In an age where a smartphone has almost become an extension of our hand, is it time for a digital detox? Carly Gibbs asks experts what the benefits are of laying off tech.
If the idea of quitting your smartphone cold turkey fills you with dread, you're not alone.
When Auckland University of Technology (AUT) together with the Universities of Greenwich and East Anglia, conducted a study on travelling overseas without technology a few years back, participants experienced both anxiety and "a nasty shock".
They felt like they were thrust off the grid, even though they were in densely populated places.
They couldn't navigate a "paper map" and had to overcome their fears of asking strangers for directions, says AUT Business School's Dr Lena Waizenegger, 32, who's an expert in digital wellbeing.
"But, in amongst that, there were some beautiful moments, where people were so friendly and helpful."
And the best part was that they survived without their smartphone - and you can too.
Waizenegger says a sustainable solution to stop relying on your phone so much is to implement mindful and purposeful phone-use patterns so you don't experience "nomophobia" - or fear of being without your phone.
Studies have found we typically spend three hours and 15 minutes each day on our phones and up to 11 hours on all media devices, but it's not so much the amount of time we're glued to our device that's the problem, but how we use it.
Two hours of scrolling through your bottomless news feed on social media is different from purposefully using your phone to listen to a podcast that interests you or chatting with overseas friends and family to maintain social relationships.
But, if at any point, you're noticing your screentime is making you feel unhappy, your self-esteem is lowered by what you're viewing, or you're constantly losing track of time, then it could be time to create new, healthier habits.
From setting limits to finding alternatives to being glued to our devices, here's what we can do.
Cutting back 101
An easy way to scale back your tech use, and become more productive, is to put your smartphone in your bag during work hours and leave it there.
Research shows that, if you have your phone on your desk, it affects your cognitive capacity to complete a task.
"People who completed a task who had their phone on their desk, in comparison to those who had their phone in their bag, or a different room, actually achieved worse results," Waizenegger says.
Once your phone is safely out of sight, the next step is to turn off your email notifications on your computer.
But, you might be asking: "What will my boss say?"
Well, there's a misconception that we have to be available and respond immediately to show how productive we are, says Waizenegger.
This is particularly the case for those who work from home, and are away from their manager's gaze.
However, by switching off your notifications, you are in control of when you check and respond to emails, and your colleagues, and your boss, soon learn how and when you connect and respond.
"It's much better if you switch off your email notifications and work for two or three hours in a focused way. Immerse yourself in what you're doing and get into that 'state of flow'.
"And then schedule time [afterwards], say half an hour, to actually respond to your emails.
"People soon learn that, after two or three hours, 'I will hear back from that person'. And this is all about developing trust.
"To be honest, even if it's urgent, we can wait two hours, or, if it's really urgent, we can just call that person."
And, calling doesn't always have to be on a smartphone either.
Take Campbell MacGregor's lead, for example.
He's the academic head of health at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and, for the past six weeks, has been leaving his smartphone at home one day a week.
People can get hold of him on the office landline, or via email.
"Doing a basic detox can be daily," he says.
"Creating opportunities for real-life social connection with people that are in your life is important, and will also help with your work-life balance."
However, once the workday is over, don't be tempted to become glued to your phone again.
If you're out exercising, leave your phone behind, or put it on flight mode for emergency use only.
Waizenegger does this when she is out tramping - sometimes for four days at a time.
"Then I come back feeling so recharged, and really so sharp in my mind because I had this digital detox. I do recommend it."
Back at home, consider having a 'phone-free dinner'; limit screen time before bed as it can increase stimuli and affect sleep quality, which can lead to daytime tiredness. And always recharge your smartphone outside of your bedroom.
If you're having trouble doing any of this, try to encourage your partner to try the changes with you.
Waizenegger says you want to avoid the "famous phenomenon" known as phubbing, where one partner in the relationship priorities their mobile phone over their partner.
"This is really detrimental and has long-term effects on the relationship."
Readers share their experiences of cutting back
Rotorua couple Roger Schreuder and Annie Canning began a tech "experiment" three weeks ago when they implemented a no-tech zone in their house at night.
After their two youngest children left home at the start of the year for university, their evenings were spent in front of the television and "mindlessly" scrolling through their phones.
"So we decided to turn off the TV and put down our phones and see what we can create for ourselves in that time," Canning wrote in a Facebook post on her business page Canning Life Coaching.
"So far, we've dived into some great books, [are] talking and connecting more, and definitely sleeping better."
Schreuder, 52, a police prosecutor, says the experiment has been "refreshing" given he uses devices most of the day, every day, for work.
"During the day, if I'm not on my computer in the office, then I have a laptop in court, and then to and from the court, I'm looking at emails on my phone, and it's totally interactive with screens all the time."
After dinner, the couple recharges their phones in the kitchen and don't pick them up again until the next morning.
Since the experiment started, Schreuder has finished a Ken Follett novel in one week - something he'd have "not a hope" of doing usually; and he has been getting a full night's sleep and waking later.
He doesn't think the experiment will be short term.
"We're looking at it being far longer term. I've got study coming up for promotional exams towards the end of the year, so I'll just carry on, I think, and use that as study time as well."
For multimedia reporter Maryana Garcia, going without her smartphone also brings multiple benefits.
The 28-year-old has been going on annual spiritual retreats since her mid-teens, where part of the retreat practice is they're carried out in silence and there is no internet access.
While the events in Raglan and Waingaro are not advertised as a digital detox, and that's not the aim, she still finds that she gets the best out of them if she treats them as one.
"That way, I don't have any distractions, and I can focus on the present moment, slow my brain down, and give myself the space to reflect in a way that I don't get to do in the hustle and bustle of daily life."
She pays to go on retreats, rather than just stay home and switch off devices, because for her it's important for the "physical space to mirror the mental space".
"To really change gears, I can't be hanging around my normal everyday screens or the rhythms of my daily routines."
It's easier for other people to respect your "break-space" if you're removed from them.
Even outside of the retreats, she limits internet use.
"I have quite a few rules for myself: time limits for app usage, very few notifications enabled, tech-free spaces, tech-free times. For me, it's about being able to be the one in control of my choices, even my micro-choices.
"I don't like the idea of having to depend on a phone or the internet to be able to live life. I like that, when the red battery low warning goes on, it doesn't bother me."
Curbing her social media activity is something Pāpāmoa mum Melanie Garaway is also doing.
In the past week, the 35-year-old has deleted the Facebook app off her phone, only accessing the social media platform on her tablet when needed, because she frequently gets caught "scrollin' scrollin' scrollin'."
"I can often open Facebook without being conscious of it. My hand just does it and that's scary. Sometimes I don't even hear my husband or kids talking to me.
"Diving into comments and reading them for ages" wastes her time the most.
"I can jump into bed, check Facebook for '10 minutes' and then an hour
later and still be lying there scrolling.
"I just have to be more mindful and aware of what I'm doing," she says, acknowledging it's a challenge.
"My mind is so wired to go to Facebook for a boost ... That good vibe in the brain can make it hard to do a detox. However, I think once you see the benefits it can be really worthwhile."
Catering assistant, Natalie Smyth, 34, detoxes from social media every year for Lent - the six weeks leading up to Easter.
"It makes me realise how addicted I am just opening the apps and scrolling without even knowing what I'm looking at.
"It becomes such a bad habit that I find myself doing it whenever I have a moment of quiet. So instead of doing anything constructive with my kids or for myself, I just go on my phone and absolutely waste time."
Her annual break is "amazing" but, once that time is up, she can easily fall back into old habits.
Therefore, Waizenegger says a softly-softly approach will be your most effective way to detox from tech: "I'm quite a strong advocate of implementing more mindful and purposeful phone-usage patterns than just go cold turkey and flick back to your eight hours of smartphone use a day."