Here's what happened during my phone detox

Have you ever been walking down the street, texting, reading an article, checking Instagram, or searching for the perfect playlist and just completely collided into a very avoidable obstacle? If you answered yes, you are like 99% of the population, including myself. Most memorably was the time I was deep into a texting conversation and walked into a pipe draining water (possibly dirty water, I’m not sure, I clearly wasn’t paying attention) and was soaked. I was genuinely shocked that I could be so blind to the world right in front of me.

Although I’ve had moments of being distracted in the past, this was the moment that made me think “I’ve got to put my phone away.” It got me wondering, how many other things in life have I missed because I’m distracted by the constant input from my phone? I decided to do a “phone detox.” I’ve never done a detox of any kind before, mostly because my background in working with clients with eating disorders has taught me that the diet industry is a scam, but that’s a post for another day.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the anxiety of not having my phone at my fingertips by myself. I also knew that I needed to put some physical space between me and my technology in order to successfully not use it. So, I enlisted the support of my boyfriend. We’d only recently started dating at the time and thankfully he didn’t think I was out of my mind and was on board to give it a shot. We left our phones and apple watches at home and spent an afternoon wandering around the city, free of technology.

3 takeaways from the experience:

  • Not having our phones forced us to communicate more with each other and with others around us. We had to ask people for the time and directions which occasionally lead us to hearing recommendations and learning new things about the city we love.

  • I was able to give my full attention to the experience we were having. And I didn’t feel pressure to document it to let others know I was having a fun time. I just was enjoying the afternoon.

  • I was scared at times, what if something bad happened and we had no way of contacting someone for help?! Only to realize we were on a crowded street, near many shops and would be able to get help rather quickly if necessary.

The phone detox was easier than I anticipated and it was refreshing to experience the world fully without the weight of my phone pulling me in. Mindfulness is a term that gets thrown around casually but it is actually used in the evidence-based clinical technique, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help those struggling with mental health issues. I believe it has a place in all of our lives, mental health struggles or not. And when done thoughtfully it can be quite an effective way to manage common life stressors and generally make us happier and more fulfilled by the lives we live.

A key to mindfulness is doing one thing in the moment. How can we possibly be mindful when we are constantly pulled towards multi-tasking on our phones? Another DBT concept is the idea of accumulating positive experiences to decrease vulnerability to distressing emotions and increase our abilities to handle whatever life throws at us. Why not be mindful while doing something fun?

The phone detox helped check both boxes and left me with the goal of being more present in the world around me. I’d recommend detoxing with a friend or partner, making the detox for a set amount of time that is realistic and engaging in a positive activity while not having technology at your fingertips to document it.

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