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Dec17 Tech Time Tonl 1

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If there’s one thing that seems to unite Americans, it’s an obsession with technology—according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 86 percent of respondents say they’re constantly or often checking their emails, texts, and social media accounts.

But this around-the-clock connectivity is also found to have a negative impact on stress levels.

“There’s a lot of talk about how being really present in the moment is what calms us down and makes us feel happiness, so being 24/7 connected to the digital world means we’re just not experiencing our real lives anymore,” says Tanya Goodin, a digital detox specialist and author of the book Off. Add in the pressure for perfection (courtesy of ultra-curated Instagram feeds), the polarizing political climate, plus the work expectation that you’ll be reachable even when you’re not at the office, and we’ve reached what Goodin dubs “a tipping point—where everyone’s had too much.”

If you’re ready to get control of your digital life, you don’t need to log off forever or revert back to your flip phone to make a meaningful—and sustainable—change. Here’s Goodin’s advice for reclaiming your tech time.

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Eliminate the digital junk food

“The problem isn’t the digital world; the problem is we’re consuming uncontrollably,” says Goodin. She considers things like reading the news, connecting with friends, even watching a movie as a positive way to use the internet. It’s what she dubs “digital junk food”—“where we’re scrolling endlessly”—that’s causing the problem. Becoming aware of what type of content you’re spending your time on is the first step towards getting your digital consumption under control.

Create boundaries

Goodin recommends introducing digital limits based around time and place. “If you set a boundary around time it might be, ‘I won’t check emails before breakfast,’ or, ‘I’ll try to be off screens on a Sunday.’ It’s a specific time when you’re saying you’re going to put your device away,” she explains. For place, “the first boundary is to stop taking your phone into the bathroom,” Goodin says. (Yes, she knows that we all secretly scroll through Twitter on the toilet.)

She also points to setting boundaries around not bringing your phone to the table for meals or into your bedroom. “Buy an alarm clock, because digital junk food is most often consumed late at night or in the morning,” she adds.  

Turn off notifications

“There are a lot of things you can do with the device itself to check it less,” says Goodin. She has all of her notifications turned off (18 months and counting), so that her phone isn’t constantly buzzing for her attention. She also recommends moving social media apps off of your home screen, so that it’s that much more difficult to log in to them.

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Buddy up

Goodin was recently working with a client who told her about how, whenever he studies with a friend, they take each other’s phones to cut out distractions. “It’s really neat that they’ve worked out that they need someone else to take their phone from them,” she says. “Maybe we all do that—like you have a workout partner, a training partner.”

Take baby steps

If you’re not sure you can leave your phone behind for long stretches of time, Goodin says it’s fine to start small. One place to start? The next time you need to pick up a roll of toilet paper from the corner store, she suggests going sans cell. “The first time I say to people, ‘Leave your phone at home,’ they freak out—but when they do it, they say it’s actually fine. Anticipating being without the phone is far worse than actually doing it,” notes Goodin. In reality, she says, “You can take time off screen and nothing bad happens—and you come back refreshed.”

Get more digital detox advice from Tanya Goodin in her book, OffArticles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.