5 Steps to Take a Digital Detox and Find Joy
Theresa Polley
August 22, 2022
September 6, 2023
Self Care

I believe a crucial first step in becoming more mindful and less mindless, is to lessen your dependence on your phone. I get it—your whole life is on your phone. But studies continue to show our phone habits are toxic and can cause undue stress, memory issues and mental health struggles.

When I began my digital detox journey several years ago, I had an immediate sense of relief — I was taking back my power from my phone. It’s a process that ebbs and flows, but when I am full on consuming all of the things my phone has to offer, everything feels muted. Joy especially.

Recognizing I was using my phone as a distraction to not think about how lonely or sad I was feeling was a game changer. Now, when that muted feeling resurfaces, I’ve learned that what I really need is to take a digital detox and tune into what is going on within me.

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. ~Marianne Williamson

Since 2020, I've noticed retreat guests struggle with putting their phones away. I believe our addiction to our screens has gradually worsened over the last several years - we were desperate for connection during lockdown. While that may have been our only source of connection then, that may no longer be the case now - but that yearning for connection is still a driving force. Our phones may make us feel like we’re staying connected, but we’re really just disconnecting from reality, ourselves, each other and our community.

Signs You May Need a Digital Detox

I never feel at peace when there’s a constant itch to check my phone to see what’s going on around me, but there are other indicators that might not be quite as obvious. A few signs you may need a digital detox include: 

  • Irritated, frustrated and angry – Are you provoked by the smallest things?
  • Easily distracted – Do you struggle to concentrate when reading or working?
  • Feeling pressure to respond immediately – Do you have an uncontrollable urge to pick up your phone every time your phone lights up or dings?
  • Lack of sleep – Do you struggle with disrupted sleep, trouble sleeping or not getting enough sleep?
  • Insecurities about who you are and what you have – Are you constantly comparing yourself to “influencers” or friends on social media?

Experts believe taking a break from technology is needed by most of us while studies have shown too much screen time is damaging to our physical, mental and emotional well-being

Simply put, too much screen time distracts us from being fully present in the moment. I believe in order to experience emotional healing, mental clarity and true joy we must be intentional about how we use our phones.

5 Steps to a Digital Detox

The following tips will help you find balance by keeping you connected – not to your device, but to the present moment.

1. Create a screen-free zone at the dining table.

This is the perfect first step towards a digital detox. You don’t have to commit to making every meal screen-free, but can you put away your phone for dinner tonight? Whether you’re sitting down for a meal with your family, a significant other, a friend or by yourself, the simple act of putting away your phone allows you to be more present and enjoy connection and communication with the people who are there with you. 

2. Set digital boundaries.

We all know we have 24 hours in a day and a growing list of things we want to do (and scrolling endlessly isn’t on that list). Set digital boundaries by deciding when and how often you want to engage with devices you use on a daily basis – phone, watch, tablet, computer, tv, etc. Try using screen time or setting a timer next time you sit down to watch TV to help you stick to it. Without boundaries, we allow ourselves to be depleted by everything and everyone around us – remember, you’re in charge of you.

3. Clean up your apps.

Declutter your digital life by cleaning up your apps. Review the apps on your device – chances are, there are more than a few you never use, and some that you didn’t even know were on there! Delete any apps you haven’t used in a month. What might be more difficult (yet even more freeing) is the next level: deleting the apps that distract you the most, including social media, games or news sites.

4. Turn off or limit your notifications.

Few things are more distracting than the ding! of a notification. But how many notifications are so relevant that they should be allowed to interrupt your day? I’m going to tell you right now, that it’s probably fewer than you think. Reduce your notifications and you’ll have less of an urge to constantly pick up your phone, and more freedom to check what you want when you want.

5. Limit your phone use around sleep.

Picking up and checking your phone first thing in the morning has you starting your day by reacting instead of responding. It’s going to be 100 degrees today! I need to reply to this work email right now! The world is falling apart! And so on. When you start your day mindfully – enjoying your coffee or tea and taking a pause before you jump in – the whole tone of your day is completely different. Similarly, scrolling through your phone as you lay in bed getting ready to sleep may not only distract you and lead you down a rabbit hole, but it can also inhibit your ability to fall and stay asleep. Decide on a time – aim for at least an hour before bedtime – to plug in your phone and leave it until the next day.

How to Start Your Digital Detox 

Start your digital detox by taking intentional breaks from the digital world. Completely banishing devices from your day-to-day life is unrealistic, but it is possible to take incremental breaks from using them constantly. Start by taking 15 minutes off one day, followed by 30 the next, and so on. Or, select a particularly distracting social media platform and designate one day a week to disconnect from it completely – Facebook Free Fridays, anyone?

Taking a digital detox on our own terms allows us to find true connection with ourselves and each other. When I realized my free time is limited - why would I want to waste my precious free time zoning out on my phone? There's so much living to do!

Experience a Digital Detox at One of Our Retreats

At Retreat in the Pines our Community Dining Table is a designated phone free zone. Many women come to retreats seeking a way to “unplug” from their daily lives and so many have shared how grateful they are for the reminder to disconnect from what pulls them away from the present moment. 

Consider getting away to a place in nature where the only thing you really have to do is breathe. It’s a positive step on your digital detox journey. Here are a couple retreats we recommend:

Unplugging Brings Joy

I began my digital detox by turning off all of the notifications on my phone. Then I deleted social media apps. At first there was a sense of what do I do now? Then I realized I had more time in my day to engage with my ACTUAL life as opposed to being a voyeur into someone else's life. My dining table at home has always been a screen-free zone and I have memories of great meals and conversations with my family over the years.

Breaking the cycle of compulsion to pick up your phone whenever you have a few moments of free time is difficult, but not impossible. Trying a digital detox can be the first step to untethering from your phone, connecting with yourself and finding true joy.

This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

Share this Story

Theresa Polley

Theresa believes ALL women have the right to live life on their own terms. In 2004, she created Retreat in the Pines to give women a safe space to be their authentic selves without apology while finding the healing and renewal they deserve.

Retreat With Us

All Women Welcome
No Judgments
No Expectations
Join Us