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Four easy ways to go on a digital detox

Sitting together or alone?
Sitting together or alone?
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As much as it's probably hard to admit, most of us are hooked on technology and our digital devices. Whether it's relentlessly checking our smartphone, playing online games, being social on social media or texting, there's no doubt about it that we're part of a 'plugged in' society. Words like "applications," "poke," and "tweet" didn't exist in the same ways a decade ago, but today their newer versions are common terms used in everyday conversation.

While it's great to be connected and have a access to an unlimited wealth of information, it can also keep from experiencing real life. By constantly tuning into technology, we're inadvertently losing our ability to live in the present. In fact, a recent study by the Public Library of Science found that the more time an individual spends on Facebook, the more dissatisfied they are with their own life. Harvard Medical School scientists have discovered that using a cell phone or laptop before bed can negative affect our ability to have a good night's sleep.

Do you find yourself conversing with others more through social media or texting than in real life? Do you rely solely on bank and credit cards rather than paying with cash? Is your smartphone constantly buzzing with notifications, updates, and messages? Do you have a tough time staying away from your screen while out at dinner with a friend or your significant other?

If you answered yes to any of the above, it may be high-time to go on a 'digital detox.' Relax – we aren't talking about ditching with your devices for good. It's just a little detox. Even a weekend will do you some good. By taking a little break from your screen and technology, you may find yourself reconnecting with those around you.

Here are four easy ways to go on a digital detox:

1. Limit screen time

Growing up, your screen time was probably limited to television and maybe – depending on when you were born – computer use. These days, screen time may include use of the following devices: smartphones, TVs, laptops, desktops, iPads, iPods, LeapPads and other "toy" computers, e readers, and more. While many parents limit their children's screen time, most don't realize they are being hypocritical by not setting a great example themselves.

Let's face it: children learn by example. If you're constantly checking your phone during dinner or answering emails during a family outing, how can you expect your kids to take your limits on screen time seriously? Instead, try limiting your own screen time as well as theirs.

Show them and yourself that it is possible to get through a meal, movie, or trip to the park without taking a call or answering a text. Also, show them that the television doesn't always need to be on in the background. Instead, show them how to live in the moment and enjoy each other's company without the disruption of technology. Moderation of screen time and the digital detox is one of the best gifts you can give your children.

2. Pay with cash

Can you remember the last time you paid with cash? How about a check? Since the proliferation of plastic alternatives (credit cards, bank cards), many consider carrying cash or writing a check to be a throwback.

While plastic certainly is convenient, there's a heavy price to pay for it: interest. A huge drawback of credit and bank cards is that it's too easy to overspend and blow your budget. With cash or a check, you can't spend more than you actually have.

Another perk to using traditional payment methods (ie. checks and cash) is you don't have to worry about bank/credit card machines being down or demagnetized cards. When you think about it, technology isn't always the most convenient option.

3. Connect face-to-face

Speaking of convenience, while it's certainly convenient to connect with friends, family, and acquaintances online, it's not the same as meeting in person for a cup of coffee. Rather than texting, tweeting, emailing, or sending a message via Facebook, perhaps it's time to stop hiding from behind a screen and meet face-to-face. Yes, it's a lot easier to connect from the comfort of your couch, behind a screen. However, nuances can be lost online and in written form. Without facial expressions and body language, it's easy to misinterpret what is communicated on your screen.

4. Get out of town

If the temptation of technology is just too hard to resist, perhaps it's time to take a vacation. If you go somewhere remote without Internet access or cellular reception, you'll have no choice but to divert your eyes from the screen. It's true, you may miss Instagramming or Facebooking every step of your trip at first. But in no time you'll forget you're even on a digital detox.

And there you have it: four ways to take a temporary hiatus from technology and live in the now. While technology is revolutionizing both our professional and social lives, sometimes we do need to disconnect (in order to reconnect).

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