The average person now checks their phone 85 times a day, according to research published in the scientific journal Plos One. This adds up to a total of five hours: a third of the time that we are typically awake.
Being constantly glued to our smartphone screens, along with many of us spending our working day at a computer, is having a negative effect on our health and wellbeing, diminishing concentration levels and disrupting sleep. Rather worryingly, according to a report published in Time magazine, we now have a lower concentration span than a goldfish, averaging between eight and 12 seconds. Perhaps it's because we are so exhausted: the artificial blue light emitted by our laptops, tablets and phones suppresses the hormone melatonin, which aids sleep by up to 22 per cent.
Engaging in Whatsapp group chats, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, updating Instagram or reading your emails may seem harmless, but we all know the feeling of dependence on our mobiles; sometimes the constant diversion to a screen can become a compulsion. According to a report by Ofcom, a third of us (34 per cent) are well aware of our addiction to technology and have actively sought a digital detox.
So how do we switch off? With so much of our lives led online it can be tough to go entirely cold turkey, but changing your habits or taking breaks can make all the difference. Here are our tips for tuning out and reconnecting with the real world.
Try a digital-detox retreat
It may seem like bliss to be checking in with the office or scrolling through your Instagram feed from a sunlounger, but are you really on holiday if you're still so connected to your daily life at home? To properly check out, try booking into a specialist digital-detox holiday. Itstimetologoff.com was founded by Tanya Goodin, a digital entrepreneur who saw the effects that a screen-dominated life was having on her own health. Its retreats ban all technology of this kind, replacing it with mindfulness workshops, yoga, hiking, kite-flying and storytelling. They also serve raw food and prohibit alcohol so you'll return completely 'reset'.
The next retreat will be in Somerset from 22 to 25 September and the following in Puglia from 21 to 27 May 2017. Visit the website for more information.
Go off the grid
If you'd prefer more of an adventure than a wellness retreat, then simply fly under the radar. At the Jongomero camp in the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, there is absolutely no WiFi or phone signal: a rarity in today's world. Pack your phone away at the beginning of the week (don't forget that cameras take photos, too) and enjoy a game walk or drive among roaming elephants along the banks of the Jongomero River before relaxing back at camp, a luxurious collection of thatch-roofed canvas tents.
Visit the website for more information.
Disable your social media
There's no denying that social media is the quickest course to distraction: its use hugely lengthens your time online. According to Freedom – an app that blocks assigned mailboxes, social media and websites on your phone or computer – every time you check your email, a social feed or respond to a notification, your mind requires 23 minutes of refocussing to get back on a task. With this app you can set up a block for up to eight hours, ensuring you dedicate yourself to the matter at hand and get away from your screen as soon as possible.
Realign your mind
Much has been made of the advantages of meditation and mindfulness over recent years. The importance of taking time out to re-centre yourself seems even more important given the increasingly frenetic pace of life and dependence on connectivity. If you're spending the day at your computer, take regular intervals to simply sit and relax or to go for a walk. If you really can't leave your desk, try logging on to Do Nothing for 2 Minutes. The webpage asks you to concentrate on a calming seascape, and if move your mouse or touch your keyboard, the timer restarts. It won't solve the problem of having your eyes glued to a screen, but it is more useful than rapidly clicking your mouse when trying to work. We say close your eyes and simply listen to the sound of the waves.
Set strict ground rules
Ultimately it's down to you if you wish to cut down your screen time. Invest in a traditional alarm clock and remove your phone from your room at night to avoid nighttime or early-morning scrolling. Impose a tech ban on parts of your day; mute your Whatsapp conversations and catch up on them at an assigned time, turn off your email alerts and respond in batches at less-frequent intervals; remember that not much happens while you're away from social media. Read more, go for long walks, take up a new hobby; turn going cold turkey to your advantage and you'll soon feel the benefits.