Digital detox: a distraction-free day in the park

Hundreds handed in their phones for a few hours of "digital detox" in the Botanic Gardens on Sunday.
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Hundreds handed in their phones for a few hours of "digital detox" in the Botanic Gardens on Sunday.

Hundreds of families enjoyed a technology-free amble in Hagley Park's Botanic Gardens while others supped on free coffee at Addington Coffee Co-op.

Both events were part of a Canterbury's Digital Detox event organised by mental health organisation All Right? to encourage people to put their devices aside for four hours on Sunday.

Visitors to the Botanic Gardens were encouraged to turn in their mobile devices to enjoy an amble around various activities in the park.

Nathan Scott was visiting Hagley Park from out of town with his wife Emily and three of their children. They saw the event and joined in on a whim.

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"I can see the point in it," said Scott, as one of his daughters played with textured toys.

"My phone's always in my pocket," he said. He didn't hand his phone in at the entrance, but put it in a box so he wouldn't check it.

"I was a bit reluctant, only because I just put my son on a YMCA camp."

The event was organised by Canterbury University health science students and Canterbury District Health Board's (DHB) All Right? wellbeing campaign.

All Right? campaign manager Sue Turner said handing in phones wasn't compulsory, but she encouraged people to make the most of the day.

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Some people wanted to hold on to them to take photos, so a good compromise was to put them on flight mode, she said.

"It helps with your relationships. It help with connecting to people in the real world."

Turner said the campaign wanted people to ask themselves "Am I the boss of my technology, or is it the boss of me?"

"It's not swearing off technology. Of course technology's fantastic, but let's put it all into perspective."

The day wasn't just about turning off devices: each of the five activity stations in the gardens were dedicated to one of the "five ways to wellbeing" promoted by the DHB.

The five ways to wellbeing are: take notice, be active, connect, keep learning, and give.

Activities included reading I Spy books, flax weaving, hula hooping, and playing with objects with different textures and smells.

"It's about mental health, not mental illness," said Canterbury University health education lecturer Tracy Clelland.

"It's all about connecting with people."

 - Stuff

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