Your screen time is through the roof — again — and you’re starting to feel a little jumpy when you hear notifications go off. It might be time to take a much-needed break from your phone, but you also need your devices for, you know, your life. Challenging yourself to digitally detox for 24 hours, seven days, or a month at a time — with varying levels of intensity — can help you feel more present.
“Digital devices can be a distraction during times when you want to focus on yourself,” says mental health counselor Lawrence Lovell, L.M.H.C. “A digital detox is helpful for self-care and recovery.” That might mean leaving your phone in the other room while you’re working out, taking a couple of weeks away from social media, or only using your computer for work and nothing else.
You might want to try a digital detox if you’re overwhelmed by your constant information intake, or if you feel like you’re having a hard time being present IRL. “Your device can shift your mood negatively based on what you are watching or reading on your device,” Lovell explains. “Taking a digital detox especially helps when there is breaking news that is tough to see in timelines and the news.”
Do You Have To Fully Unplug To Do A Digital Detox?
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for detoxing from your phone or social media. Instead of tossing your phone into a lake, think about what kind of digital detox suits your life and needs right now. Lovell says that you don’t need to turn off fully to benefit from unplugging from your tech. Instead, he advises asking yourself about your own internal boundaries and needs.
Maybe you want to dedicate yourself to calling instead of texting your friends for a week — just give them a heads up ahead of time so they don’t panic when they see you using the phone like in Ye Olde Days). Or maybe you don’t spend that much time on Instagram, but you really need a break from those daily hours on TikTok. You need your computer for work, but if you’re intentional about setting limits, you know you can spend a lot less time on your laptop than you think you do.
“I recommend adding time to your detox in 15-minute increments,” Lovell suggests. “If the onset of anxiety continues as the time progresses, this can be a clear sign that you have tried to detox too much too fast,” so slow it down as needed.
How To Digitally Detox For 24 Hours
A 24-hour digital detox challenge isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s much simpler to do than a longer challenge. Why? You can choose your 24 hours to be over the weekend — there might be no need to let your boss know that you’ll be completely and 100% offline. If you do tend to be on call at all times, though, setting a 24-hour boundary may be more accessible than going longer.
“You can give a heads-up to family members, friends, and even colleagues that you interact with on a regular basis digitally either via social media, email, or Messenger,” Lovell says. “This way it isn’t a surprise when they do not hear from you at the typical pace that you respond online.”
Reflect for a bit about what seems to be manageable for 24 hours. Perhaps going off of all social media, avoiding your computer, and maybe even ignoring texts completely is something you can handle for a whole day.
How To Digitally Detox For One Week
What might you be able to go without for seven days that would be a real challenge for 30? That’s a question you can start with for your seven-day digital detox. Maybe you get way too nervous even imagining a whole month without your email on your phone — but a single week seems scary yet doable.
One good week-long digital detox challenge is to practice selective scrolling on social media: only looking through hashtags that you know will make you happy (think #babyanimals) rather than scrolling Instagram at large. “Selective scrolling is more recommended than aimless scrolling because it gives you more control over the content you’re consuming,” Lovell says. You may also give yourself a time limit each day so you’re not scrolling without end, he suggests.
You could also split up your 24-hour digital detox challenge components and rotate them across a week: a day without social media; a day without texts; and a day with Gilmore Girls, for example, and repeat that cycle twice during a week.
How To Digitally Detox For 30 Days
Instead of trying to abstain from everything with a screen for a whole month, Lovell advises customizing your 30-day digital detox with little goals and practices that you accomplish every day.
“Keep digital devices outside of a certain area, such as a bedroom,” Lovell suggests. “Another practice is to be away from digital devices during certain times of the day. That can be in 30-60 minute chunks of time during the day or evening.” Perhaps you’ll turn off your non-essential notifications for a month, too — think, your news app push alerts. If you’re able, consider peppering those daily little goals in with a more traditional detox from all or most of your social media use throughout those 30 days. Start small and build up your tolerance to being away from your devices from there.
Integrating Digital Detoxes Into Your Everyday Life
If you’re not looking to commit to a full-scale digital detox, you can integrate more mindful tech practices in your daily life by thinking about your goals. “Someone may want to take a digital detox to be more present in their physical environment,” Lovell says. Does that mean you’re looking to improve your sleep hygiene by being more in the moment at bedtime? Lovell suggests charging your phone outside of your bedroom at night. Want to stay more engaged with the person you’re spending time with IRL? Commit to taking your phone off the physical table while you’re hanging out.
Start shifting your habits away from your phone little by little, Lovell advises. Instead of checking your phone first thing in the morning, make sure you do little things like brushing your teeth and washing your face before glancing at your notifications. Put your phone on airplane mode while you’re walking your dog so you can focus on smelling the flowers with Fido — they’ll like their walk time better, and so will you.
Lawrence Lovell, L.M.H.C., mental health counselor