How to Stop Staring at Your Screen
In partnership with our friends at Miraval
It’s easy to think about detoxing as a one-time, all-out event that involves patience, dedication, and willpower to reset fully and start anew. But so often when we talk about forming habits that stick, what it comes down to is consistency and balance. Lately, we’ve been feeling the effects of Zoom fatigue, but—speaking for ourselves—we still can’t quit the screens. So we’re starting small with simple practices and tools that remind and motivate us to power down once in a while. A digital detox can be anything from taking a five-minute break to relax your eyes to committing to a totally device-free weekend. But the key for any detox, we’ve learned, is making it enjoyable—because the habits you’re going to keep doing are the habits you actually like doing.
CLEAN IT UP
If you don’t want to quit the internet cold turkey (and no one is expecting you to), then try organizing your phone and computer in a way that makes it less tempting to compulsively keep checking them. Consider a humble technology and social media Kondo: Close those tabs in your browser, move your social media apps—or any app you don’t want to use as often—off your home screen, and unfollow or mute accounts that no longer spark joy. If you don’t know where to start, sort your apps into different folders so it takes a few more clicks to get into them. On Instagram, you can tap on your “Following” list, which will bring up two categories, “least interacted with” and “most shown on your feed.” It can be enlightening to see the accounts you don’t engage with—or the ones you’re getting too much of. Similarly, if you have an iPhone, go into “Settings,” then “Screen Time.” This will bring up a bunch of information: your most-used apps, how many hours you’re on them, and even how many times you’ve picked up your phone (and what time of day you first picked it up). From here, you can set time limits and schedule downtime away from the screen, and your phone will remind you when it’s time to give it a rest.
Taking breaks throughout the day is the easiest way to detox from technology, and it can also make a big impact on productivity. The Pomodoro Technique is a way of breaking up your workday by building in time away from whatever it is you’re working on. You spend twenty-five minutes working, then you get a five-minute break. After four twenty-five-minute cycles, you get a longer fifteen- or thirty-minute break, and then you repeat.
After work, treat your phone as if it’s a reward. Put it away during dinner (or any meal), and store it outside of the bedroom an hour before you go to bed. Some of the most zen goop staffers we know swear by not sleeping next to their phone and are adamant about not checking it first thing in the morning. If you’re using your phone as an alarm, there’s the temptation to go straight into scrolling the moment you wake up. Instead, try an old-school alarm clock, or this one from Loftie that won’t make you miss your phone. The two-phase alarm starts off gently to ease you awake—it’s less aggressive than the one that’s on your phone. It also has a warm night-light, sound machine capabilities, and a library filled with meditations, sound baths, breathwork, and bedtime stories.
If being present is the goal for digitally detoxing, think about starting a mindfulness or meditation practice. It’s easier to kick old habits if you replace them with new, healthy ones. When you want to check your device, check in with yourself first, says Will Boyce, a meditation and mindfulness expert who leads Qigong and yoga workshops at Miraval in the Berkshire Mountains. First, Boyce recommends tuning in to your breath as it fills your belly to bring you into the present moment. Once you’re aware of it, focus on your exhale. “It’ll naturally begin to lengthen, and you’ll start feeling this beautiful movement,” he says. After a few rounds, gently note the word “rest” when you breathe out—and just like that, says Boyce, you’re meditating. If you’re on your device, try doing a background practice, which is the process of being aware of different sensations in the body while doing something that normally you can become unconscious about. “If you’re on the phone, notice your feet. Feel your body sitting in the chair. Feel your breath. Is it fast? Is it slow?” says Boyce. “You’re slowing down and moving out of your headspace down into your body.”
DO NOT DISTURB
Consider a digital detox one or a few days a week. “I’ve been forcing myself to take Saturdays and Sundays off from work and social media,” says Kelsey Patel, a Reiki and mindfulness coach and the author of Burning Bright, a book on burnout. “It has been the most restorative practice for me to be able to have a weekend off and then reset for Monday.” If you want to spend some meaningful time away from a screen, fill it with activities that engage both your mind and your hands, such as a puzzle or a mindfulness coloring book. This is called active meditation—the process of focusing your attention on one simple task. Another tip: Turn off your notifications or keep your phone on silent when you can. All technology—from websites to apps on your phone—is designed to keep you absorbed in it. Muting your phone or putting it in airplane or do not disturb mode can help you “detach for a bit and let go of some of that dependency,” says one of goop’s technology managers. “It can even be as simple as leaving your phone at home when walking your dog or shopping for groceries.”
If you’re into moon phases, this beautiful calendar tells you how to live your life according to the lunar cycles with advice and explanations on how best to use the moon’s energy each day. It’ll tell you, for example, that when there’s a full moon in Aquarius, it might be time to get a haircut or sort out your finances. Or it might suggest that on a waning Leo moon, you call up an old friend, start a new workout, or try dabbling in an art project. The pages are made from recycled paper with gold-leaf edges, and they are charmingly designed to be torn out and made into origami (there are patterns to follow in the back). Use it to keep track of the days and have a little fun with it.
Detox doesn’t have to be about deprivation. Instead of focusing on what you’re removing, replace your nightly scroll or create a morning routine with something that feels gratifying. “I gave up social media when I found myself being sucked in and never really walking away from it feeling better,” says Boyce. Something that does feel instantly rewarding? An at-home facial. For a mind-clearing energy boost, dab a little of acupuncturist and aromatherapist Annee de Mamiel’s Altitude Oil under your nose or into your palms and inhale a few times. The combination of lemon myrtle, peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender will perk you up. Then smooth these cryo tools over your face starting from the center of your forehead out toward your temples—you’ll feel relaxed, and your skin and mind will feel soothed.
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