Christmas is the perfect time for a digital detox – it’s much less likely your boss will email, so it’s easier to put down that smartphone.
But many of us don’t – meaning that we don’t get the full benefit of time off.
Most of us look at our smartphones for around five hours per day – checking the gadgets hundreds of times every day (and sometimes during the night).
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Around 11% of people in Western countries are thought to suffer from some form of technology addiction, according to Professor Ofir Turel of California State University, Fullerton.
Life strategist Collette Reilly says, ‘If a complete digital detox brings you out in a cold sweat, start small. Delete social media apps from your phone to break that see – click habit.
‘Change your notification settings to disallow them to stop your devices enticing you to check in.’
If you can’t quite face the idea of going ‘cold turkey’ here’s some tips to cut down your tech usage over the festive period.
Use an app
It might sound paradoxical, but one of the best ways to monitor and control your technology usage is to install an app.
There’s several out there (search for ‘apps to control phone time’ and you’ll see a list).
We tried Offtime, which is available for iOS and Android
The app lets you block notifications, block calls and restrict distracting apps such as Facebook (you choose which apps you need, and it blocks the others).
For a more full-on experience, Flipd lets you lock your phone for a set period of time, and you can’t access anything.
If you struggle to turn your phone off entirely – and most of us do – use a timer to challenge yourself.
Larry Rosen a psychology professor at California State University says that the constant stream of ‘pings’ and updates on phones is addictive.
Rosen suggests that cutting down is the key – and says that putting yourself on a schedule can work.
Rosen suggests allowing yourself to check your phone for a few minutes, on the hour.
He also suggests boosting your attention span gradually, using an attention span test with your phone’s timer.
Rosen says, ‘Keep doing that until you get to a point where your alarm goes off and you say, ‘Wait, I want to finish what I’m doing.’
Set your phone to silent and put it out of sight
The key thing many of us need to ‘detox’ from is the tiny ‘buzz’ of pleasure we get from all those notifications from email, Facebook, Twitter and other apps.
A good way to get this is to put your phone to silent (not vibrate) and leave it out of sight.
Just leaving your phone in another room can boost your brain power, according to researchers from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
In tests of cognitive function, people who had left their phones in another room outperformed people with phones in their pockets or on the table.
The volunteers completed puzzles – some with a smartphone on the desk face down, some with it in their pocket, and some with their phones in another room.
Turn off notifications from apps
An easy way to cut down on the stress from phones is to turn off notifications from apps such as Facebook.
That way you can still know if, for instance, you’re Uber’s arriving, but you won’t be pestered with notifications about stuff on Facebook.
On both iPhone and Android, you’ll find options to mute notifications under Settings > Notifications.
Former Google product manager Tristan Harris says that the ‘notification streams’ used by apps such as Facebook are designed to excite our brains like slot machines.
Harris told CBS News, : ‘Every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, “What did I get?”
‘This is one way to hijack people’s minds and create a habit, to form a habit.
‘What you do is you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward, an exciting reward.
Switch your phone to flight mode at night
Horrifyingly, one in three of us are so addicted to our phones we check them during the night, according to a Deloitte report.
That goes up to one in two when we’re talking about 18-24 year olds.
But checking Facebook at 3am can damage your life – with one-third of people saying the habit causes arguments, and sleep experts warning that it can damage health.
Switch off your work email
Forty percent of us check work emails at least five times a day even outside of working hours, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.
Christmas is the perfect time to actually leave that inbox alone: so switch on your out of hours message and ensure you don’t look at.
Researchers at the Future Work Centre in London said that access to work email via mobiles has become a ‘double edged sword’.
The team surveyed almost 2,000 working people across a range of industries and occupations in the UK about the pros and cons of using email.
They found that two of the most stressful habits were leaving email on all day and checking emails early in the morning and late at night.