Is it time for a

digital detox?


For many of us, our mobile phones and other digital devices are an integral part of our lives. We use our mobile phones and other digital devices to conduct our work and to stay socially connected.

We access news, search the internet, watch content via streaming services, play games, do our shopping and even track our sleep and fitness via our digital devices. Given how much we use our devices, the thought of being apart from them can seem totally unrealistic, or even be stress inducing.

Research has shown that for some people, there are links between excessive phone use and social, interpersonal, mental health, cognitive and academic problems [1]. Even if your use of digital devices is not excessive, it might still be interfering with your ability to be present in your relationships and to concentrate on tasks at hand.

Beyond Blue has published information on the benefits of a digital detox. In this article, Beyond Blue suggests that a digital detox can help with reducing stress, increasing productivity, improving relationships and health, and improving sleep [2].

Would you benefit from a digital detox?

Considering the following questions can help you decide whether it might be time for digital detox.

Quantity of use
  • How much time do you spend on digital devices?
  • Do you think that this is too much time?
  • Do other people say that you spend too much time on digital devices?
Patterns of use
  • Are there times of day that you use your digital devices more?
  • Do you notice any trends or triggers to your use?
  • What aspects of your screen time are you unhappy with and want to change?
Difficulties limiting or managing use
  • How often do you use digital devices for greater amounts of time than planned?
  • Do you find it difficult to cut down your use?
Consequences of use
  • In what ways does your use of digital devices interfere with you doing other activities?
  • Are there any negative impacts associated with your use of digital devices?
Risky use
  • How often do you reach for your phone while driving or crossing a road?
  • Does the thought of not having your phone or other digital device on-hand cause you to feel any stress or anxiety?


Try the following strategies to cut back on your use of digital devices:

  1. Minimise compulsive checking by turning off push notifications
  2. Conduct a digital ‘Spring clean’ by unsubscribing from unimportant email lists, deleting apps and reducing the number of people that you follow on social media
  3. Make your phone/tablet less convenient by deleting apps which may be impacting you negatively, and by accessing your email and social media accounts via web browser
  4. Avoid multitasking by allocating time in your day to check emails/news/social media and by using only one screen at a time (e.g., not looking at your phone when also watching TV)
  5. Create digital device free zones in your home by putting your phone away in a box/drawer during mealtimes instead of on the table, and by charging your phone outside of your bedroom at night
  6. Allocate time in your day to be digital device free. If this seems too hard, have times during the day when your phone is set on ‘do not disturb’ or ‘airplane mode’
  7. Be present in your relationships by keeping your phone in your bag/pocket when you are interacting with colleagues, family or friends. Avoid looking at your phone during meetings, when helping the kids with homework, when getting the kids ready for sleep, when out with friends etc
  8. Reduce the attractiveness of the device by using greyscale mode or by dulling the colours
  9. Put your phone in a drawer at night-time or in a different room, and read a book before bed instead of looking at a screen
  10. Use apps and the features of your digital device to: monitor the amount of time you are spending on your device each day; to block distracting websites/apps; and, to set daily limits

A digital detox can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Make a plan and try the strategies above to see which ones work for you.

The Solicitor Outreach Service - Help when you need it

Digital technology has been designed to be enticing and it can be genuinely difficult to make changes to our digital device use. If you are concerned about your digital device use and would like help cutting back, talking to a psychologist might help.

The Solicitor Outreach Service (SOS) is an independent and confidential psychology counselling service for NSW solicitors. NSW solicitors can call SOS on 1800 592 296 for access to:

  • Up to three counselling sessions with an SOS psychologist per financial year, paid for by the Law Society of NSW
  • 24/7 telephone crisis counselling with a psychologist.

[1] Billieux, J. (2012). Problematic use of the mobile phone: a literature review and a pathways model. Current Psychiatry Reviews 8, 299–307

Miriam Wyzenbeek is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, and the Law Society of NSW’s Wellbeing Manager.

First published Tuesday 15 December 2020