it’s a good thing to be constantly connected with people, but you also need time for yourself. Feeling constantly exposed to the outside world can leave you feeling anxious and vulnerable.
- Bad habits and time waste. It should be obvious that some forms of technology use end up wasting time and forming bad habits. For example, how many hours have you spent scrolling down a social media app with an infinite feed, not really accomplishing anything or learning anything new?
- Information and negativity. Social media and modern journalism tend to optimize for outrage and other negative emotions. Spending too much time reading these stories can give you a deeply pessimistic outlook, and make you feel more depressed.
How to Take a Break
If you want to better manage these effects, you’ll need to take a break from technology. There are several possible approaches here. For example, you could take an extended sabbatical as a way to detach completely from technology and reset yourself with better habits. Or, you could make it a point to separate yourself from technology more consistently on a daily basis.
Either way, these tips will help you accomplish your goals:
- Spend time in nature. Nature is the antithesis of technology, so try to spend more time surrounded by natural scenery. Depending on where you live, you could buy a boat and head out to the middle of a lake for some relaxing fishing, or you could take a hike deep into the woods. The exact scenery isn’t important, so long as you’re focused on your surroundings, and not your phone.
- Turn off notifications. One of the best ways to disconnect from technology is to turn off notifications entirely. If you want to check your email or your social media app, you can still do it—but you’ll have to do it manually, rather than responding to every notification you receive like a Pavlovian dog. Once you turn off notifications, you’ll realize how little you truly need them and how much less anxious and distracted you feel on a daily basis.
- Delete your biggest sources of time waste. If you’re like most people, there are a handful of apps, websites, and other sources of entertainment that end up wasting your time. It might be a social media app, a mobile game, or a website that’s full of empty (but entertaining) content. Consider deleting one or more of these major sources of time waste; it can be hard to follow through with this, but after it’s gone for a few days, chances are, you won’t miss it anymore.
- Set strict time limits for yourself. For the apps and websites that remain, consider setting strict time limits for yourself. For example, you might limit yourself to an hour of social media engagement time each day, or you may pledge not to use your mobile device later than 2 hours before bedtime.
- Find better hobbies and interests. The world is full of interesting things to do, people to meet, and hobbies to explore, and most of them exist outside the digital space. Consider picking up something new; chances are, you can find something perfect for your personal interests, whether it’s disc golf, woodworking, fashioning your own clothes, or something even more obscure.
Technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to engage with it in a healthy way, you need to practice awareness and moderation. Taking breaks from technology periodically (or consistently) can dramatically change your perceptions for the better—and improve your mental and emotional health.