The Benefits of a Digital Detox
Technology – of all sorts – has become a pretty deeply entrenched aspect of modern life. Even for athletes, heart rate monitors, smart watches, headphones, smartphones, GPS and lots of other bits of tech litter the health and fitness landscape. And these things can be incredibly valuable tools. For the first time, you can receive powerful insights into your training, performance and progress in ways that used to be only achievable in a lab.
At the same time, though, recent research suggest that society may be going overboard in regards to it’s reliance on all of these gadgets. In fact, many experts have started suggesting a digital detox. But, why? And what, exactly, is this so-called digital detox?
Defining The Detox
Put simply, a digital detox involves abstaining from the use of technology for a set length of time. As you might imagine, though, this can be done a number of different ways. And that’s really it.
The precise details on how to design your personal detox will follow later but, for now, it’s good to understand that there is an immense amount of variability here. Depending on your individual needs, desires and situation, your detox might last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and could exclude just one particularly problematic device or be a totally luddite experience.
Either way, a digital detox is going to require some pretty significant adjustments. So… why bother?
Tech and You
In order to fully understand the benefits of a digital detox, it’s important to be clear about what all that tech is doing to you. Logically, the typical concern in regards to technology is that it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. This issue, however, doesn’t really apply to you – you hardworking athlete, you.
Still, there’s a pretty strong chance that you spend a large chunk of your working hours at a desk working with some type of digital device. Even when you aren’t working, you’re probably interacting with tech in some way – whether it’s a TV, your smartphone or some other device. In fact, statistics in 2015 found that the average person spends 11 hours each day using some form of digital technology.
In practical terms, this means that you’re going to spend a lot of time – over two-thirds of your waking hours – sitting or otherwise looking down at one screen or another. This is not a natural, or even sustainable, position for the human frame. Various aches, pains and even injuries can result with the neck and lower back being especially vulnerable.
All that time looking at a screen also places excess strain on your eyes. Over time, this could have a negative impact on your vision eventually leading to nearsightedness and other issues.
It’s also important to point out that, in some situations, all that tech you rely on for your workouts might just a distraction. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone but you may find that you are so worried about fussing with your phone, watch or other gadgets that you aren’t giving your run your full attention.
Your Brain in a Box
Speaking of attention, the way that all of that technology impacts your brain is the real concern of most experts. This effect is so powerful, in fact, that many people have started to use the fitting – if slightly inaccurate – term “digital dementia” to describe what’s going on in your skull.
Various studies have suggested that a reliance on the readily-available information on the internet teaches your brain that you simply don’t need to retain as much knowledge. Basically, you train your brain to believe that there’s an external hard drive out there storing all of that information so there’s no need to use your internal space. Further research, though, has even shown that an overuse of technology can physically change the structure of your brain – encouraging an underdeveloped right side in teenagers.
Constant exposure to social media and various apps that display rewards and notifications, can also manipulate the reward function of your brain. Each time to you receive a like, follow request or any other type of notification, your brain gives you a little bit of dopamine as a reward. For some people, this could actually become an addiction, making it that much more difficult to cut back on screen time.
But that steady line of communication also means that you are also always within arm’s reach of your family, friends and work. And, while this might be incredibly useful sometimes, it could also increase the amount of stress placed on your brain. After all, your boss can now get to you any time of day, any day of the week.
How To Do It
Cutting yourself off from tech even if just for a little while, then, can protect the health of both your brain and body in some very significant ways. So, how can you do it?
First, take a look at your schedule and situation to see what’s realistic for you. Decide what devices you can do without when in a way that will not have a negative influence on your work or other relationships. If your job, for example, requires you to sit in front of a computer all day it’s probably not a good idea to try to go 24 hours without a device during the week. That’s just not practical.
Remember as well, that it’s probably best to start slow. Rather than diving into a full day of detox, it might be more feasible for you to simply block off an hour or two each day. In addition to helping you reduce your reliance on tech, this little deviceless chunks of time can give you a chance to clear your head. For this reason, setting this time at either the end or beginning of your day is probably the best strategy.
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