Try This 7-Day Digital Detox to Spring Clean Your Tech Life
Put Down the Green Juice—And Your Phone
The weather is warming up, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and you're probably still staring at your phone. Spring is the perfect time to reevaluate everything in your life, ditch what's unnecessary, and get that fresh-start feeling—and that applies to the way you use your tech too. Don't worry, we're not going to say you should give up your phone for an entire week. (Because, let's be honest, that's just like going on a juice cleanse. You'll hate it at first, cheat a little, claim to feel ~perfectly weightless~ by the end, but as soon as it's over you'll go back to your bad habits.)
Instead, this digital detox is all about seven small changes—a new one for each day—that you can adopt to take your iPhone relationship from obsessive to actually healthy. (Think you don't need a detox? Find out: Are You Attached to Your iPhone?)
"By choosing how and when you use your digital devices, you're establishing yourself as the master not the slave," says Dr. Barbara Mariposa, a London-based medical doctor and educator in the field of mental and emotional wellbeing.
"Digital tech overuse means we are 'always on,'" she says. "It's really hard to find the off button, especially because of the addictive nature of overuse, and FOMO. The brain needs breathing space as much as the whole human does."
So follow Dr. Mariposa's guidelines (which are easy enough to maintain even past your week of detoxing) for the ultimate tech spring cleaning.
Day 1: Banish Your Smartphone to the Couch
Your relationship has turned toxic, and it's time for some space—not a breakup, but a little time apart. It's time to make your smartphone sleep on the couch.
But what if you miss a late-night text? How ever will you wake up without the 18 alarms you have set? News flash: You can survive without your smartphone in bed and you'll probably sleep way better without it. Frequent social media use has been linked to sleep disturbance and poor sleep quality, according to a 2015 study at the University of Pittsburgh.
Even though your phone may feel like bae, it's totally replaceable. Go out and buy an old-school alarm clock—yes, really—and use that to wake up every day instead. Think about it: Those worked for everyone pre-iPhone, and one will probably work for you too! (Maybe even treat yourself to one of these alarm-clock upgrades that could make your mornings way easier.)
Day 2: Unsubscribe to the Madness
If the number in the little red bubble on your Mail icon is high enough to send you into a tizzy, it's time to unsubscribe. Rather than frantically deleting emails from stores and publications that you never open, curate your newsletter and other subscriptions to only those that you really really want to read. You'll spend less time being bombarded by irrelevant information, and make time for more meaningful communication. (Same goes for social media. See what happened when this writer aggressively un-followed people for a month.)
Day 3: Go Green
Go for a nature-filled walk, and leave your phone behind. Yes, that means resisting the urge to put it on your Snapchat story, or posting an Instagram of the beautiful view and adding a "reconnecting with nature" caption. (Really, think about how ironic that is.) Bonus: Do your workout outside and reap even more get-fit benefits.
Day 4: Speak Up
Think about it: As soon as you step into an elevator, are stuck in line waiting for coffee, or killing time before meeting a friend, what do you do? Chances are, you spend that time with your head down, thumbs tapping away at your phone, catching up on Twitter or Facebook.
"Over use of digital tech is linked to depression, anxiety, poor sleep and diminishing real time social interaction," says Dr. Mariposa. "We need this to develop and maintain our social and emotional intelligence fully and feel good about ourselves."
So next time you're waiting in line, resist the urge to grab your phone and have a conversation instead. It can be about something as trivial as the weather—but we'll guarantee you'll feel a lot more gratified than you would after seeing that 'gram of your friend's breakfast.
Day 5: Nom Noise-Free
When is the last time you ate a meal without clicking around on your phone? Whether you're skimming through morning emails during breakfast, texting with friends during your lunch break, or watching people's epic Friday night Snapchat stories during Saturday brunch, it's tough to think of meal time as a phone-free moment. Dr. Mariposa suggests making one mealtime a day digital-free, and one evening a week digital-free. That means no Netflix, social media, or online shopping. It might seem insane, but it's just one meal and one night a week.
It'll help you stay on your healthy-eating track too: A study done in the Netherlands found that people who were mentally distracted during meals required more salty, sweet, and intense tastes to feel statisfied. During your tech-free meals, concentrate on how your food looks and tastes (instead of trying to capture its beauty to post on social media).
Day 6: Do a Phone-Free Hobby
When someone asks what your hobbies are, do you answer with "trolling Instagram?" Do something you love, phone-free. That means going for a run totally unplugged, trying a new restaurant without Instagramming it, seeing live music without Snapchatting, lounging in the park without playing music on Spotify, and no, binging on Netflix is not allowed. (We definitely support the workout idea—there are some surprising perks to working out unplugged.)
Day 7: U.S.B.
If you've been following along each day, you should already be feeling less tech-dependent. However, even if you're unplugging during the recommended times (at night, during meals, and with friends), that still leaves a lot of time for you to be glued to your devices. For the final day, grab a sticky note, a pen, and write U.S.B. on it. Stick it on the front of your phone.
"Every time you reach for your smart phone, (and notice how often that is), think U.S.B.: UNPLUG. SLOW DOWN. BREATHE. Create your digital device as an anchor to reconnect with yourself," says Dr. Mariposa.
You may realize you don't actually need to be looking at your phone—it's just a compulsive act when you feel unstimulated for a second. Instead, use the U.S.B. reminder to take that second of free time to breathe deeply and reconnect with all your senses. Whenever you're feeling particularly stressed, anxious, or just phone-dependent, pop a U.S.B. sticky note on your phone for an instantly upgraded day.