5 realistic digital detox habits for a mindful life

Recently, I have had a moment of realisation that everything that I’ve done have revolved around using my laptop, social media and my phone.

“You don’t say?”

It’s like I have this subconscious attachment towards my laptop and phone that I’ve started seeing them as essentials to who I am as a person. I mean I went all deep and started asking myself “Would I be good in anything had I not depend so much on technology?” or “Would I actually be actively socialising if social media doesn’t exist?”

It was on a Wednesday evening and I had just returned home with a laptop in my bag.

But being a workaholic as I claim myself to be, I went to the usual room where I’d usually spend myself writing or working on some personal project.
During a brief moment of silence, I stared blankly at a wall while embracing the emptiness in front of me.

It was only when my phone and laptop were out of my sight that I’ve realised how liberating it can be to be away from them without that agitation of wondering where they are—especially my phone. I was at a complete state of mindfulness. 

Everything on the desk was organic—from paper to journal to colour pencils. I ended up doodling and writing in my journal for a half an hour to quench my thirst for creative expression.

It was that moment I’ve realised that I’ve been spending way too much time online—from constantly checking my social media to emails to just mindlessly turning on my laptop “to do work”.

Whether you’re fully employed or  when you’re working on your personal projects, it’s so easy to lose yourself and get easily burnt out. And that can take a toll on ourselves, especially if you’re highly-sensitive or someone who’s possibly easily overwhelmed.

*

Actually, I’ve done some digital detox for a number of times in the past especially on a week when I didn’t feel good about myself or simply because I was rather overloaded with information from the net.

“What is digital detox anyway?”

Well… it simply means you’ve pledged to “fast” from the digital world.

However, I’d like to remind you that my definition of digital detox may be different from yours. Realistically, throughout my digital detox week, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was impossible to be completely away from anything digital. I still scour through the net for some good articles and read my e-books.

And it wasn’t like I’ve decided to live off the grid for a couple of weeks and only to return home and relapse—

no.

I didn’t do anything major but some physically simple steps. The only major changes that I’ve started doing was a lot to do with how I’d deal with myself within. 

The exercise that I’ve done has been more towards trying to understand my emotions and mindset. And the one thing that has helped me go through this experience is to actually start implementing mindfulness in everything that I do.

And of course, there come a lot of perks of being a Muslim. Basically, we do this daily—5 times throughout the day—from before dawn until the peak of night time even if it is still so difficult to be highly focused during prayers.

But, isn’t it when only during the moments when we are completely aware of our acts of worship that we’d actually feel a lot more connected with God?

On the pursuit of discovering some self-care habits, I decided that what more could be useful than to start cleansing my self from this technology madness, right?

1. I reduced consumption rather than completely blocking them all out.

Let’s be real here: it’s impossible to not use your phone on a daily basis. You need to text people and call sometimes. What I did was simple: set a maximum hour in a day that I would use my laptop and phone.

One thing that I would like to emphasize here is my use of social media. I logged out of my social media accounts and disabled them.

I didn’t delete them because I recognised that I would need to use them someday whether it be to share some contents or simply to see what my close friends and family are up to—that is if they are active anyway.

And let me tell you one crucial thing that I’ve learned being offline from social media.

It isn’t that I’ve done more nor have I become more productive instantly. Nor was it that I’ve realised how social media was the direct culprit for my bad habits like procrastination as—in the end of the day—I’ve had a few inner struggles that I needed to work on.

I’ve realised being offline didn’t make me automatically productive or self-disciplined with my time.

It needed time. It started from within. The way that social media is engineered is just smart. It is tailored to cater our short attention spans that you could instantly watch the next recommended video without having to click on them or have a related content next to the one you’re currently on.

It’s really more to how you’d use social media than let how social media has used you, get it?

2. I’d also disable push notifications for all apps except those that are to do with productivity.

This is simple and straightforward.

No notifications = no curiosity. No curiosity = no distractions. No distractions = some things get done.

As someone who enjoys journal-ing and doodling, I’ve always preferred to set my goals and plans written in paper rather than having them all  crunched in my phone. The only productivity apps that I use in my phone are the prayer app and google calendar.

I also silent some group chats that I know wouldn’t contribute to my productivity. Hence, the only bings-and-dings that I’ll hear are ones from an individual chat and work-related chats.

3. Only one day for a complete and total digital detox out of one week.

Currently, I am trying to minimise my phone and laptop time on Sundays because it’s Sunday, you know?

Going back to point 1, it is difficult to not be completely away from the digital world. But I have done this on multiple occasions when I just refused to check or watch anything.  It’s really hard to recall a time when I’ve successfully done this but it would be when I would indulge in nature or when I’ve had a deep conversations with some close friends and family.

What is one moment where you’ve seen yourself not engaging digitally? A place where there are no phones, tablets, laptops—you name it. Start with that. 

4. I left my phone where I wanted it to be rather than having them locked in my room or somewhere hidden.

I’ve tried to hide and put my phone away from where I could see them but honestly, it was short-term. So short-term that I couldn’t even stop thinking about my phone and laptop. You know… the more you avoid it, the more they seem irresistible to you? Yeah, that.

So I actually resisted myself by having more books in front of me—sometimes scattered at locations in the house where I’d usually go—so that I would have the possibility to choose my books than my phone. I’ve done disservice to my love for books (I mean, you should read it because you want to and not because you’re forced to) but it was my desperate measure to test myself how far would I go without my phone.

It took a lot of practice and mindfulness. Overtime, it has become a lot easier to gain some self-control.

5. I knew exactly why I wanted to detox digitally.

The reason behind my digital detox was that I wanted to know why I’ve had some concealed emotions when I used social media.

I started feeling so affected by what I saw on social media and how successful people around me have become.

And I even started thinking about my friends who were no longer active on social media—they must be so busy that they just don’t have the time to check their social media. They’re living the life!

But why? Why exactly did I feel that way?

It was because I knew I wasn’t satisfied with my life and needed to make a change. It wasn’t easy to get out of the mindset that I’d be stuck being unemployed and broke for a long time 

And really… it was more than that. I doubt all the time; I am not a risk-taker.

But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t find my way to achieve my goals. I just need time to process and find ways to finally for myself to be completely in sync what what I’d like to achieve.

Even if I couldn’t believe in myself, I believed that everything has to happen for a reason—that God has planned exactly what He wants for me to experience, feel and learn.

But more than how emotionally involved I have become with social media—which I honestly thought I never would be—my aim with digital detox has always been to give me some space to recollect my thoughts and start practicing mindfulness especially between daily prayer times or during times when I can’t pray.

I hated my habit of scrolling down the social media mindlessly. They waste my mental space which I really could have used them somewhere else.

I also hated that I’d sometimes text while talking with someone (I know… it’s rude) when I should’ve been more attentive.

I also hated that I’d need to pretend to use my phone to appear busy when I was just going through social media—over and over again.

Mindfulness has been so crucial to me so that I’ve become aware of my feelings and thoughts especially because these affect the way that I would talk and treat other people. It’s not like I needed to present my best self all the time but it is to allow myself to reflect on the mistakes that I’ve done—without judgement but for self-betterment.

When I do get carried away with my feelings or feel overwhelmed, I knew that it was because I’ve reached my threshold and would need another session of digital detox.

People put their best selves on social media. It’s not easy to put yourself out there and be all vulnerable—to show you how sad or how inferior you feel. I get it. I’ve been there too. The feelings are real but our perceptions are not always real—in fact, most of them are bogus. 

But I am not saying you should change the way you use social media. You do what you think would suit you. And that should also open your opportunities to explore what you love doing instead of what you love having. 

I guess my point is this: I hope that you wouldn’t feel that you need to limit your self-growth just because you think you don’t have enough by comparing  yourself with other people have achieved or done with their lives.

Everybody has their own struggles; you and I know that but somehow, our brains are wired to have this consumerist mindset—a mindset that what you and I don’t have enough. And I am so guilty of this too.

But I’d also like to remind you that my way doesn’t have to be your way if you’d like to start implementing digital detox in your life.

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The results to my digital detox sessions have varied. I’ve started only this year by the way.

I’ve started writing more with a clearer intention and mind. I’ve read more books than I could’ve if I was constantly attached to my gadgets. I’ve learned that social media is not that bad as some people may have perceived them to be. I’ve learned that our mindset strongly influences the way we portray our lives and others—that we are the product of what we’ve set ourselves to be (to a certain extent of course). I’ve also learned that it’s not that scary to express myself.

Sometimes, it’s just nice to step away from the screen (which is ironic as I’ve been sitting here for the past 2 hours) and just start noticing what’s in front of  you or look up to see how beautiful the sky is today/tonight.

Because let’s be real here: it’s scientifically proven that social media changes the way our brain works. And we crave for novelty all the time. The internet, technology and everything in between feed us with novelty.

Even if you don’t want to have a prim and proper way to do it—just for a moment—start engaging with things around you organically. I mean, don’t even take a photo of the sunset or the beautiful bright fullmoon. Or whatever it is that you enjoy doing.

Be present.

Be attentive.

Listen.

Just embrace it the way that it is. And praise the Lord for letting you witness His irreplaceable and inimitable creations.

And with that, I think I might need to start having another session of digital detox.

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