10 Digital Detox Resolutions for 2021, after a Year on Screens
Happy New Year! Glad 2020 is over as much as we are? Pandemic apart, it’s the time of year where we think about what we’d like to leave behind in the old year (all of it?), and what habits will serve us better in the new one. We’re suggesting ten digital detox resolutions which will make a big difference to your physical and mental health as you start this new year. These ten tweaks will benefit every aspect of your life, improving your relationships, helping you sleep, giving you more time to focus on the things that matter to you, leaving you happier, focused and more productive.
Let’s leave behind what feels like the entire year we spent on screens in 2020 and go into 2021 with an appreciation of how to use screens for good, jettisoning the bad.
10 Digital Detox Resolutions for a Healthier, Happier New Year
#1 Set boundaries
Screen use per se has never been a problem. Screens help us connect, work, and inspire and entertain us. The problem comes when we use screens without any boundaries. Boundaries between work and play, boundaries between day and night, boundaries between essential and time-wasting use. This first of our digital detox resolutions is the most important. Set clear boundaries for your screen use. It doesn’t matter what these are, how small or how ambitious, just set some limits or rules and then monitor how you do against them. You could start with just one hour away from your smartphone a day and see how that feels. Most people find this hard to do when they start, so don’t give up at the first hurdle. Give it a go.
#2 Protect your sleep
Sleep is the first casualty of our screen obsession. When we’re tired we lack the self-control to stop that mindless night-time scrolling that can impact our mental health – and, if we’re spending the time online shopping, can put a serious dent in our pocket. Think about how you can introduce small hurdles to any late-night screen scrolling. If you can’t bear to get an alarm clock and/or put your phone outside the door, plug it in the other side of the bedroom so you have to get out of bed to check it. This deceptively simple hacks cuts down on quite a bit of nocturnal scrolling. Set nighttime mode on your phone and logout of social media apps too, when you go to bed. All of these will give you the time to think about whether you really want to spend another hour on your phone after dark.
#3 Get outside, every day
This isn’t another of those resolutions about taking up running or even jumping on a bike. We simply suggest that you get outside your four walls at least once every day and gently walk to a pre-determined place and back. The point here is that it’s actually harder to walk and scroll (though plenty of people manage it of course), than it is to sit and scroll, and the fresh air and natural daylight will give your Zoom-addled brain and eyes a rest. If you want to go for a run of course, that’s up to you.
#4 Put people before phones
Last year we were very restricted in who we could meet up with face-to-face. Despite this (or maybe because of it), many people reported that even those they were spending the most time with spent hours on their phones ignoring them. Phubbing (snubbing someone for your phone) doesn’t feel good when it happens to you and we’re all guilty of it. Make a resolution that when a choice is presented between a person or a screen, to always choose the person. And seek out opportunities to connect in person more in 2021. We’ve all had enough of video calls to last a decade.
#5 Find mindful alternatives
We’ve written a lot about the joys of yoga, crafting, cookery and puzzles but your mindful activity doesn’t have to be any of these. Simply find something you can do off screens which utterly absorbs you and enables you to completely switch off from everything else going on around you. When we are in a mindful state, also called being ‘in flow’, it gives our brains time to rest and leaves us feeling rested and rejuvenated,. Make 2021 the year you find, or rediscover, what this activity is for you.
#6 Tame notifications
The silicon valley tech companies that design the hardware and software we’re all so in thrall to, make them very difficult to ignore. They buzz, vibrate, ring and interrupt us constantly. With an average of 40 apps on each of our smartphones that’s a lot of notifications. Make 2021 the year you radically cut down on the notifications you get from your smartphone which pull you away from what you’re doing and interrupt your focus. Be ruthless about which notifications are essential and which you can leave behind in 2020. The fewer notifications you get, the better.
#7 Press pause regularly
If you can’t get outside, we want you to at least try some mini-pauses away from your screens, indoors. We suggest you actually schedule these like regular dates with yourself in your diary. That way work and distractions won’t just bleed into time you’ve carved out for yourself. Fifteen minutes, just you and a cup of tea, staring out the window or listening to music, with no smartphone in your hand is a good place to start.
#8 Go audio
When we spend too much time on screens our eyes start to become very sore and ‘gritty’ with the reduced blinking we do. Digital eye strain is on the rise and last year we spent hours more time staring at screens than usual. We suggest that you look for audio alternatives wherever you can to staring at screens in 2021. Podcasts are a brilliant place to start for your entertainment alternatives (we’d love you to try out ours), and audio calls rather than video calls, are another good strategy. Make it your goal to find as many ways as possible to substitute audio for video in 2021.
#9 Keep track (but not obsessively)
If you want to cut down on screen use in 2021 you need to know what the starting point is. Built-in features on iPhones and android devices can all tell you how many hours you’re currently spending on your screens. Don’t get obsessive about tracking, as we think that’s pretty unhealthy too, but arm yourself with the knowledge on the size of the problem right now. Then take action. Check back again in a week or so, to see if any of your changes have made a difference. Then tweak and repeat. Think of it like calorie counting, not a habit you’d want to do for life, but very useful every now and again to get information on your habits.
#10 Eliminate digital junk food
Talking of calories, the last of our digital detox resolutions is about working out what’s healthy and what isn’t, about your existing screen use. “But we need our screens for connection, for work, for navigation” we hear whenever the subject of digital detox comes up. Well, of course you do. But you know as well as we do, that that type of screen use isn’t the problem. It’s the two hours you spend on Instagram when you only jumped on to check the latest updates. It’s the hours spent doom scrolling when you meant to check one news site for the headlines. In the same way that you know what food is healthy and what’s junk, the best thing you can do for yourself in 2021 is to work out the same for your screen use. We bet you know already where the problem areas are. Tackle them! If you can keep the productive and inspiring aspects of the digital world, cutting down on the toxic and time-wasting, this will be the most life-enhancing of all of our digital detox resolutions. Good luck, we’re rooting for you!
If you need more practical help and inspiration, our digital detox course has a 40% discount until 31st January 2021, with the discount code NEWYEAR40, to help you with all your digital detox and digital wellbeing resolutions this year.