Unplugged: How to Recharge with Small Breaks from Technology
BY LISA DEBENEDICTIS
How often do you really unplug from technology? If the answer is never, you may want to think about trying it out. Believe it or not, according to Zipcar’s Urbanite Survey, millennials need to be unplugged for 16.5 hours to truly feel relaxed. While taking that kind of time away from your screen may seem daunting, excessive technology use is often linked to stress, depression, and sleep issues.
Cutting off technology and taking in your surroundings instead, is good for the mind, body and soul.
In fact, March 9–10 has been declared the National Day of Unplugging to get more people to take a technology detox. Taking a day off is a great starting point, and here are other small ways you can cut down on excessive technology use in your life.
1. Set boundaries—and stick to them
You can avoid daily temptations by setting boundaries and changing your habits.
If you want to make real changes to your habits, the important thing is to start small. Set a fixed timeline for checking work emails or social media, make a rule for no phone during meals, or cut back on TV or Netflix by one night a week. How do you hold yourself accountable? Whether you hand over your phone to your roommate, buy yourself a sleeping bag for your cell phones, or shut off your WiFi after 8pm, there are multiple ways to avoid temptation. Find out what works for you, and stick with it.
2. Create some IRL alternatives
Time previously spent looking at a screen can be replaced with a variety of alternative activities.
In many cases, taking a break from technology means you’ll need to come up with some alternatives to work into your routine—otherwise, it’s too easy to check your phone or put on the TV. Read a print book or newspaper, draw, or do a free-write to stimulate creativity the old-fashioned way. Or meet a friend for coffee or dinner (and keep your phone shut off and out of sight) or play a board game with your roommates. Replacing screen time with exercise can be a great way to support your healthier lifestyle as well, whether it's taking a weekly fitness class, going for runs, or doing yoga at home. If you rely heavily on your phone or computer for your schedule, consider adding a written planner or calendar into your life, or supplementing with writing out to-do lists.
3. Change up your bedtime routine
Not using technology just before bed will result in a better night’s sleep.
One of the biggest ways you can cut back on technology is before bed. The National Sleep Foundation suggests not using technology for 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed—or even better, making your bedroom a technology-free space. This is because the blue light from screens suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. In addition, using technology keeps your brain alert, so while you may think that reading the news, checking emails, or scrolling through social before bed helps you unwind—it’s actually keeping you up.
4. Take a tech detox trip
Keeping yourself busy with activities and trips will make your long-distance relationship with technology easier to manage.
If you’re ready to get closer to that 16.5 hours without your phone, consider taking part in a technology detox. Grab a few friends and take a Ziptrip out of the city for a hike, or check out a nearby town or museum you haven't been to before. Or rent a cabin for a night with no WiFi (but bring a deck of cards!) so that the temptation to cheat isn’t even possible. Just remember to tell your family and friends that you are going offline so that you don’t worry anyone, and keep your phone off but nearby in case of emergencies. By taking some time away from technology, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and reinvigorated—and maybe even ready to plan your next tech detox trip.