Dubai ranked among top 10 cities globally for digital detox; psychologists share tips to get rid of smartphone addiction

Expert says that 1 out of 5 people in UAE suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, with many showing direct link to technology

by

Waheed Abbas

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Published: Sun 23 Apr 2023, 1:04 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 9:03 PM

Many people in the UAE face issues of stress, loneliness, poor social skills, anxiety and depression due to their addictions to smartphones, gadget and social media.

In order to get rid of this addiction, psychologists advise people to schedule the use of screens and social media and dedicate time on other activities to engage themselves and stay in the real world connections.

Some cities offer a variety of activities and adventure-packed packages in order to unplug from smartphone addiction and screens. According to a study by InsureMyTrip, Dubai has been ranked eighth city in the world for a digital detox as the city offers a variety of relaxations and activities for travellers looking to detach themselves from the screens.

Residents and visitors to the emirate can enjoy various activities such as visitors to waterparks, theme parks, visit spas and a wide range of offerings from the hospitality sector among others.

Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and founder of The Lighthouse Arabia, said while most people still do not take the smartphone or gadget addiction seriously enough to seek treatment from a mental health professional, many centres treat video game addictions.

She said people do come for issues that have been either a direct result of overuse of technology or issue that were exacerbated due to technology use – such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, perfectionism, poor social skills, body image issues, eating disorders, attention problems, stress and burnout are all linked to the overuse of technology.

While treating such people, she said, it’s found that there is a correlation between technology use and their presenting symptoms.

The clinical psychologist warned that social media is having an awful impact on mental health, especially children, through messages of perfection and consumerism.

“1 out of 5 young people are struggling with a mental health condition, and 50 per cent of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14. I am going to do my very best to limit the exposure children have to unhelpful and unhealthy stressors such as social media.”

Moreover, she pointed out that apps people use on smartphones have an addictive quality to them.

“Through their use, dopamine is released into our brains and a withdrawal from such apps can lead to anxiety. Studies done where people were asked to refrain from using their phones for just 24 hours reported symptoms of anxiety, loneliness, depression, and hopelessness,” said Dr Afridi.

She added that people who compulsively check their phones for work emails and WhatsApp could suffering form of workaholism.

How to digitally detox yourself

1. Schedule a time to use social media

2. Have social media free days

3. Take a mental snapshot of happenings instead of sharing it all on social media

4. Experience the moment with all your 5 senses

5. Stay grounded in real-world connections

6. When with your family, friends, put phone away and be with each other

7. Have a sacred time, place where you won’t be using phone/taking pictures

8. Be absorbed in the moment such as children's birthdays, school plays etc.

9. Ask friends to take photos of such parties

10. Engage in hobbies in the real world

11. Stay connected to your passions

12. Read, learn, travel, play sports

13. Do what brings you joy and refrain from documenting activities on social media

14. Technology should be used to deepen relationships and connection, not to attain and maintain them

Top 10 cities for digital detox:

Prague

Rome

Amsterdam

Lisbon

Copenhagen

Marrakech

Hong Kong

Dubai

Madrid

Stockholm

Source: InsureMyTrip, The Lighthouse Arabia, KT Research

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