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Digital detox: instruction manual

Smartphones are ever-present in our lives, and in the space of a few years have become as indispensable as they are toxic. Life without a phone? Impossible! Yet from the most radical of programs to the simplest of habits, you can learn to like flight mode!

Why on earth should we go without our precious phones? Well for starters, to find out just how addicted we are! Our smartphones have taken over an absurdly large part of our lives. Are you not sure you’ve remembered a date correctly? Check Wikipedia. A sudden urge to buy something? Quick, just tap on Amazon! An appointment with your optician? We no longer know how to get there without using the Google Maps or City Mapper app. It makes you wonder how we ever managed before!

At the present time, 1 in 5 people (here in France at least) state that they are addicted to their mobile phone!

So what’s the flip side? Low-level anxiety, difficulty falling asleep or getting back to sleep (especially after checking your e-mails in the middle of the night!), a shorter attention and concentration span… Basically, in a society where we are expected to cover every front, it’s important to allow yourself a digital detox from time to time, to carry out a reset.

Here are a few ideas to follow up, with their various degrees of difficulty and foreseeable benefits. Don’t forget to post a short note in your Instagram stories to say that you’re starting your “zero screen time” break in earnest, to get some quality sleep and bring your energy levels back up.

Put your phone in the hallway… Until tomorrow morning.


Level of difficulty: medium.

This is a new habit to get into. If you decide that from 22:00 onwards the phone is off limits, it will allow you to switch off every evening and really put your brain on pause. Instead of checking the latest Instagram posts added by your “friends”, you can read. That way, your brain won’t be overstimulated by your phone screen’s blue light before you go to sleep!

Benefits: a better night’s sleep, on condition that you invest in an alarm clock. Because you’ll also want to avoid sleeping within reach of your phone’s electromagnetic field. Plus, if you wake up in the night, you won’t go checking your social media accounts.

Set aside one or more days “without”

Level of difficulty: high.

Alone or as a family, you can decide not to check your phone for the entire weekend. To do so, you can take it in stages. On weekend 1 of the detox, don’t check your social media accounts (even if it means uninstalling apps). The following month, on weekend 2 of the detox, it’s no phone for the entire weekend. If the idea of being uncontactable makes you anxious, explain the situation to a friend or family member who will be able to pass messages on in case of emergency. In a similar way to the “phone-free” weekend, you can declare that you’re having a phone-free day once a week. As terrible as is sounds, you absolutely can live your life without being stuck to your smartphone. At work, it might mean dedicating a day to a creative task, or one that involves writing. Again, if the idea of missing a super-important call makes you flip out, you can of course alert your workmates by e-mail (“sorry, I’ve “forgotten” my mobile, am contactable by e-mail”). Alternatively you can check the incoming call and SMS logs at noon and at 18:00. It’s a first step, at least. Easier still, switch off for just a few hours, while you complete a task without being interrupted.

Benefits: this is the best way to have a proper break, refocus on your needs and recharge your batteries while staying at home. As for days off grid during the week, they are perfect for when you have a task to complete that warrants several hours of your attention.

Going out without your phone


Level of difficulty: high.

What’s the most difficult thing about doing a digital detox? Not being tempted to check your phone or tablet, even absent-mindedly. So what’s the solution? To leave your phone behind and go out without it (yes, you can do it!). You can do so incrementally. For thirty minutes to start with, while you do some shopping. Then several hours, for example for a full dinner with friends or an excursion into the countryside. Once you’re back home, keep your mind busy with a manual or intellectual pursuit (cooking, DIY, meditation, reading, etc.). Anything to stop you calling out for your phone!

Benefits: being fully connected to the here and now, and favouring real relationships. It’s also the best way to connect with people again, for example by asking for directions or information rather than automatically reaching for your smartphone!

Pick out time slots

Level of difficulty: super easy.

Basically, it’s about deciding not to check your work e-mails at the weekend and in the evenings, to spend no more than an hour on social media, to drop by and check your dashboard and messages on a dating site twice a week, etc.. Also, don’t forget to unsubscribe from useless notifications and put a STOP to advertising messages. And most importantly, don’t forget to mute most WhatsApp chats so you won’t be disturbed.

Benefits: taking back control of your smartphone. You’re the boss!

Favouring human contact

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Level of difficulty: super easy.

So it’s Chloe’s birthday? Then why not call her instead of sending her an underwhelming text message? The same goes for certain people listed among your contacts which whom you rarely speak. Maybe it’s time you sorted through your contacts in any case? Because contact, the real thing where eyes meet, deserves your undivided attention, too. Don’t be so rude as to reply to a message during a face-to-face conversation with someone. There’s a digital-era name for this breach of etiquette: “phubbing” (a contraction of phone and snubbing).

Benefits: a little human warmth on the other end of the phone is worth all the smileys in the world!

And if none of these solutions suit you, be aware that there are also detox programs that are as radical as they are costly. So what’s the idea? To have your phone confiscated while you go and relax in the spa, and pick it up at the end of your stay. Not so bad!

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