I am a recovering phone addict and so I force myself on frequent Digital Detoxes to keep my addiction under control. You see I need my phone, social media and the online world for my business BUT I know they are all harmful to me, my mental health and my relationship with my husband and our girls.
On Easter Saturday I announced the start of my Digital Detox on social media. It was the school holidays and I wanted some time with our kids after working flat out in the run-up to the holidays.
I thought I would take a week off from the online world and then dip back in and out for the remaining 2 weeks of the holidays (the kids get 3 weeks off for Easter here in Mauritius). But I ended up staying offline for the full 3 weeks, and only just switched back on on Monday morning.
Before I explain to you the incredible experience I had during this particular Digital Detox, I want to share the background to my own reasons for going offline.
Why you need to go on a Digital Detox
In 2014 I was a full-on phone, social media and digital addict.
First thing in the morning I was on my phone. There was no morning cuddle and kiss for Ben – I’d been offline for at least 7 hours, what had I missed?!?
Last thing at night, just before switching off the light, I had to have one last check. You know, just in case I’d missed something vital.
At the time I had a phone that flashed whenever I got new notifications, so I was picking it up constantly, to see who had replied to a tweet, or liked an Instagram pic.
I had zero attention for my family and suffered from restless nights and Comparisonitis.
Every time Ben tried to bring up my phone addiction I would tell him I “had” to, because I had an online business and needed to be “on it”.
Then one night that all changed. We were on a family holiday in Wales, in the middle of the countryside, and instead of enjoying it, I was on my phone the whole time, because I had agreed to cover the holiday on my blog and social media in exchange for free accommodation.
But that one night I couldn’t sleep. My phone and social media addiction often did this to me – had me awake in the middle of the night as my mind was whirring too much.
This time, I was so worn out from social media, I picked up my Kindle instead of my phone, and started a new book, which set me on a new path.
That book was Thrive by Arianna Huffington and it was such a wake-up call.
I saw myself through other people’s eyes – especially the way my husband and my daughters saw me. This person who was constantly behind a screen, distracted, not paying attention.
It was horrible.
A few months later we went on a family holiday to France to see Ben’s family, and I told him that I wasn’t going to activate data roaming or wifi for the 2 weeks that we were there.
He burst out laughing and asked me how I would survive.
I honestly didn’t know, but I knew I had to. I needed to do something to shake myself out of my phone addiction.
And I went on my first Digital Detox.
It was HORRIFIC.
Full on Cold Turkey Syndrome.
What was I missing out on? What was happening? What if people forgot me and stopped following me?
I was twitchy. I kept picking my phone up and putting it back down again.
But then I settled into it.
I sat by the pool and read books on my Kindle. And I actually read them instead of reading for 5 minutes then checking my phone for 20 minutes.
I became engrossed in book after book and remembered my deep love of reading.
When it was time to head back to London (where we were living at the time) I was nervous about going back online.
In the end I’d loved knowing NOTHING about the outside world.
I’d felt freer, less stressed, more comfortable in myself and my life.
I’d slept better (but equally I was on holiday which does help too!).
When we got back home I noticed my habits changing. I didn’t want to spend the evening scrolling through Twitter, and having conversations with dozens of people around the planet (as lovely as that was). I wanted to chat to the man I love who was sitting next to me on the sofa.
Since then I’ve had to fight to keep my phone addiction under control. And it has its ups and downs. But these days I tend to go on a Digital Detox every time I have a holiday, and have even done it for months at a time too.
(I was recently interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s The Today programme about not following the news, and switching off from social media.)
And it is important for so many reasons.
For better sleep.
For better relationships.
For feeling better about yourself.
By switching off from the constant news, personal attacks, negativity and bottomless pit of information on that glowing screen, you will sleep better.
By not picking up your phone every 5 minutes you will be more attentive to those around you – your other half, your kids, but also your friends too.
By not constantly seeing other people’s (totally filtered and highlighted) lives you won’t be comparing yours negatively.
I have only ever had good experiences when undertaking Digital Detoxes, and then I did this last one. And it BLEW MY MIND.
The amazing thing that happened on this particular Digital Detox
I was excited about going on my Digital Detox. At the start of this year I launched my Life Reboot Camp for the first time, and then worked through the course with the first group of students.
Which was out of this world AMAZING. But also very tiring.
This meant I had not been as present as I would have liked to be for my kids and Ben. It also meant that I had not been looking after myself enough.
So I was looking forward to switching off, having some downtime, reconnecting with my family and losing myself in a book or two by the pool (we live in Mauritius so this is standard downtime behaviour).
Then something happened.
Not the first week of the Digital Detox, not even the second week. But as we started the third week I noticed it.
When 5 year old Clémence came to talk to me she had my full, undivided attention. I got down to her level and I listened to her. I looked in her eyes and got lost in her world of excitement at everything she sees and discovers.
I laughed as she imitated the opera singer in The Greatest Showman.
I lost myself in love, joy and laughter with her.
But it wasn’t just with Clémence.
Our eldest daughter, Léna, is 11 now. And it’s an age when kids can start to pull back and stop talking to their parents. I’m aware of that but I’ve been using my “busy” excuse.
During my Digital Detox I wasn’t busy. I was present. And Léna and I had some incredible one-on-one time (something I talk about in Module 3 of Life Reboot Camp).
We talked and talked and talked. And watched TV shows and films together.
We cuddled and were silly and laughed.
And one night she told me something big. Something it was hard for her to share with me.
And I know 100% that she would not have shared that with me if I had not been so totally present and invested in our relationship. If I had not been on a Digital Detox with my attention fully in the here and now.
On top of that we had been fighting over something for weeks before my Digital Detox, but in a calm 5 minute conversation we easily agreed on a solution.
Of course it wasn’t just with Léna and Clémence that I noticed the difference, but with Ben too.
I was less distracted and less stressed out, which meant I was listening more and better, giving feedback and having a two-way conversation.
We laughed, cuddled and found our way back into our newlywed bubble.
I realised something amazing.
We were together as a family. With everybody fully present. We were listening to each other. We were having fun, being silly, doing crazy dances, telling funny stories, laughing and laughing and laughing, and loving, not shouting or stressing.
That behaviour, that relationship, that feeling was only able to come out after 2 weeks of a full Digital Detox.
The toxins that my phone addiction had brought into my home and family had to be cleared out.
And then the magic could happen.
On Monday it was back to reality. The girls went back to school. I got back to my business which also meant my phone, my emails and social media. BUT I am determined to make this last.
I will keep doing Digital Detoxes to keep this alive. And in the meantime I will be watching my phone use very very carefully (along with many of my Life Reboot Campers I’m using the Moment app to be more aware of my phone use). I don’t want to lose this incredible relationship and feeling that I have right now.
What about you? Are you addicted to your phone too? Have you ever gone on a Digital Detox? Do share your experiences in the comments.
If you are a phone addict, know that you are not alone and there is a way out.
If you know someone who could do with a Digital Detox don’t hesitate to share this with them – it could be the wake-up call that they need.
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