It sometimes feels like my entire life is lived out virtually these days. As a full time travel blogger, I work online. I stay in touch with friends and family digitally. I do courses and watch videos to learn new skills… online. Heck, I’m even dating online.
Almost every aspect of my life involves the net in some way. So when I agreed to take a digital detox in Italy for a week – with no phone, no laptop, and no net of any kind – I was more than a little worried. But that week surprised me in a lot of ways. It also taught me some pretty important lessons. These are a few of the biggest…
Before the detox, I was very sceptical. I knew I used my phone and laptop too much, but I didn’t think it was excessive. I certainly wasn’t addicted. Or was I?
Going cold turkey for a week proved to me how frequently I’d normally use my phone – and it worried me. More and more studies are suggesting that internet addiction is very real. Many smartphone behaviours are pretty unhealthy: constantly checking your phone, refreshing social media sites over and over for notifications, or using your phone as a crutch when you have to face an awkward situation or wait in a queue. It might not feel like an addiction, but it’s probably not that healthy either.
That was my big fear before I left for the week. That I’d be bored without my phone and laptop. I was going to spend a whole week with a group of complete strangers, and we wouldn’t even have TV to fill our awkward silences.
It was such a silly thing to worry about – because of course there was so much to do once I put my phone down. We sunbathed, swam, read, hiked, did yoga, chatted. We did a puzzle together one night as a group – a lovely, simple bonding exercise. We had cooking lessons, and went out to a nearby town to see the sights. In fact, we were so busy that I didn’t miss my phone once. The digital detox was anything but boring.
Something that really surprised me was how rich our conversations were as a group. With no phones to distract us, we had no choice but to get to know one another. And I felt a lot more connected to that group of people than I had to anyone in a very long time.
When I talk to my friends and family, it’s usually online. It feels like being connected – but it’s only a superficial connection. When you put the phones away and take time to actually speak to people in real life, it’s astonishing how much more connected you feel. These days, I try to pick up the phone and talk instead, or my friends and I exchange voice notes when we can’t meet face to face. It’s a small step, but it’s made a big difference.
After my digital detox, every member of our group agreed that our sleep had improved. I normally struggle to fall asleep, and wake up tired and grumpy. By the end of the week I was falling asleep almost as soon as getting into bed, and waking up (to a real alarm clock, not a phone) feeling refreshed. This is simple science. Phones emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin in the brain – the chemical that triggers sleep. Put your phone away an hour before bed, and you’ll probably notice a difference.
When my digital detox was over, I had plenty of notifications, and loads of unread emails. But only one of them was urgent – and even that waited patiently until I was back from my trip. Very few things in life need an instant reply, so is there really a need to be switched on 24/7?
Taking a digital detox was a big challenge for me – but one which I absolutely loved. These days I try to take steps towards a healthier balance between online and reality. It’s hard, but I genuinely think it’s done me the world of good.
To escape the daily grind for a little while, these are the spas where peace reigns and you can leave your phone in the changing room locker, preferably on Flight mode…
Choose what you want to get out of your spa break with the Your Health, Your Way retreat at Lifehouse Spa in Essex. The contemporary escape is a haven for foodie, health gurus and those just wanting a bit of space in which to read a good book. Opt for detox and cleanse, weight loss, or standard wellness menus.
Detox mind, body and soul at the spa haven that is Champneys. This famed oligarch of the spa world has all the facilities and a beautiful environment for treatments and relaxation, you really won’t have time for your iPhone… and that’s assuming you could get signal anyway.
Beautiful grounds and a phenomenal range of facilities are key attractions at Ragdale Hall, where this charming red brick building houses a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Spend a little time in the Though Zone and then follow it up with a blitz in the Cave Shower which is complete with its own thunderstorm – that ought to clear away any e-smog!
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