Last year I decided to try an experiment – to detox from my cell phone. It had been on my mind for a long time and it was clear to me that I was completely unconscious of my phone usage. I would sometimes find myself checking my email on my phone while writing an email on my computer. Or grab my phone every 2 minutes, wondering why there were no updates on Instagram. I also found myself lying in bed in the morning, waiting for something to happen that would compel me to get up and I would just check my phone in circles as I tried to decide to get up.
But one day I had enough. I was feeling low, unfocused and out of touch with myself and what I wanted to get done in my day-to-day life. So, I decided to experiment for 33 days and set up the following rules:
1. No cell phone checking in the morning until I was ready to start my day. I could check for messages and calls, but no email, social media or other apps. This sometimes meant going for a walk first in the morning and taking a shower before checking my phone.
2. Leaving my phone in another room – with ringer on so I could still be reached
3. Allowing myself to check my phone on the top of the hour only.
4. No cell phone checking as the last thing before I went to bed.
Here is what I found:The first days were hard, but only because my cell phone habits were so ingrained that I would unconsciously check my phone all the time. This meant I had to focus to keep my commitment, and keep my phone away from where I was sitting to change my habits.
It took a surprisingly short time to experience differences. I started to feel more calm overall, and treasuring my morning walks on a whole new level. I started to feel a sense of belonging in my neighborhood, even if I didn’t meet anyone in the early morning. Before I walked to avoid feeling a certain way, and now I felt like I was getting filled up.
I also started to read again. I had time for this now. It was astonishing to me how much time I had in my day when I freed up my right hand and my eyeballs.
But perhaps the most significant change I experienced was that I started to feel empowered and inspired again in a way that I hadn’t felt since before cell phones. I started to have new ideas more often, and I experienced a greater sense of faith and trust in my life. I was more present with people around me, not just because the phone wasn’t there, but because my impulse to check my phone, and the corresponding “I wonder if there is a new message/post/email” thought pattern no longer dominated my mind.
When my 33 days were over, I maintained my new habits for quite a while, but at some point, some old habits started to creep back in, such as, “I’ll just check Instagram this morning. It’s Sunday – what is the harm?” Well, the “harm” was that it only took once to go into a slippery slope and find myself back at my old normal. To me this has meant re-starting my 33-day experiment several times – and that is OK. My awareness of imbalance comes faster now, and one part of my experiment seems to have become a permanent installment: I don’t check my phone when I wake up, and I got an old fashioned alarm clock, so I don’t even have to deal with the phone as my alarm clock.
If you are considering doing a detox like this, here are some suggestions that may help you: