Earlier this month, the phrase "digital detox" began trending for the first time on Twitter. I know; the irony didn't escape me, either. But what sparked the sudden surge in conversation about digital detoxing and smartphone addiction? Ofcom published a report which confirmed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that nearly 60% of British adults admit to being "hooked" to their internet-connected devices. The same study also found that one in three adults have sought a period of time offline - showing that the concept of the digital detox is on the rise.
A few months ago, I myself embarked on a digital detox retreat with Time to Log Off. In May, I handed in my smartphone and headed to a masseria in the Puglian countryside for a week completely offline. Ever the sceptic, I was convinced I didn't need it. I knew I was addicted to my phone; as a travel blogger I seem to be switched on via social media nearly 24/7. But, much like any addict I suppose, I believed mine was something of an opt-in compulsion. The old "I can quit any time I want" kind of addiction. It took a week completely cold turkey to force me to face up to just how much I'm glued to my phone, and also to remind me exactly what I've been missing by living life behind a screen.
The remainder of this post was originally published on my blog. Here's what I discovered on my digital detox...
Conversations Got Richer
Over the course of a week, I found myself connecting much more deeply with the people around me. Without phones to distract us, our group talked a lot more openly, and shared much more. It was so refreshing to have real, in-depth conversations with a group of people, without anyone's attention darting away to a screen. Without distractions, our conversations were much richer and more interesting, and I felt far more connected than I usually do in my super-connected digital world.
Top Tip: Put your phone away when you meet up with friends or loved ones, and give them your full attention. Better still, leave it at home!
My Sleep Improved
All of us agreed, by the end of the week, that we were sleeping much better. Time to Log Off publish their retreat survey results, and people rated their sleep quality 8.5 out of ten on average after, compared to an average of 4.5 before. Not looking at my phone in bed dramatically improved my sleep quality; by the end of the week, I was falling asleep almost instantly, and waking up refreshed and rested, instead of groggy. And there's a scientific explanation for this: phones emit a blue light that suppresses the production of melatonin (the chemical that triggers sleep) in the brain, making it much harder to fall asleep after screen time.
Top Tip: Stop using your phone as an alarm, and leave it outside your bedroom at night.
I Wasn't Bored
My big fear before the retreat was boredom. But in actual fact, I didn't feel bored once during the whole digital detox. Our days were full, with two yoga sessions a day, meditative silent walks, reading by the pool, cooking lessons, hikes, and trips to nearby towns. More importantly, I was completely engaged in every activity we tried. I wasn't tweeting what I was doing, or thinking about a story angle. I simply experienced every moment in the here and now- and felt much more connected as a result.
Top Tip: Find a hobby to fill spare time instead of mindlessly scrolling. Origami, knitting, and adult colouring books are all great ways to focus your mind!
I Didn't Miss Anything
This was what surprised me most. One of the reasons I check my phone so often is a fear of missing out - on work opportunities, funny conversations with friends, or simply whatever might be happening online. After the digital detox, I came home to over 300 emails - of which only about 50 needed a reply - and about 75 social media notifications that required action. It took a matter of hours to catch up on it all. I didn't lose out on any work, and I really didn't miss anything at all by taking a week off the internet. Which proves that I can easily take at least one full day off a week without missing a thing.
Top Tip: Switch your phone off for a full 24 hours and see how much you miss!
Read More: Get the full story about my Digital Detox in this post.
Do you need to take some time off the internet, or are these offline retreats overrated? I'd love to hear your thoughts!