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Don’t Unplug – Think Smart

This Sunday – the last Sunday in June – was marked as UK Unplugging Day (this year 27 June) – but challenging this concept, Georgina Lord from Zen Internet says digital wellbeing isn’t about unplugging for a day. We should approach digital detoxing like all healthy lifestyle changes – creating long term habits that we can maintain everyday and focus on using tech for good.

Here’s her advice for healthier habits and greater digital wellbeing keeping connectivity at its heart. 

“Connectivity has been the backbone of Britain during the pandemic, keeping us in touch with family, friends and colleagues, fit (thanks Joe Wicks) and access to the internet has even helped us find new things to cook while restaurants are closed.

“Many people are grateful for the togetherness that the digital world has provided, in fact, in a survey we carried out earlier this year two-thirds of us said we have actually spent more time with family and friends via get-togethers over the internet, compared to face-to-face time before the pandemic and three quarters of people planned to continue quizzing and game playing with family online even when physical contact restrictions are lifted.

But increased reliance on our devices does mean it’s important to form new habits, be conscious of the need to take smarter screen breaks and better your digital health all year round.

Here’s advice on how to make sure your digital technology is working for you, not against you.

Try some digital pruning

“Let’s face it the digital world is even more entwined with our lives than ever before. In fact we purchased up to 21 million new digital devices during lockdown in a bid to stay connected*. It’s important to remember that you are in control of how you interact digitally and who and what you interact with. If you feel that some apps or social media accounts are impacting your mental wellbeing negatively then take steps to remove them from your life. Known as ‘digital pruning’ this is a practice that can be repeated every few months. Stop and look at how you are using your devices – what apps might not be having a healthy impact on your mental health and what could you delete – even for the short term. You can also carry out the same process with social media accounts that you follow. Curate and shape your social media feed into something that you want to see and engage with day-to-day – after all you are in control.”

Choose digital activities that enhance your life

“From health and fitness, meditation, education, online libraries, support groups, gaming, music instructional videos and so much more – these days there is an app or platform that can support almost all areas of our lives. There is so much more to the online world than scrolling through social media on your phone or iPad – why not think about how you can make the digital space enhance your life. If you love working out or want to exercise more – why not download a fitness app? Love reading? Sign up to your local library online or a platform such as Readly where you’ll find a huge selection of magazines. Always fancied having a bedtime story read to you by Harry Styles – you’ll find him on the Calm app. New language? No problem Babbel or Duolingo can help. Want to watch a film with friends but you can’t all be together? Teleparty will sync your viewing with friends.

“Of course carrying out of these activities online is never a replacement to in real life connections, however it can bridge the gap when you can’t get to a gym or if your friends live 200 miles away, for example. The key is to choose the activities that will add to your life in a positive way.

Set boundaries

“One of the biggest changes of the past 12 months was a seismic shift to home working which although has many lifestyle benefits, can also mean that our work and home life have become intrinsically entwined. A recent study by the Office for National Statistics found that people working from home during lockdown were doing at least six extra hours of unpaid overtime a week. And it is easy to see why. With laptops and computers constantly at the dining table or switched on in the home office, not to mention notifications pinging on your mobile phone, we have become ‘always on’.

Whether it is signing off from work at 5:30pm every day or limiting time on social media or gaming – it is crucial to set boundaries and stick to them. This could be removing your email notifications at the weekend, setting a time where all family members are off their digital devices or being strict about having a digital detox an hour before bed. They key to having a healthy relationship with the online world is not to let it take over your life so putting some clear rules and steps in place will help you strike that balance.”

Georgina continued: “It is clear that the pandemic has supercharged our reliance on technology and that has brought its challenges – but there are also many positives to this. Helping people to stay connected, motivated, inspired and informed, the connection we have felt via our devices has been invaluable. However, as the world opens up once more, now is the time to assess our relationship with our technology and ensure that it remains healthy and happy.”