A long, summer weekend is the perfect time to treat yourself to a staycation away from your phone. Like taking an actual vacation to a faraway paradise, taking time off and away from your digital device can transport you to a paradise where life is simple, sweet, and rejuvenating — at least for a little while. Even if you don’t think of yourself as someone who has a smartphone addiction, integrating some of these analog fixes into your life will send you off on a summer of rest and relaxation.
Use Your Time Off to Turn Off
Especially if you’re on vacation, try to cut the cord between you and your smartphone. If you can — meaning, if you don’t have to be on call for work or family obligations — leave it somewhere not immediately accessible to you, like in your room or in the car. This will help you resist the temptation to dial into your normal life of scrolling through stories and keep you grounded in the here and now.
There’s an actual study to back up the idea that you really should stay off your phone on vacation. A 2008 study (well before phones became so dang addictive, mind you) gave the example that even if you are “lying on the Riviera,” staying connected to work through your device makes it more likely that you’ll burn out and less likely that you’ll reap the tangible benefits of taking regular vacations; by the way, a separate study found that people who don’t take vacations maybe 30 to 50 percent more likely to die of a heart attack than their peers, so if you’re taking time off with the idea that you’re doing your health a favor, stay off your phone for best results.
Reprogram Your Morning or Evening
Slate cited a 2016 survey that found that over two-thirds of its respondents reported using their smartphones within a half hour of waking up; a third admitted to looking at their phones within just five minutes of waking up. What would your response be for this survey?
I use my phone as my alarm, so I am part of the third that looks at my phone first thing in the morning. Oftentimes it’s the last thing I look at in the evening, too, unless I am reading a book or watching Netflix in bed. I’d rather chase the fantasy of being one of those people who has built a life-changing morning or evening ritual, so I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid immediately logging in to the Internet world, to forgo scrolling through the news or social media during idle moments, to ignore the weather forecast or any late night texts because the reality is that I would rather wait and do something that isn’t defined by ephemeral consumption.
Personally, this is an easy change for me to implement when I’m actively thinking about it because I have created a personal ritual that I look forward to when I wake up early enough. But I know so many people who have benefited from forgoing their phone for an old-fashioned alarm clock; that way, you don’t even have to think about touching a connected device to start and end the day. More importantly, what are you going to do instead of messing around on your phone? This is where you get to give yourself some positive reinforcement so that you’re not depriving yourself of your phone; rather, you’re treating yourself to self-care.
I recommend some form of meditation, whether that is some gentle yoga, easy breath work, or even writing in a dream journal. Meditating first thing in the morning can be a great way for you to set your intentions for the day and get you in the right frame of mind to manage the stress and pressure of work or get you primed for time off. Meditating in the evening, on the other hand, can help you process the events of the day, allowing you to forgive yourself and others for whatever needs letting go. Maybe do both?
After all, many forms of meditation have been proven in scientific studies to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and improved sleep. Even the simple act of limiting screen time at night can support better sleep, leaving you feeling even more well-rested in the morning.
You probably squander at least 120 minutes each week doing forgettable, inconsequential things on your phone, right? I mean, it’s easy to do that: Five minutes watching kitten videos, five minutes of waiting for things to load when you have a choppy connection to cellular data, another five here and there spent catching up on celebrity drivel… by the end of the week, all of those pastimes really add up. The upside is that you can clock minutes of satisfying, analog pastimes just as easily.
One goal you should set for yourself this summer is to spend 120 minutes each week enjoying the outdoors. A recent study found that spending at least two hours in nature over the course of the week was correlated to a better sense of health and wellbeing. Spending more time outdoors than that didn’t hurt people, but the benefits seemed to level off after 120 minutes. “What really amazed us was that this was true for all groups of people,” the lead researcher of the study told the New York Times. “Two hours a week was the threshold for both men and women, older and younger adults, different ethnic groups, people living in richer or poorer areas, and even for those living with long term illnesses.”
Interestingly, the researchers found that “nature” could be something as humble as a neighborhood park or garden, or a trail in a remote jungle habitat. There’s just something about being outside in the fresh air, around other non-human living things that has the capacity to lift our spirits. Not only was the definition of nature up to interpretation; how you achieve the goal of racking up at least 120 minutes of your week in the outdoors is entirely up to you. This time in nature could be spent in one “dose” — say, by spending Sunday at a picnic — or spread out over the course of the week during a lunch break ritual.
The study made no mention of if those minutes were spent with or without a smartphone, but you’ll benefit from using this “nature time” as an excuse to put your phone on “do not disturb.” By doing this for an accumulation of at least two hours each week, spending time outside in green space without your phone, you’re hopefully training yourself to disconnect with the positive reinforcement of a renewed sense of health and wellness.