Digital Fasting: A must do for everyone

Dr Vivak M Arya, Divya Sharma
People these days have a multi-functional device for inter-personal communication, work, online education, or for just entertainment. Tech devices have become an unavoidable part of human life, but excessive screen time can negatively affect our well-being.
In order to know how digital technologies are changing our world, one doesn’t have to look far. Social media addiction is a recognized behavioral addiction that can be characterized by being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to check Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, to the extent that it impairs other important areas in life. From a mental health perspective, concerns have been raised about the negative impact of excessive use of social networking sites on the health and wellbeing of users which associates with several psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, loneliness, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s not all about social media addiction; even it could be the use of any function or app on a smartphone. A known problem is something called “Information Overload” – compulsive web surfing, watching videos, playing games, or checking news feeds can lead to lower productivity at work or school and isolate you for hours at a time.
Overloading your body with anything will strangle your soul; whether this is food, alcohol, technology, or work. We need to take purposeful breaks from everything; consciously abstaining from work, from food, from technology. In addition to doing a week long physical detox each month, another powerful practice you should try is a digital fast. It is one of the most powerful and rejuvenating practices which not only provide clarity, motivation and enhance creativity, but it teaches you to embrace boredom and solitude. Promoting ‘digital fasting’ has been commonly observed among Jains, referring a mobile as a good servant, but a dangerous master. For many Muslims, Ramadan is a built-in digital detox program. In the Jewish community also, there is something called the Sabbath every Friday. If it’s okay for them, then that should be okay for everyone else. But the thing is that it’s a question of drawing the line. As it’s a religious thing nobody would cross at boundary but most of us in our own lives are unwilling to draw those hard and that is why for all of us that kind of complete isolation for full recovery and rest is not possible.
Digital Fasting is a process of setting periods in your day or your week where you are not using certain forms of technology usually, phones, tablets or laptops. Incorporating regular ‘Digital Fasting’ can be effective method to improve your relationship with your phone and give you a sense of control. It is also known by other names like: “Digital Detox”, “Dopamine Fasting”, “Unplugging from Technology”, Digital Sabbath”.
Why a digital fast is so important
Clarity: A digital fast will provide clarity for engaging in past as well as planning for the next week, month, or year. You will be able to look at where you’ve been and where you’re going with optimal clarity.
Recovery: Reflecting and planning are great for recovery and a digital fast will also allow you to recover both physically and mentally. It will give you a break from the hectic lifestyle you lead allowing your mind and body to recuperate.
Motivation: Taking time away will make you more motivated and productive when you go back. You won’t dread opening up your laptop to do work. Not only will you have more motivation when you go back to technology, but during the break, you will likely find higher levels of motivation to do other things – to work out, to go for a hike, to read, to clean the house. You will have so much more time to think and to just be.
Embracing boredom: We do anything to avoid being bored. And usually, our phones or other technology are great at preventing boredom. But learning to embrace boredom can be very beneficial, and boredom is something we should cherish. In fact, avoiding boredom actually rewires your brain. Without learning to wean your brain from constantly being engaged in something, you impact your ability to achieve proper focus when you actually need it. Much in the same way that athletes must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your time fleeing the slightest hint of boredom.
Creativity: Research has shown that walking in solitude can boost creativity and this is achieved during a digital fast. Use your fast to engage in creative pursuits – write, paint, play an instrument, think of business ideas. This is the perfect time to be creative
Reset of reward system in your brain: When you do this fasting, you are able to reset your reward system. If you go and take a walk without your phone you’ll actually look at the trees and the garden and the breeze and everything else in a very different manner that you will start genuinely experiencing life.
How to make your Digital Fasting Easy?
After understanding the benefits now, the question is how we should go about it. There is no real magic or mystery, but you should have to follow a couple of tips that will make it easy and practical to do this exercise. The first thing is deciding the time for the digital fast. Now decide the duration keep it at least 12 hours long and Sunday would be a good day for most of us. The second thing to prep for it, by letting those people who depend on us know that for this duration either I’m not available or I’m available through this alternate mechanism. The third thing is you have 12 hours without technology so, plan for it. Find all those things that you have been postponing for years and this would be a great time to try those things out.
Unplugging from Technology: The Benefits
You are more productive
You are more present and “in the moment”
You have more focus
You are more relaxed
You have improved relationship with close friends and family
You sleep better.
(The authors are from at SKUAST-Jammu)