Digital addiction is an increasing problem in 2023. Many adults and children spend the majority of their day with at least a smartphone.
Many also have access to at least one other screen or smart device, typically a computer or video game console. Even at work or school, you are most likely spending time in front of a screen.
While both the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization acknowledge digital addiction as a recognized condition, there is no official clinical diagnosis as of writing.
There are several recognized warning signs to look for. The most obvious is if you experience agitation when you are away from your digital device. An inability to disconnect from your device is another warning sign.
In more severe cases, you may start neglecting important areas, such as work or school. Even if you do not currently suffer from a digital addiction, it is important to practice digital self-care to keep yourself from becoming stressed while using your digital devices.
Studying your Screen Time
It can be easy to lose track of how much time you spend on your phone each day, especially if you divide it into small chunks. It may seem like you only check your phone for a few minutes here and there during your downtime, but these little segments quickly add up.
If you have an iPhone, you can directly check how much time you spend by going into your settings and selecting screen time. This not only displays how often you use your phone, but it also says how much time is spent on each individual app.
Seeing how much time you spend on your phone is a good indicator of whether you need to increase your digital self-care. If you are unhappy with your screen time, you can set app usage under your device settings.
Limit your Notifications
Another way to limit how much time you spend online is shutting off push notifications. Push notifications are the alerts that tell you whenever there is an update to an app or you receive a text message.
Some push notifications are important to keep on, such as whether you are getting a call, but if you excessively use your phone to check social media, turning off push notifications is a great way to disconnect.
If you find yourself getting stressed from constantly checking social media or distracted from your other activities this is a good indicator you would benefit from shutting off notifications.
Clean Up your Apps
Many individuals feel overwhelmed with their phones or computers because of an excess of apps. In some cases, you may find yourself logging into apps out of an obligation. This obligation often leads to an addiction, especially if you are prone to adding more apps.
Take the time every few weeks to go through your apps and see which ones you actively want to use. If you are not ready to delete any, move them to a separate part of your phone or computer. If you have not accessed these apps after a week or two, consider getting rid of them.
Social Media Purge
Most digital self-care focuses on social media. In moderation, social media can be healthy, but it is also a gateway for stressful news and alerts.
Many users get sucked into their social media apps or websites, following new personalities and trying to stay up to date with all their posts. If you find the individuals or groups you follow are stressing you out, assess whether you actually want to be a part of them.
Many individuals use social media as a way to air grievances, which can lead to a string of negative posts. You may initially feel guilty, but there is nothing wrong with leaving or muting certain groups to maintain your sanity.
Another helpful tip is to set reasonable expectations for response time. Many individuals are attached to their phones because they feel pressured to respond to any messages right away. Try and set aside a block of time where you respond to non-urgent messages, such as emails, texts or social media posts.
This not only cuts down on digital addiction, but it can reduce stress by eliminating pressure once you realize you are not letting any of your friends or groups down by not responding to each message immediately.
Setting Screen Limits
One of the best digital self-care routines is limiting when you use your digital devices. A common tip is to start and end your day device free.
If you find yourself checking your phone first thing in the morning, this is a sign you may be addicted to your device. Try and spend the first hour of each morning without looking at your phone or accessing a computer.
In the evening, set a time where you put down your phone and log out of your computer. If possible, avoid bringing any of these devices into your bedroom. If you need to charge a device in your bedroom, turn it off or put it on airplane mode so you are not tempted by any notifications.
If you find your mood improving after you set screen limits, the next step is to extend the limits. Screenless days are a great way to disconnect from your digital devices and focus on more important activities.
Unfortunately, screenless days are not always possible depending on your work or family needs. If you cannot keep your device off for an entire day, at least set aside a few hours where you are disconnected. Try and use this time to do a low-tech activity, such as taking a walk or going out with friends.
Blue Light Concerns
While most of digital self-care focuses on your emotions, there are some physical concerns as well. Digital devices produce blue light. Blue light inhibits how your body creates melatonin, a hormone that contributes to your sleep schedule.
Limiting blue light exposure can improve your sleep schedule, especially if you cut down on nighttime usage. If you need to keep using your screen at night, check to see if your device has a dark mode or bright setting, which limits your blue light exposure.
Another option is to get a pair of blue light protection glasses. These can be especially helpful if you must use your evenings working on a work or school project on your computer.