Digital Detox

Make it your New Year's resolution to go gadget-free once in a while.

Research says one third of women who use social media go on Facebook the second they wake up. In addition, we spend hours each day compulsively checking our email, Twitter, and more. But busy as we might feel, experts say, we’re often not processing much of it; we’re just going through the motions—like zombies. And it all takes a toll on our mood, stress level, and relationships. “We’re never fully engaged in one thing, so we’re never really satisfied,” says Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. We offer tips to start your digital detox.

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See Real Friends

The more time you’re on social-networking sites, the less time you have to hang out. And online interactions are missing the richest parts of relationships. Case in point: A group of students unplugged for 24 hours…and said they got along better with everyone from strangers at the bus stop to their long-term boyfriends because of it. “Right away, they were having longer, deeper conversations,” says Susan Moeller, director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland, which conducted the study. Make regular gadget-free plans. For example, leave your phone in the car during happy hour. “When you build in time away from technology, you’re practicing beneficial social skills,” says Elias Aboujaoude, MD, author of Virtually You. The result: a happier—and friendlier—you. 

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Don’t “Read More”

Ever go online to look up a brunch spot— only to find yourself still clicking on the reviews two hours later? “It’s called fear of missing out,” explains Carr. “You get anxious about possibly not seeing crucial information.” But all that intel is overwhelming, so it’s difficult to absorb or get anything done. Limit yourself to five minutes of recon—that’s all you need to read the essentials. Crave more info? Call someone and ask for a recommendation. 

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Find Your Focus

More gadgets mean more multitasking, but it’s a bad idea. “Our brain can’t focus on several things at the same time,” Carr says. “It’s really just shifting focus very quickly.” Each time you do that, it takes about 64 seconds to return to the level of concentration you had been at. And that adds up to hours of wasted time pretty fast. To start single-tasking, Moeller suggests totally unplugging… but only for a day. We know, we know— just hear us out. “It’ll remind you what one hundred percent present feels like,” she says. “So you can finally start regaining control of your life.”

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