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How a Day Without Digital Interruptions Reset My Week

A photograph capturing a person placing their smartphone into a secured box, symbolizing a deliberate disconnect from technology. The image portrays a sense of intentionality and commitment to a digital detox, suggesting a break from constant connectivity and a focus on offline activities.

On an average day, I often struggle to put down my phone. As a freelance writer, I’m constantly scouring the internet for new pitch topics, and social media offers an abundance of sharp opinions, dramatic events, and intriguing personalities that constitute a riveting story. But as with all social media, I easily lose myself in distracting content. At times I open Instagram with the intention of researching story ideas, and an hour later I’m giggling at memes. 

Studies show that taking a digital detox can have beneficial effects with smartphone usage, so I decided to take an internet-free day to reset my week, a day without digital interruptions. I’ve done this before, but it’s been in the context of back-country hikes where my phone receives absolutely zero signal and my day is packed with hiking forested mountains, prepping the tent, chatting with friends, cooking by the fire, looking at the stars, and passing out at 9pm.

When I wake to check my phone, the latest updates on global climate change, genocide, civil unrest, and billionaire antics leave me with a subtly overwhelming blend of helplessness and urgency underlined by stress and dread. But on these camping trips, I wake to dew on the grass, birdsong, and warm sunbeams. It’s utterly delightful. Whoever said “ignorance is bliss” is absolutely right. I return from these trips feeling mentally tranquil, emotionally balanced, and full of renewed energy to write, organize, and create.

While I relish those moments of severance from the world wide web, taking a digital detox within my home is a whole other challenge because I’m not surrounded by the lush natural world to occupy my attention instead. Either way, it’s a challenge I’ll take on *tomorrow,* I decide during my Saturday morning bed-rotting scroll.

The Morning

The next morning arrives through my window, and without realizing it, I’m 10 minutes into my Sunday morning bed-rotting scroll. I nearly throw my phone upon remembering today was meant to be a day unblemished by apps, and I’ve somehow already broken it. But there will be no more procrastination! It’s time to start now.

I know my will is not strong enough, so I open the Freedom app on my phone and begin a 15-hour session to block my vices of choice: Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Within seconds, it’s done, and I am free for the day. I roll out of bed, head downstairs, and debate putting on some music. Would that break the purpose of an app-free day? I decide I’m going to invent my own rules because I’ve already bent them anyway. 

  • Whatsapp is acceptable. It’s Mother’s Day, so I’m going to video-chat with my mom later. 
  • Spotify is fine for music. I switch to offline mode so I only have my downloaded libraries. There will be no wasting time looking for a new podcast or playlist.
  • Duolingo is allowed because I must maintain my 116-day streak. 
  • YouTube on the TV is allowed strictly for music purposes as well. 

The Day

I’ve found the best way to make life a little more interesting is to romanticize small moments and set a mood. So I open the curtains, light some incense, and put on a 70’s playlist to take on the task of washing dishes leftover from the night before. 

My partner makes us coffee, which we sip outside in our little front patio garden to soak up some sun. We immediately notice some plants need bigger pots, while the tomatoes and sage beg to be pruned. We gameplan to buy some fresh substrate and groceries for the week, and then return home to spend most of the day in the garden. The sun feels lovely, the soil is soft, and the plants appear considerably happier with a bit of attention

We chef up a quick egg fried rice for lunch, and roast some veggies and potatoes for the week. We chat and joke while tidying up clutter, sweeping, and wiping down countertops. I feel more present than usual; I’m truly enjoying what normally feels like mundane chores. 

The Night

As the sky darkens, my partner leaves to visit his grandmother, and I call my family, who are all together celebrating Mother’s Day. When we hung up an hour later, I looked around the house. Normally I would pull out my phone and scroll through one of my go-to social networks, but that’s not happening today. 

Instead, I pull out my journal to reflect on the past few days, including my recent birthday, and to plan for the week ahead. Four pages later, my partner has arrived home and we rolled out our yoga mats to stretch and wind down for the night. We have a light dinner afterwards then head to bed. I do my daily Duolingo lesson just in time at 11:56pm, then fall asleep quicker than usual. 

Reflections on A Successful App-Free Day

Overall, it was a very relaxing Sunday to reset my energy and intentions for the week. I felt more present with my partner, my family, and my own activities of the day. I think it was helpful for me to not simply block every app on my phone, because making new habits are often easier when very few are incorporated slowly over time.

I decided to create a list of activities to do instead of scrolling that include things like:

  • Reading or listening to non-fiction or fiction audiobooks
  • Drawing portraits, landscapes, and sketching house furniture or garden designs
  • Walking to the woods nearby or passing through the town center with a nice playlist or podcast
  • Calling a friend to share a meal, co-work, or just chat. 
  • Volunteering. I am part of a reforestation foundation and political organization, but find things that appeal to you, like spending time at animal shelters or soup kitchens.
  • Organizing my closet, tidying rumpled clothes, and inventing new outfits.
  • Playing bass or taking an online music theory lesson.
  • Cleaning up a space in the home or reorganizing furniture

I think having a list of things that are both necessary (like cleaning) and enjoyable (like drawing) can help me break free from the dopamine clutches of social media, which I often use as a “reward” for work or a way to procrastinate. 

If you have a free day where you’re able to leave the house for excursions, challenge yourself to limit the time on your phone. How can you romanticize moments between you and your friends, your partner, or even yourself? What are some activities you genuinely enjoy that can replace your scrolling time? 

Setting Limits with Freedom

My app-free Sunday has also inspired me to set stricter limits on my work and leisure time. As a freelancer, it can be easy for me to work late into the night, which in itself is usually a game of procrastinating on the internet and actually writing. However, that’s always easier said than done, but that’s where Freedom comes in. 

Freedom is an app that blocks distracting websites or apps for a set period of time. As a user, I can make recurring blocklists or decide to block a site on a whim. These blocklists can be spread across multiple devices, so my cellphone and laptop are equipped with Freedom to keep me on track.

When I need to focus on work, I keep my leisure networks blocked. Even when I’m using social media for inspiration, I only keep the apps unblocked for about 30 minutes at a time to prevent me from falling into an hour-long doom scroll. When I’m looking to enjoy my free time, I have to block my email, Slack, and all the Google tools to keep me present in enjoying my creative or social time

Whether you want to block an app for 30 minutes or days at a time, Freedom is a useful tool that can help you stay on track with your digital detox. I would personally recommend digital detoxes to anyone, and how long you choose to abstain is entirely up to you. 

The Results of A Mental Break

As I opened up my apps on Monday, I didn’t feel as overwhelmed because at the end of my journaling session Sunday night, I had already laid out everything in my to-do list, so I knew exactly what needed to get done. I felt increased mental clarity and enhanced focus when I sat down to tackle my work for the day with Freedom blocking distractions.

At the end of my workday, closing my laptop was no issue either. I spent my evening calling a friend, prepping a batch of kombucha, organizing part of my closet, and spending time with my partner. I find the presence in my day is leading to more creativity too. I’m hopeful that this kind of healthier work-life balance can be sustained for a good chunk of time. And if I ever find myself feeling overwhelmed by work or social media, I can always take another app-free detox day whenever I please!

Here’s to enjoying more balanced lives with the help of Freedom!

Written by Lorena Bally