The Magic of a Digital Detox

About once a month I spend a day without my cell phone.

And sometimes I do a true digital detox which means a day free of all screens. No cell. No laptop. No TV.

Leading up to my detox day I always find myself asking “do I really need to do this? I’m not that addicted to my phone… I could just leave it at home or put it on airplane mode.”

But that resistance is exactly what reminds me that yes, I need to do this.

I learn something new about myself each time I undertake this particular form of masochism. And it’s worth it.

It’s really a mindfulness practice. It forces you to become aware of your cell-phone centered habits and energy spend.

The first time I did it it was a HUGE eye opener.

I thought I would just not mindlessly scroll Instagram as much.

But I also realized how much mental capacity and energy I spend wondering where my phone is, checking it to see if I have a notification, reaching for it in moments of stillness (when I get out of the shower, when I stop at a red light, during a lull in dinner conversation).

And it totally makes sense that we would have those types of reactions.

We have evolved into an always-on society and culture of multitasking and distraction, and the dopamine hit that your brain releases when you get a notification is enough alone to drive the addiction.

Alas, this isn’t a post about cell phone addiction.

But it is about the magic that can unfold when you consciously engage with your day, free of your cell phone.

And about the awareness of the energy that you spend on digital devices, and the impact that has on where you are focusing your energy.

During my most recent cell-free day, I engaged with my day, with myself, and my environment like never before.

I started my Saturday with a beautiful yoga class. Then when I got home (fighting the autopilot urge to check my phone and see who texted me while I was in class), and started to make breakfast, I reached for my Bluetooth speaker to turn on some tunz.

It took me a minute to realize… shit, I don’t have my phone on so I have no music to play!

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with listening to music (a thought that almost tempted me to turn my phone back on JUST for the tunz), what unfolded next wouldn't have happened if I had, per my typical routine, turned on music and started making breakfast.

While I was cooking in silence (scary, right?! We get very afraid of silence, but, different topic), I had my back door open because it was a beautiful day… and I started noticing the jingle of wind chimes outside.

And the breeze which created a lovely sound and movement in the trees.

That drew me to take my breakfast outside, enjoying it slowly and mindfully, eating in the sun, not distracted by email, texts, or all the tempting pulls for attention our phones provide.

It was so nice out that it led me to getting spending time with the pups in the grass, when normally I would have finished breakfast and jumped in the shower.

My original plan was to get some work done before my commitment at 4pm, but the joy of being present in my environment, screen free, led me to asking myself how I really wanted to spend my day.

So I decided to do some old-school notebook paper writing in the sun (can’t really do that with the glare of a laptop screen!) and then check out a few local galleries.

This is something that’s been on my list for a while since I know it fuels my creative energy, which is VITAL for me, but I let it slide for all the reasons we let stuff slide.

I guess that’s really what the digital detox provided for me… the opportunity to SLOW DOWN.

To truly experience my world and my day and all the beautiful sensations that go along with that.

To ask myself in the moment, without hurry or distraction, what do I really want to do next?

Sounds simple, but with busy lives and over-scheduling, the days and years can tick by in a blink.

Your screen-free day will probably look nothing like mine, but it should look how YOU want and you’ll get out of it what you most need to.

Yes, I had a magical day, and you’re probably thinking “yea, but, you had a day free of plans so it could unfold that way...”


So here are some tips that I have learned that best set me up for a successful and meaningful digital detox day.

  • THE DAY: Choose a weekend day (or day you are playing hookie from work) where you either have no plans at all or you have set plans that you don’t have to text about day-of.

  • THE PEOPLE: Tell your closest peeps that you’ll be off the grid that day (don’t want your loved ones stressed when the can’t get a hold of you for hours!)

  • THE TIME: Set your detox hours. And stick to them. Sometimes I do 9am to 9pm. Sometimes it’s truly all day. Maybe you just want to start with a 4 hour block and see how that feels and what benefits you get from it.

  • THE SETTING: My recommendation is to turn your phone OFF. Putting it on Airplane mode or Do Not Disturb may be tempting, but the draw of your digital distraction is still there. But by all means, do what works for you and your lifestyle!

  • THE SAFETY NET: Though it’s off, keep your phone in your car or with you while you’re out and about just in case of emergency. The key is to have it out of sight, so I keep it in my glove box where it’s not visually distracting and tempting me (interesting study about this effect from University of Texas).

  • THE FEELS: Then, pay attention. Check in with yourself throughout the day and notice how you feel. Do you have a lil bit of anxiety? Do you feel totally free? Maybe a combination of both?

  • THE IMPACT: At the end of the day you can mentally reflect or journal about your experience:

    • What patterns did you see? (I’m always reaching for my phone when…)

    • How did this impact your energy and focus throughout the day?

    • What did you experience or notice that you normally wouldn't have?

    • What mindfulness practices around your phone use can you pull into your every day? (make your bedroom a no-phone zone? Leave your phone out of sight while you’re working?)

This is what’s really worked for me, so I invite you to try it out and make your own experience.

Technology is amazing and I’m so grateful for all it provides.

And sometimes I need a kick in the ass reminder of how much energy I let seep into my little personal computer versus focusing on the experiences around me and creating the things I want in my life.

Life happens beautifully and fully off the screen as well.

What might you gain from a digital detox?

What could you put the energy you gain from time away from screen toward?

If you do choose to do a cell-free day, or have before, comment below and let me know what benefits you have seen or what you have learned! I’m always curious about others’ experiences.



Elizabeth St. JohnComment