Although 2020 has been an awful year for many people, the horrors of lockdown have at least been softened by the presence of the internet.
Being able to work from home has enabled many of us to preserve our jobs, while the internet has also provided an increasingly rare link to the world outside our homes.
Millions of people have retreated into fantasy gaming, immersed themselves in box sets or spent their free time arguing with strangers on social media.
The internet has become a place to vent our frustrations, even at the risk of compromising our safety and security.
And this tends to happen after spending all day working at a computer, ordering Christmas presents online, and keeping in touch with friends and relatives by IM or video calls.
Little wonder so much screen time is making us increasingly fatigued and irritable.
Being able to disconnect from the internet has never been so vital, yet it seems harder than ever with real-world experiences off-limits and draconian restrictions on personal freedom.
Below, we consider ways to switch off after a day that tends to involve more screen time than is good for us.
Research shows that time spent offline reduces stress levels, diminishes the risk of headaches, helps us to sleep more soundly and improves our overall mood.
These activities will all provide more mental nourishment than seeking validation through social media likes, or endlessly trawling the news for a positive story…
Unplug from the Matrix
Firstly, when the working day ends, shut down computers and stay offline.
Having a home office or a company laptop shouldn’t mean work inextricably seeps into your free time.
Being able to disconnect from the internet involves boundaries, so celebrate Friday evenings by pouring a glass of wine, or having a games/movie/takeaway night.
Takeaways are a welcome treat when eating out is largely off-limits, but cooking dinner is a proven method of being able to disconnect from the internet.
Companies like Gousto provide meal boxes with pre-measured ingredients and foolproof recipes, allowing you to experiment with new cuisines and hone your MasterChef credentials.
Speaking of which, it might seem strange to watch an hour of TV in the age of on-demand streaming, but scheduled programming adds structure to your evening.
Advert breaks also provide opportunities to make a hot chocolate (always avoid caffeine after 3pm), have a quick chat, or nip off to the bathroom.
For related reasons, a dog will welcome going for an evening walk. Fresh air clears everyone’s lungs, and a stroll around the block is invigorating even on a cold night.
It’s good housekeeping to leave your smartphone in a drawer at night, or set it to Do Not Disturb/Airplane mode after 9pm.
There’s no justification for checking social media updates in bed, especially as nocturnal screen time can make it harder to go to sleep.
Instead, put a book on your bedside unit, which should encourage you to read rather than doing anything more mentally draining.
Choose a book that’s engaging but not too cerebral – the latest Hunger Games instalment, or one of the numerous autobiographies released at this time of year.
We’d also recommend a few moments of mindfulness at the end of each day.
Apps like Headspace provide guided meditations that help to distract you from the stresses of the day, easing your transition to sleep and even making you feel more appreciative.
That’s something we could all benefit from right now.