The most flattering thing in the world is to have someone’s undivided attention. However, since most of us are constantly within earshot and arm’s reach of an array of bleeping, buzzing digital devices, it’s becoming an ever rarer commodity. By being ‘always on’, it means we’re switching off from real intimacy with our loved ones. While digital devices can serve a purpose to keep in touch when we’re apart from those we love, when we’re actually with them they often serve as a distraction.
So what can we do about it? A digital detox is a good place to start. The key first step for anyone considering such a detox is to be honest and address the impact too much time spent on our digital devices has. As per any ‘addiction’ we’re unlikely to succeed in conquering our vice without having the adequate motivation i.e. we need to see a potential pay-off or benefit for going to the effort of breaking a ‘comfortable’ pattern. So it might be interesting to address how much your phone/laptop/tablet is pulling focus from your loved ones when you’re spending time with them. When was the last time you had a date or did something fun together and left your phone at home? How much are you missing out on by being constantly distracted by alerts and bleeps?
- Be honest – assess what your digital habits are ‘costing’ you and how much they’re impacting your life. What would your life and relationships be like if you could control your use of digital devices?
- Motivation: focus on what you’ll get from curtailing your usage – really this is contingent on the first point. To change behaviour, we need to be motivated and for this we have to see a clear potential benefit.
- Appoint a mentor – someone you trust and really supports you in your endeavor. Check in with them on a weekly basis or more often if you’re struggling. Having to report to someone we respect and who wants the best for us can really help focus our efforts as it makes us accountable.
- Notice how your significant relationships are improving. Sometimes we take the positive aspects of a change in behaviour forgranted. I notice this a lot in my client work. It’s important to recognise our achievements as it reaffirms our positive behaviour, making lapsing back to the old way of being less appealing.
However, do bear in mind that breaking habitual patterns of behaviour can be difficult to do alone. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it takes humility and maturity to take that step. A course of psychotherapy could be worth considering to help support you while you attempt to change your digital habits.
Hilda Burke is a UKCP and BACP accredited psychotherapist. She works as an integrated psychotherapist, life coach and couples counsellor from her consulting room in Shepherds Bush, West London. Hilda trained as a transpersonal psychotherapist at CCPE, London and also holds a post graduate certificate in dream work from the same institution. Her aim in working with clients is to help clear the obstacles to enable them to be able to listen to themselves, to be true to themselves and to become fully authentic. Hilda believes the ultimate goal of therapy is to facilitate clients to become their own therapist! Hilda is regularly called upon to comment on issues relating to well-being, relationships and the challenges of modern life in the media and has been featured in The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Marie Claire and the Daily Mail amongst others.