How to overcome digital addiction

How to Overcome Digital Addiction? | Strategies and Practical Ways


In the age of endless scrolling and constant notifications, our mental health is silently being reshaped by the digital world. Digital addiction is so widespread that most of us don’t consider it a problem!

It is an irresistible urge to use digital devices excessively, altering our mental state, behavior, and social interactions.

“Digitally Dominated Lifestyle” is the future of mankind. For instance,

  •  A report by Common Sense Media suggests that teens spend an average of nine hours per day online, not including time for schoolwork. 
  •  A Pew Research Center study indicates that 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly.”

Impact on Mental Health and Social Relationships:

The Dopamine Dilemma:

“We are all vulnerable to the allure of digital consumption, which taps into our brain’s reward system, creating cycles of pleasure and pain that can lead to addictive behaviors.”

  • Anna Lembke, Author of Dopamine Nation

Each notification, like, and share triggers a release of dopamine, and this cycle of instant gratification keeps us hooked. Tristan Harris, a former Google Design Ethicist, calls this a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.”

“The post-millennial generation, raised on smartphones, is experiencing higher rates of mental health issues than previous generations”

  • Jean M, author of iGen

This “always-on” culture is contributing to many mental health issues.

The Isolation Paradox

Numerous social media platforms sold us the dream of improved connectivity and made us more isolated than ever. Our online connections, although numerous, lack the depth and fulfillment of face-to-face interactions.

“We expect more from technology and less from each other.”!

  • Sherry Turkle in “Alone Together”

Affects Sleep: The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt our circadian rhythms, leading to poor sleep quality. Circadian Rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that an organism experiences in a 24-hour cycle.

Redefining Happiness: The constant chase for digital dopamine can skew and redefine our perception of happiness.

“Our relentless pursuit of digital validation is replacing meaningful experiences that truly contribute to our happiness”

  • Johan Hari in “Lost Connections”

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of “Glow Kids,” argues that the effect of digital devices on the brain’s frontal cortex and the release of dopamine is akin to that of addictive drugs like cocaine!

Techno-Maximalism – Root of digital addiction:

In the digital world where “more is better,” techno-maximalism is a phenomenon that’s subtly shaping our online habits and contributing to digital addiction. It’s the idea that the more we connect, click, and scroll, the more enriched our lives become. But is that really the case?

This abundance and constant influx of information and interaction can lead to mental exhaustion, decreased productivity and so many more problems.

According to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, there’s a notable increase in mood disorders among young adults, coinciding with the rise of digital media

Paradox of choice: 

Techno-maximalism offers us an abundance of choices, but it often leads to decision fatigue and cluttered minds.

 “It’s about finding the right tools that add value to your life and letting go of the ones that don’t.”

  • Cal Newport

FOMO Factor:

A study from Harvard University shows that compulsive digital usage is often linked to the fear of missing out (FOMO), pushing us to constantly check our devices

Digital Detox: Practical Steps:

“It’s not about shunning technology altogether, but about finding a balance that enriches our lives”

  • Cal Newport

This idea lies at the heart of digital detox – a conscious effort to detach from technology and reconnect with ourselves, leading to more intentional digital consumption.

Identify Your Triggers:

Recognize moments when you mindlessly reach for your phone, like during TV commercials or while waiting in line.

“ Awareness is the first step towards meaningful change

  • Tristan Harris 

Delete Time-Wasting Apps: 

Eliminate distracting apps from your phone. This simple act can significantly reduce the temptation to engage in mindless scrolling.

Set Usage Limits:

Utilize device features to limit the daily usage of certain apps. Allotting specific times for digital activities helps in maintaining discipline.

Engage in Offline Activities: 

Rediscover hobbies that don’t involve screens, such as reading, gardening, or crafting. These activities offer a refreshing break from digital consumption.

Digital Detox as a Routine:

  • Designate Tech-Free Zones/Times: Establish certain areas in your home, like the dining room or bedroom, as digital-free spaces. Similarly, setting specific times for no-screen usage can be beneficial.
  • Digital-Free Meals: Establish a habit of enjoying meals without the distraction of digital devices.
  • Check Emails Once a Day: Limit email and social media checks to once or twice a day to reduce the compulsion to constantly be online.
  • Establish Digital Boundaries at Work: Set clear limits on digital usage during work hours to enhance productivity and focus.
  • Tech-Free Commutes: Encourage a tech-free commute day where commuters are challenged to refrain from using their devices while traveling to and from work or school.
  • Leave Your Phone at Home: Try going out for activities like jogging or spending time with friends without taking your phone.

Digital Detox Retreat Ideas:

  • Technology-Free Vacation: Consider taking a vacation where you intentionally disconnect from all digital devices.
  • Tech-Free Time Challenges: Challenge yourself or others to specific periods without technology, like ‘No Screen Sundays’ or ‘Tech-free evenings’, and share experiences to create a community-driven motivation.
  • Nature Tech-Fast: Combine nature experiences with a tech-fast. Activities like hiking, camping, or kayaking where digital devices are consciously left behind can be rejuvenating.
  • Yoga and meditation Focused Retreats: These retreats have yoga and meditation as core activities to find our inner peace and reconnect with ourselves. Additionally, music, art, and journaling can be used for creative expression and emotional release. 
  • Art Therapy: Engage in or organize art therapy sessions where the focus is on creating something with your hands – like painting, sculpting, or crafting – which can be a soothing way to take a break from digital devices.
  • Silent Retreats: Some retreats, like the Silent Retreat in Ojai, California, offer the experience of total silence, not just from technology but also from conversation. This can include meditation, yoga, nature walks, and sound healing sessions. It’s a profound way to deeply connect with oneself and the present moment​​.
  • Customizable Retreats: There are options for more personalized retreat experiences where you can define your digital detox goals. These may include turning off notifications, practicing mindfulness, monitoring usage, and finding new hobbies like painting or skateboarding​​.
  • Unplugged Experiences: Programs like Camp Grounded® host off-the-grid experiences where adults can feel like kids again, engaging in music, healthy meals, and a variety of activities, all without digital devices​​.

Other Suggestions:

  • Manage Notifications: Turning off non-essential notifications can help you stay present in the offline world and reduce constant digital interruptions.
  • Physical Barriers: Keep your smartphone or tablet in another room during work or relaxation to minimize distractions.
  • Stay Accountable: Share your digital detox goals with friends or family. Having a support system can provide motivation and help maintain your commitment.
  • Reflect on Your Progress: After a period of digital detox, take time to assess the changes in your lifestyle. Improvements in sleep quality, enhanced focus, and better social interactions are common benefits.
  • Declutter Your Digital Space: Organize and clean up your digital devices by deleting unnecessary files, apps, and emails.
  • Enable ‘Do Not Disturb’: Use this feature to mute non-urgent notifications, especially during meals, conversations, or work hours.
  • Turn Off Digital Devices: Make it a habit to turn off your phone or laptop after use, rather than leaving them in standby mode.
  • Create a Personalized ‘Offline’ Playlist: Develop a list of activities that you enjoy doing offline and refer to it whenever you feel the urge to reach for a digital device.

Digital Literacy Education:

Incorporate digital literacy into education systems, focusing not just on how to use technology, but also on how to use it responsibly, understanding the psychological impacts, and developing healthy habits.

  • Device-Free Zones in Public Spaces: Encourage cafes, libraries, and parks to create device-free zones, where people can enjoy the space without the distraction of technology.
  • Tech-Free Community Events: Organize community events that are explicitly tech-free. These could be outdoor adventures, book clubs, art workshops, or local sports events where digital devices are discouraged.
  • Community Tech-Swap Days: Organize days where community members swap a tech device for a book, a musical instrument, or a board game, encouraging people to explore hobbies beyond the digital realm.

Apps for Managing Digital Addiction

  • Forest: An app that encourages users to stay off their phones by planting virtual trees that grow when the phone is not in use. If the user leaves the app, the tree withers.
  • Offtime: Helps users unplug by blocking distracting apps and filtering communications. It provides analytics on how much you use your devices.
  • Freedom: An app and website blocker that helps you focus and be more productive. Freedom works on all your devices and can sync blocks across multiple devices.

Books on Digital Addiction

  • “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport: This book explores the concept of ‘digital minimalism’, which involves streamlining online activities to reduce the time spent on screens.
  • “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked” by Adam Alter: A book that investigates why certain technologies are so addictive and what can be done about it.
  • “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr: This book delves into how the Internet is changing the way we think, read, and remember.

Podcasts Addressing Digital Addiction

  • “Your Undivided Attention”: Hosted by Tristan Harris from the Center for Humane Technology, this podcast explores how technology is shaping our minds, society, and future.
  • “The Digital Mindfulness Podcast”: Discusses and brings awareness to the use of technology and its effects on our daily lives. It offers insights into managing digital habits.
  • “Note to Self”: This podcast tackles the personal and societal impacts of technology, offering a perspective on how to use tech with intention.


Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

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