Last week the unthinkable happened. I had to run for the train, and on my way I realized my phone battery was at 15%. The panic started to creep in. What was I supposed to do now during my commute? No music, no books, no news, no social media?
I usually try to do sensible things during my daily commute: read books via my Kindle app, listen to soothing music. But during this nervous train ride I realized it was time to take a closer look at my digital habits. I don’t want to break into a sweat every time my phone is low on battery, or when I don’t have a device near me. Instead, I want to connect to my real life again and be more present.
Does this sound familiar? If so, let’s see how we can introduce a 7-day Digital Detox in small, daily bits.
Day 1 – Plan Your Detox
Every change effort starts with planning. When we remove something from our lives, whether it’s certain foods, bad habits, or digital devices, we are more likely to succeed if we replace them with something more positive.
What takes up most of your time in the digital world? Think about your main digital moments in a day, and try coming up with alternative actions that promote your wellbeing. Personally, I need to be online for work, but I do not need to check my Instagram before getting out of bed. I could close my eyes in the train and meditate instead of reading. I could do yoga instead of watching TV. Don’t attempt to change everything at once; becoming aware of your digital overload moments is already the first step.
Day 2 – No Digital Devices in the Morning
That’s right, we’re jumping right in! If you read news from your phone or tablet during breakfast, you’ll have to think of something else. For me a goal will be writing in my journal (pen and paper!), which I always plan to do if I have time after my news reading. Perhaps listening to myself is more important than tuning into the (often) repetitive daily chatter of news.
To help with this, keep your phone on airplane mode and avoid opening it until you are at work, or until you have finished breakfast and are done getting ready for the day.
Day 3 – Schedule Your Emails
This is important for those working in front of a computer daily. Sure, we cannot avoid the glare of the screen, but we do have the power to schedule our work wisely. When I realized I was getting too stressed, one of the first things I tackled was my email. I would come to work and do the most important task of the day before opening my email. Set your intentions: decide on 2–3 moments during the day when you will read and answer emails. This will clear out your mind and help you focus.
Day 4 – Get Antisocial
Most of us have several social media apps on our phones, and out of habit we may read what’s going on before we even get out of bed. For day 4, try giving yourself a break from social media. If you feel you need some help, log off or delete all of your social media apps from your phone for 24 hours, and see what this does to you. Do you feel anxious, nervous, lonely, or perhaps relieved? What is it that you fear losing? Can you connect with a friend in real life instead?
Day 5 – Call, Don’t GIF
I love GIFs and funny memes on social media! And I love it when friends tag me in something they think I will find funny. Calling each other is so last year, right? But I have noticed that sometimes the majority of my communication with my closest friends is through GIFs and funny posts. This makes me wonder if we’re missing the point. One of the most satisfying things in human life is connection with others, real-life, honest connection. So let’s connect today! No GIFs, no tagging, no apping, but calling or hugging friends.
Day 6 – Focus on Experiencing Life, Not Filming It
We all know the difference between social media reality, and the reality we are living in. But sometimes the line can get hazy. Sometimes when things are happening, half of my mind is thinking about how to post about it. Or when I’m traveling, I feel like if I can’t post the beauty of foreign lands to Instagram, what’s the point?
We should remind ourselves that life really is to be experienced with all of our senses. Smell it, touch it, see it, hear it, and taste it! The challenge of today is to not photograph anything. No selfies, no beautiful dinner plates, no sunsets. Instead, let’s be there in the middle of it and enjoy it– just for ourselves. No other validation needed.
Day 7 – Sleep Enough
Staring at a screen just before going to bed is not doing us any good. Aim to turn off your devices 1–2 hours before going to bed. If you want to read, books and magazines are still being printed. Keep your bedroom as device-free as possible. And honestly, do we really need an app to tell us how long our REM stage was and how many times we tossed and turned during the night? How about just having a good old-fashioned sleep and waking up refreshed in the morning?
A digital detox does not mean we should abandon all of our devices in one go. However, it does provide an opportunity to observe where more time in real life could be helpful, and which digital habits are not nourishing us anymore. Take it one small step at a time, one habit at a time, and one part of the day at a time.
Image credit: Alissa