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Mindful Digital Detox

Do you have your digital devices, or do they have you? The algorithms that control what shows up in your feed, or the games you play on the phone are incredibly powerful; infinitely more powerful than any amount of will power. Here are some ways you can work towards reclaiming your attention, arguably your most precious resource, and your peace of mind along with it.

If you're planning to fully unplug for a retreat, one option is to spend up to a week preparing. A really great first step might be to simply notice, or raise your awareness about just how fragmented your attention has become or just how upset you get when you "doomscroll". Spend a couple of days just observing your relationship with your device and the content and activities on it. Just the act of becoming aware of your habits around you device can be a very powerful intervention.

A baby step moving from awareness towards detox might be a three breath practice. Each time you notice you are reaching for your device, stop and take three mindful breaths. This means truly turning ALL of your attention towards the sensations of the breath for just three breaths. You may need to renew your commitment to this in the middle of the first breath. Thats okay! Once the three breaths have passed, you can choose to either go ahead and engage your device, or not. The very brief pause builds your choice muscle, and begins to put YOU back in control.

Next, you might consider completely unplugging for a specific amount of time or during a specific activity. You might leave the device in another room during dinner or evening time with your family; or maybe you set an alarm for one hour while you are working on something, and not interact with your device until the alarm goes off; perhaps you commit to not engaging your device for the first hour after you get out of bed, or the last hour before you go to bed. Continue to observe your impulses and to take the three breaths each time you notice one - only now, for some part of each day, you will agree with yourself to not engage for some amount of time.

At this point, you might also consider leaving your device on silent for large chunks of the day so you are not compelled to treat every ding like an emergency. It may be helpful to communicate with friends and family that you are detoxing and might not respond immediately.

When your retreat day approaches, consider limiting device use to emergencies only for the 24 hours before and after the retreat. Observe closely. What are you aware of? What calls your attention in the absence of the device and distraction? How does it feel to be master of your attention again?

After the retreat, consider limiting social media time to 30 minutes per day. Schedule it. Fully engage at whatever level works for you. Then stop, and don't engage again until the next day. At some point, you might realize this is not worth it and cancel your account all together. Another follow up action might be to delete any time sucking games or apps from your phone all together.

Congratulate yourself for a job well done. This is hard! You can do it!

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