January is over, yippee!

Never a favourite of mine – despite trying to manage the lack of light, the tendency for the TV world to be slow-moving this month, and my post-Christmas despondency – I always long for February to arrive (not the attitude from the Head of Happyness, I hear you cry!)

However, this January I tried to make it different for myself by introducing a 31-Day Digital Detox as advised by Anastasia Dedyukhina founder of www.consciously-digital.com and author of the upcoming book Homo Distractus.

Anastasia has a wealth of experience in the area of addiction to devices, and having heard her enthusiastically talk I thought what better way to focus my attention this January than by trying out her month-long programme.

Day One was straight in there: remove all notifications from your phone. Now this is a piece of advice I have heard on many a good TED talk, so following through like a good student I did just that. Did things change? Yes massively. On a positive note that regular heart flutter I felt every time a notification popped up completely disappeared. And my attention, without doubt, remained more focused. At first, I felt bereft – yes bereft, just from notifications removal. By Day 3, the pride had kicked in that I was sustaining it. By Day 4 I was missing meetings (iCal), keeping people waiting (not seeing the odd text message of ‘I am here downstairs waiting!’) and voicemails were going un-listened to for 24 hours. Ilana insisted running a media business without notifications was a bad idea, so I turned just a couple of key ones back on.

Anastasia’s advice on Day 2 was to turn your phone to ‘greyscale’ – a rather dull black and white effect that makes the interface wholly flat in appearance, and so apparently stops your phone from being so enticing. This one lasted a matter of hours. It truly depressed me. I love bright colours!

But many suggestions I embraced – from only checking my phone every half hour, to leaving it outside the dining room (my phone addiction is my biggest concern – do you know on average us Brits check our phones 28 times a day – my average according to the app Moment was 35).

One survey suggests we click, tap, type, or swipe our phones on average 2,617 times a day! And what Anastasia tells us is that research shows that even if your phone is in your pocket, but turned OFF, you still will not connect with the person opposite you as effectively as if it were not in sight. It’s like a child with sweets in front of them; it’s enticing (and distracting!).

So we had a day when the Happynesshub team left their mobile phones outside the office. Ilana found it easy (that shocked me at her youthful age!), TimF not a problem (he has on old Nokia that barely functions), and I, of course, struggled. Wholeheartedly. The doorbell rang (I couldn’t see who it was since it’s on my phone). We were cold (I couldn’t turn the heating up, it’s on my phone). I’d lost my purse (I couldn’t see where it was, the app was on my mobile). And then finally when I succumbed, I’d missed 8 text messages (admittedly only one was important!).

Anastasia also has tips like make space for boredom (this leads to creativity) and do a single activity for a whole hour (focusing attention). For me, I have no doubt her digital detox has been beneficial and of use. I’ve found myself being more present, sharing greater quality time with loved ones and being far less panicky and distracted. Having said that I have also overslept (Day 10 – keep devices out of the bedroom – I slept through my new daylight, bird-tweeting alarm clock!) and I’ve felt isolated when eating alone (no screens with food).

But the challenges I have had I feel I can get around, and the benefits have far outweighed the drawbacks. And as Anastasia says, if you only embrace 2 or 3 of her tips, a big impact can be felt.

So for those of you wanting to re-evaluate your relationship with the digital world (be that your mobile, tablet, social media or email) why not think about a digital detox. Alternatively, you can go the whole hog like Liz who I met today who has no mobile at all (cold sweat breaking out here, aaahhhhhh!).