How to develop healthy tech habits going into 2024

Always being connected has its perks, but it’s no secret that our gadgets and social media can also bring on new kinds of stress.

As we enter 2024, it’s worth fostering tech habits that enhance our lives rather than burden them.

Whether you’re constantly reaching for your phone for no reason, get extreme anxiety when it’s not with you, or find yourself experiencing what are called ‘phantom vibrations’, you likely need a healthy reset to your tech habits.

But do you, really?

Finding reliable stats on humans’ negative relationship with technology is challenging. As with most facts you find online, you can add a 98% pinch of salt to any statistics you track down.

Chances are most folks are completely reliant on smartphones and additional tech to complete the day.

Luckily, you can implement a handful of helpful strategies to disconnect and find balance in your relationship with tech.

SAFETY FIRST

We don’t need stats to know that distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year. Especially in South Africa where driving feels more like a high-impact sport than anything else.

The solution here is easy: When you’re behind the wheel, resist the urge to check your phone. Turn off notifications, and keep your phone out of reach to prioritise safety on the road.

If you have to, invest in a hands-free system so you can at least take calls on the highway.

Talking into the base of your phone while driving is just begging to have it driven into your skull by an airbag.

GUARD YOUR SLEEP

Late-night smartphone use can disrupt sleep quality due to the blue light emitted by screens. That’s because blue light affects your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it’s day and halting the release of melatonin – the sleep hormone.

While sleepily browsing your phone in a pitch-dark room, the content may even just be stimulating, preventing your mind from winding down.

This is why you should try to avoid using your phone completely before bedtime, and consider using a traditional alarm clock to keep your phone out of the bedroom entirely.

TURN IT DOWN

Constant notifications take a toll on your well-being. Especially if you’ve found yourself experiencing ‘phantom vibrations’ – a phenomenon where you feel the phone ringing, but it isn’t.

A study by the University of British Columbia revealed that turning off smartphone notifications led to lower levels of inattention and hyperactivity.

Be mindful of what notifications you need, and consider silencing non-essential ones to reduce stress and improve focus.

SET BOUNDARIES

Developing healthier tech habits is one thing, but you’ll have to remember that those around you aren’t necessarily following the same regime.

Communicate your tech habits to those close to you.

Tell people if you won’t be checking messages during work hours or regularly check your email on vacation.

Managing expectations prevents frustration from family and colleagues. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of disconnecting without the unnecessary stress of keeping your social circle updated.

(DON’T) STAY SOCIAL

Passive social media use has been linked to lower well-being, so it’s high time to shift your approach, especially if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter.

Instead of zombie-like scrolling for hours, try to engage actively by posting content, sharing ideas, and participating in conversations.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to set time limits for each app.

iPhones and Android phones offer digital well-being tools. Make sure to make use of them. Don’t overuse social media apps.

If you find yourself feeling worse after spending time on social media, it may be time for a proper social media audit.

Check in with yourself, and consider how seeing others’ lives on social media affects your mental health. Remember, what people showcase on social media is rarely the full picture, so focus on meaningful interaction.

BE PRESENT

Face-to-face interaction is crucial for emotional well-being.

The Stress in America survey found that constant tech-checking leads to feelings of disconnection.

When spending time with friends and family, silence your phone, put it out of reach, and be present in the moment.

Create time for yourself to relax and recharge without reaching for your phone.

Embrace moments of quiet reflection and allow your creativity to flourish.

Establish daily periods of disconnection, gradually reducing your dependence on your phone.

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