As I sat down to write this article, I already made my first mistake – I had my phone in plain sight. Instead of diving right into work, it was like a reflex to reach for my phone and get sucked into social media. I began mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, TikTok for good measure, and the latest digital distraction – Clubhouse. It was only after getting a glimpse of the time (which we don’t seem to see even though it doesn’t leave our screens), and realising that I was officially off-schedule, when I quickly ran to my room and put away my phone. Now here I am writing with no digital distractions.

Like many other Malaysians, having to spend most of my time at home has made me more dependent on my phone. It did not come as a surprise to me that compared to other South East Asian countries, Malaysia had the highest upsurge in Internet usage due to our strict social distancing measures. Our phones placed the entertainment and connections that were separated from us, right at our finger tips. It doesn’t help that some of us have had to work unsupervised from home – turning off auto-relax mode was already hard to begin with.

Here are 6 tips that have helped me tune into what I’m doing without any digital distractions:

  1. Put your phone away!

No, not next to you with the screen faced down (unless you’re that disciplined then #goals), but in another room. Hopefully when it’s out of your sight, the urge to check it will leave your mind too. If your excuse is, “What if I get an important message?” – use a desktop version of the messenger-app, but keep it running in the background.

2. Schedule time to use your devices

It’s time to take back control and let your devices know when they can have your attention. Start with short, frequent breaks, like 5 to 10 minutes after every hour, and work your way up from there. You’ll soon be able to break the habit.

3. Replace your screen time with other tasks

Before reaching for your devices, ask yourself, “Why?”. It could be to do research, reply a message, or simply just take a break. But if you want to use it just for the sake of using it, ask yourself, “What else can I do during this time?”. Turn to your to-do list – you’ll find that you actually do have the time to wash the dishes, fold your laundry, workout and read.

4. Turn off notifications

If it’s something you don’t need to know right now (like who liked your picture), you don’t need to see it right now. We’re constantly distracted by pings and pop-ups, but most of these are unimportant information and interactions.

5. Delete apps you don’t use

Sometimes, when we’re bored, or basically just looking for a distraction, we start opening apps that we don’t use (there’s no need to check in on Snapchat, that ghost is doing fine). Delete, declutter, go Marie Kondo and let go of all the apps that no longer spark joy.

6. Journal when you wake up

Here’s a bonus tip that’ll help with your mental health too! When you wake up, grab your journal instead of your phone. Start scribbling down the first things that come to mind, or if you need prompts – “How do you feel about today?”, “Set an intention for the day”, “What are you grateful for?”. This sets us up for a more positive and productive day rather than losing ourselves, and a lot of time, scrolling through our devices in bed.

Digital distractions will never go away (they may even get worse), but by following these tips – we hope you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more focused on important and meaningful tasks!

What is digital wellness?

Everyone knows that taking care of your physical health is important, but what about  your online life? We’re spending more and more time connected to the internet in some way or the other, from watching Netflix on your smart-tv, tracking your steps with a Fitbit or even sending messages through WhatsApp—seriously when was the last time you sent an SMS or (gasp) made a phone call?

At first glance, digital wellness might seem like something to do with device health—using secured sites, changing passwords frequently, avoiding suspicious downloads and links; you know the drill. But in actuality, it refers to keeping a balance of your mind and sense of self  as you navigate the online world.

Why is this important?

It’s no secret that social media can affect your self-esteem. Studies have shown that viewing and engaging in the seemingly perfect lives that your friends and celebrities display, can negatively influence how you view yourself. The way that these social interaction apps are structured to emphasise views and other engagements doesn’t help either, especially when your ‘likes’ can’t stack up to those you follow.

In a similar vein, this may lead to feeling increased stress and anxiety when you don’t seem to measure up. The need to  constantly create content to stay relevant—even if it is for a hobby; can take its toll. The same can be said of keeping up with world issues. In such  tumultuous times, feelings of guilt and exhaustion at what seems to be a continuous stream of bad news is common and understandable.

What can you do?

Limit the time spent on social media. Yup, this might seem daunting.  Try this: instead of mindlessly scrolling through your Twitter or Instagram feeds for hours on end, set yourself a time to check up on things.

Mindfulness—like its name suggests, is being aware in a purposeful way, of your intentions and surroundings. Using its techniques can help your online life in a positive way, for example: cleaning up your feeds. Curating your own experience is important, choosing to unfollow and mute accounts that cause you to feel stress will make your days better.

In conclusion?

Self-care isn’t just taking care of yourself physically, but also making sure you’re alright mentally—and in this case; digitally. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back to breathe. By setting boundaries when you use your devices, you’ll be able to develop and maintain a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with social media.