Go offline and take back control

Think you spend too much time online? You’re not alone, as 59 per cent of us admit we’re ‘hooked’ on our devices, with the average Briton now spending 25 hours a week on the internet, says a report by Ofcom. But what effect is it having on our health, asks Amy Abrahams for Benenden

Benenden

With our tech addiction negatively affecting our stress levels, sleep and mental health, it’s no wonder that 15 million people in Britain have tried digitally detoxing in the past year, with a third saying it made them feel more productive and able to enjoy life.

The trick to a better online balance is to feel more in control over when you switch off. Here’s how to get started:

1.Keep phones off the table
Chances are, you’re one of the 40 per cent of people who say they’ve been ‘smart snubbed’ — that is, ignored by someone absorbed by their device. ‘Studies have found that, on average, we look at our phones 110 times a day, which works to remove us from reality,’ says David Brudö, co-founder of wellbeing app Remente, who suggests setting aside your phone during meals and keeping it out of sight when you are with friends.

2. Get more (real-life) face time
“Most couples spend more time looking at their screens than into each other’s eyes,” says psychotherapist Dr Jenn Mann. ‘This lack of eye contact can contribute to a lack of intimacy. For relationships to thrive, couples need to spend time connecting, but staring at screens prevents this.’ So turn off the TV (and phone… and computer) and turn to each other instead.

3.Get physical
Not only does exercise release feel-good endorphins, it separates you from your phone. ‘Creating rituals where you don’t have access to tech is important,’ says yoga teacher Patrick Beach. ‘When I’m taking a class or teaching, I’m never near my phone. It’s hard to find the time to get that separation, so it’s a huge benefit of working out.’

4. Set goals for logging in — and off
Having structure to your detox will help it feel manageable. ‘Tell yourself “I can only check my phone at 9am, noon and 4pm at work today for five minutes”,’ says Brudö. Dr Mann also recommends shifting your sleep routine. ‘One small step is to stop using your device two hours before bed.’ With the light from tech found to disrupt our sleep, a bedtime ban should help you feel more rested.

5. Value silence
It can be hard to relax with our devices constantly pinging, ringing and popping up with messages, so ‘turn off alerts and notifications’, says hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge. ‘This means you’re in charge of when you check your phone, rather than being at its beck and call.’ And if you want to take it further, ‘uninstall apps that you keep checking’, says Brudö. ‘You can always reinstall them once you feel your detox is over.’

For more healthy living tips, and to find out more about what Benenden can offer you, visit benenden.co.uk/healthier-you.