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How to balance your digital life past just logging off


Be honest. Are you looking at your phone right now? This year, a survey found that respondents checked their phone once every four minutes. Lots of us struggle to put our devices down. The solution, we're told - just leave it. Do a digital detox. Go touch some grass. But NPR's Life Kit team says there's more to balancing your digital life than just logging off. Here's Mayowa Aina with some tips on how to find a good middle ground.

MAYOWA AINA, BYLINE: I have a confession. I'm one of those people who sleeps with their phone. Like, I mean, I charge it right next to my head on my pillow. Scrolling until I pass out and starting back up first thing in the morning is draining. And when I think about it, it might explain why my mornings are so chaotic. But they could be like this.

SAMMY NICKALLS: OK. Have you ever been to a hotel that, like, is kind of nice, and you get into the sheets, and it just feels so nice to kind of, like, have this time to yourself and just feel very calm?

AINA: That's Sammy Nickalls.

NICKALLS: That's what I felt when I put my phone outside of my room. It's like I got that presence of mind back because it makes that time around your bedtime feel just like a sanctuary.

AINA: Nickalls is the author of "Log Off: Self-Help For The Extremely Online," and it's a workbook to help people begin to practice an approach called digital minimalism. Now, digital minimalism is not to be confused with a digital detox, which is when you just quit the internet cold turkey for a few weeks.

NICKALLS: And then what? Like, you go back online, and you don't really have a plan to be able to figure out how to kind of strike that balance in between being completely offline and being too online. Digital minimalism is more about figuring out your own personal internet boundaries.

AINA: For Nickalls, cutting out the internet isn't nearly as important or useful as cutting down on using it. Finding that middle ground can help you regain your time and start to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. The first tip for doing this is setting basic boundaries. You can start by turning off push notifications from apps on your phone so it's not constantly pinging and, yes, charging your phone outside of your bedroom.

The next tip is to figure out your scrolling habits. Do you run to Twitter when you feel lonely? Does checking Instagram make you feel insecure? When you're online, ask yourself how you feel and write down the answer so you can reflect on it.

NICKALLS: And maybe then that'll lead to why. And what can I do? And most times it's not scroll. Most times it's, like, take a nap or talk to a friend or do something that makes you happy.

AINA: And that's the third tip - reinvest in yourself and spending time in your offline hobbies. Nickalls says practicing digital minimalism means you'll probably have a lot more time on your hands.

NICKALLS: That's really how it felt, where I was like, oh, my God, I can do anything I want with my time. Like, and I forgot. I forgot that I'm an adult who can do whatever I want, you know?

AINA: The goal with digital minimalism isn't to figure out how to live without social media or the internet. It's to be more aware of when and how you use it. Technology should enhance your life, not distract you from it.

NICKALLS: The less that I have these pings on my brain of, like, news articles, tweets and that sort of thing, the less that my brain feels like it's just constantly being activated, the more that I realize I just want to sit and relax a little bit and, like, just be. And that itself feels almost revolutionary.

AINA: Digital minimalism, Nickalls says, is a step toward living a more intentional life.

For NPR News, I'm Mayowa Aina.

KELLY: For more tips and advice from Life Kit, including a quiz to help you assess your digital habits, you can check out npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAM'ADDICT'S "SUNBURN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mayowa Aina