We rely on our devices to stay connected, but all that extra screen time can leave us feeling drained. Here, experts tell us how to unplug from our screens, unwind, and unleash bliss.
It’s natural to dive into your phone, tablet, or computer to try to alleviate loneliness, but in reality, spending even 30 minutes a day on social media increases depression, says psychologist, researcher, and speaker Doreen Dodgen-Magee, author of Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World (Buy from Amazon, $30). To truly feel more connected to others, reach out in low-tech ways that allow you to tap deeper emotions by, say, sending a card or letter. Even a simple spiritual practice can lift you up. “While tech shifts our focus outward, making us look for external validation,” notes Dodgen-Magee, “just 10 minutes a day of contemplative prayer brings our sense of control back toward the self, easing loneliness.”
Discover your trigger.
Just knowing tech is addictive can help you take breaks that work for you. “If you constantly check email on weekends, tell yourself you’ll only look at it once every four hours, or pick one day to be off your device — a tech ‘Sabbath,’” says psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and mindfulness teacher Nancy Colier, author of The Power of Off and Can’t Stop Thinking (Buy from Amazon, $17) “Or set a timer every half hour to remind you to walk away from news sites. This nudge changes your thought process so you won’t feel the need to follow the next thread.”
Escape into a paperback.
Aim for small goals, urges Dodgen-Magee. “For every 20 texts, make one phone call, or for every three digital books, read one paperback.” Indeed, old-fashioned novels have surprising benefits. “Screen reading stimulates primitive brain regions, while paper books boost self-control,” she says. “Digital books make our eyes dart faster, but sitting down to read a ‘real’ novel requires stillness — it relaxes your brain.”
Choose your rules.
Connecting to what you value lets you discover what makes you happy apart from the pull of technology, says Colier. “For example, if you miss deep conversations with family, make a ground rule to keep your phones off during meals.” Linking your values to your behaviors lets you stick with your tech-free intentions and honor deeper motivations.
Do ‘nothing’ deliciously.
There’s something so revitalizing about doing nothing, or as Dodgen-Magee calls it, “doing nothing deliciously.” In fact, she urges “boredom parties” that you can throw solo (to, say, watch the clouds) or with a friend. The only rule is that you can’t plan ahead. “The other day, a friend taught me how to flip bottle caps and I taught her the ‘Thriller’ dance,” she says. “When we allow spontaneity, we learn it’s okay to be a little ‘awkward’ sometimes without having to escape into our phones.”
To maintain a tech-life balance, get in touch with what inspires you most, from art to nature, says Tom Cooper, Ph.D. The author of seven books, including Fast Media, Media Fast: How To Clear Your Mind And Invigorate Your Life In An Age Of Media Overload (Buy from Amazon, $20), Cooper teaches ethics and media studies at Emerson College. “Give yourself ‘muses’ worthy of leaving tech for,” adds Dodgen-Magee, who used chalk to write affirmations in local driveways at the height of the pandemic. “It’s this kind of embodied experience we miss when we’re lost in tech. Look to your creativity to provide you with something unique and meaningful.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.