Fact: The internet is basically a black hole. One minute you’re scrolling through your Twitter feed and the next thing you know, three hours have passed by—and you haven’t gotten any work done. Of course, powering down your phone or laptop is easier said than done. After all, you can’t just not check your e-mail, see what your friends are up to on Snapchat, or keep up-to-date with the news, right?
But doing a digital detox—staying off your electronic devices for a set period of time—can have major benefits for your wellbeing. “Research has shown that when people take breaks from electronic media—in particular social media— they increase self-esteem, decrease stress and irritability, and help you focus more on the here and now,” says Farrah Hauke, licensed psychologist in Arizona. Additionally, when you spend less time mindlessly scrolling through your feeds, you’re able to be more productive—and even make more authentic connections IRL, says Hauke.
Ready to take a digital break—for a little while, at least? Follow our plan below to set yourself up for success.
Step 1: Let People Know You’ll Be Off the Grid
The first step to disconnecting is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s a good idea to tell people you’ll be doing it. “If you know you’re going to be away, let closed friends and loved ones know,” says Hauke. “That way they won’t worry.” If your job requires you to be active on social media, you may even want to ask someone you trust to monitor (and post) on your accounts while you’re on your break.
Step 2: Commit to a Period of Time
We get it: You may have obligations that make unplugging for days or weeks impossible. Still, even powering off for just one day can have positive effects, says Hauke.
Step 3: Delete Your Apps
Get rid of your social media apps and stash your phone or computer in another room so you’re not tempted to log on. “Deleting apps, even temporarily, takes away from that compulsion to check, and that can go a long way,” says Hauke.
Step 4: Keep Busy
Can’t stop thinking about checking your email? First, remind yourself why you’ve decided to disengage, says Hauke. Then do something else for up to 20 minutes—whether that’s reading a book, calling a friend, or taking your dog for a walk. “Research has shown that urges peak and dip down after 20 minutes,” says Hauke. “If you can ride that out, you may find that you don’t need to do it.”
Step 5: Ease Yourself Back into Things
Once your digital detox period has ended, slowly make your way back—and try to keep limiting your time online so you can continue to reap the rewards. That means setting a schedule for how long you can browse the web. “If you’re going to check email, spend no more than a half hour,” says Hauke. “Remind yourself that the world’s not going to end. You don’t have to get to every single email.”