Micael Widell

Digital mini-detox

/ stress

When did you turn off your smartphone the last time (flying doesn't count...)? A pause that lasted at least an hour? Are you one of the people who sleep next to your phone, and constantly have it in your pocket everywhere you go? Do you check your phone every time you have 5 seconds to spare, ie. a hundred times per day? A recent study by the American Psychological Association reveals that 43% of Americans are "constant checkers", and as much as 86% say they check e-mails, texts or social media "often."

The APA study also shows what you might have suspected; the ones who identified themselves as "constant checkers" also report to be more stressed on average than people who check their phone less frequently. It is hard to find the right balance here. We need our smartphone to stay connected and informed, or at least that's what we tell ourselves. But there are a lot of app developing companies and social networks who put huge efforts into getting us to spend more time checking our smartphone. There are a lot of companies out there who are leveraging your psychological weaknesses to get you to spend more time with their service.


Today I would like to give you a small homework. If you identify yourself as part of the 86% who constantly or often check their smartphone, decide to be without it for an hour or two, just to see what happens. An easy way of doing this without falling for the temptation to grab your phone, is to just take a long walk while leaving the phone at home. When was the last time you left your house for over an hour without bringing your phone?

I tried this today, and I actually enjoyed it a lot. You feel that some subtle stress that has been nagging at you in a non-obvious way, suddenly evaporates. You feel a lot more relaxed than normally. It feels incredible and it gives you a taste of how much the smartphone actually increases your stress levels on a normal day.

When you do this experiment, make sure to not bring any music device or similar with you. That's cheating :) You want to be just by yourself, not distracted or interrupted in your thoughts by anything. As this is something we do so seldom nowadays, it almost feels like meditation. It is such a contrast to your normal everyday life. So today's homework is to leave your phone and any other digital devices at home while going for an hour long walk.

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