A detox is only as good as your retox

Detoxing isn’t a new phenomenon. It has been around for centuries, but it has definitely taken on a popular edge in recent years. Everything from juice diets to colon cleanses and digital detoxes – there doesn’t seem to be an area in our lives that hasn’t been cornered by the detox market.

But do detoxes actually work?

The concept of detoxing is that you can “cleanse” yourself of toxins by both eliminating those toxins from your diet (it is usually nutrition-related) and instead consuming foods or liquids that will clear out your system.

It really is an appealing idea – that no matter what our sins are, we can clear them away and be purified by simply following this 7 day plan, or buying this juice.

Firstly, I can confirm that there is no scientific basis for the legitimacy of detoxing. Sure, you might feel some short-term benefits – you might feel lighter, less bloated, less stressed. But like with yo-yo diets or intensive weight loss workout programs, the issues that caused you to want to detox in the first place return. And sometimes they come back with a vengeance, so much so that you end up feeling worse than you did before you detoxed.

And so the cycle continues.

The same can be said for Digital Detoxes. Even some of the language used in the digital world correlates with food intake. Just think of 3’s campaign promoting “All you can eat data”!

A coincidence?

I think not…

People often want to do a digital detox because they feel they are online too much, and that it is impacting other parts of their lives. So they are encouraged to “go offline” for a set period of time, and then Voilà! They should be cured.

But what happens with digital detoxing is the same as what happens with juice detoxes or liver cleanses and so on. There isn’t a supporting plan that will help you to “retox”; that is, to re-introduce your normal eating (or digital) routine so that you often return to your habits of old within a short period of time. Which is bad news for you, but great news for the detox industry. Ca-ching!

So instead of digital detoxing, I want to introduce something I call “digital offload and retox”. Now this concept isn’t new. Any good nutritionist, or trainer or dietician will follow a similar format when helping clients to manage their weight or diet. The approach is slower and less intense than a detox, but the results are much more sustainable.

If you’re interested in getting started on this and would like some support, you can sign up for our free “7-day digital offloader” email series, which will guide you through the offloading steps and support you with your retox.

Otherwise, you can follow the steps below yourself (or do it with a buddy for accountability) and see how you can make small but significant changes to your digital habits and get some more time back in your day.

Step 1: Make an offload plan

Everyone’s digital consumption is different, so take some time to think about what you really want to address. Is it checking emails outside of working hours? Is it losing hours on social media when you should be focused on your family or loved ones? Or falling into the comparison trap by looking at other people’s seemingly perfect lives on Instagram? Decide what areas you want to focus on, and separate them out into days. In our 7 Day Digital Offloader, you get a daily action so that there isn’t an “all or nothing” approach. One action per day is plenty, and you can even spread them out more than that if you like. For example, day 1 is a spring clean of your social media and emails. Marie Condo, eat your heart out!

Step 2: Keep a diary

After you’ve made your plan, put together a simple diary noting a few things. I recommend including the action itself, the date you completed it, any obstacles you encountered when trying to implement the action and the benefits (real and expected) of making this change. Our 7 day digital offloader includes a worksheet in this format. If we keep with the spring clean concept from above, then the diary could be something like this:

  • Action: Spring clean social media accounts and email
  • Completion date: 2 Nov., 2019
  • Obstacles: I found it hard to unfollow some accounts even though I knew they were time-zappers. I suppose it was like a comfort blanket, somewhere I knew I could go when I felt bored. But it wasn’t serving me.
  • Benefits: Now that I’m not picking up my phone at the first sign of boredom, I feel more in control of my time.  I’m noticing that I have much less notifications so I tend to pick up the phone less, and can concentrate better.

This format can be very powerful as it gives you both a sense of achievement and also reinforces the positive impacts of making these small changes.

Follow this for each of the actions you listed in step 1, and don’t be tempted to skip this part. Writing things down is key.

Step 3: Choose 1 day to go offline completely

Now this might seem quite drastic, but the idea is that you get comfortable with the uncomfortable idea of not having a digital device with you at all times. This is one of the actions in our 7 day digital offloader (the last one actually) and it is something I recommend everyone does. It is different to a detox in that you have already followed the previous offloading steps, so this is simply another action in your plan. The diary element is quite important here, as I would suggest having regular “digital-free” times in your week. And if you document the obstacles and benefits of going offline for a significant period of time, you can use this information to help you to make these digital-free times sustainable, enjoyable and fun!

Step 4: Retox

This is the final step in plan, and the one that will really set you up for success if you want to change your digital habits in the long term. There is no point in assuming that the good changes you made over the week-long offload will stick just on their own. Life will happen – you might need to be more accessible by phone for family reasons, or you get the old hankerings to check Instagram “just the once”, and 2 hours later you find yourself still scrolling. So plan your retox. And one of the best ways to do this is to recognize your triggers. This concept is an important part of our Digital Wellbeing workshops, as our triggers (both internal and external) are what drive us to want to use social media platforms and other applications or devices. Here is a list of potential triggers (there are loads more). Select which ones apply to you or add your own, and consider how you can react differently when you encounter these triggers in the future:

Internal External
Boredom Phone beep
Anxiety Blue dot
Voyeurism Streak/challenge
Loneliness Suggestion by friend

So there you have it!

If you want to join our 7 day digital offloader email series, you can register here.

And if you would like to know more about out next Digital Wellbeing Workshop, check out the details on Eventbrite here.