On the Mat, Off the Mat

General / Inspiration

My five day Digital Detox and what I learned

I recently spent a few days at the charming coastal village of Tutukaka in the Northland of New Zealand. Life had been pretty busy with all sorts of demands on my time and energy leading up to that, so I decided that while I was away, I would do a little digital detox. I was curious to see if I had the willpower to actually go through with it, and how I would feel afterwards. I spent five days not checking messages or the internet, now your first reaction might be “What?!?! Five days not checking your phone! I can’t imagine that!”. Read on to see how I did it and what I learned about myself. I might plant a seed here….

Turn off notifications

The first thing I decided was to turn off notifications to my message apps, I have to be honest, I did check in with messages with the house sitter, it was the first time she was house sitting for us so I needed peace of mind that she was settled in and comfortable in order to look after our cat. I get most of my messages via Whatsapp, so checking Messages meant that I knew that I wouldn’t have so many messages coming through that I needed to ignore. While I would have preferred to keep my phone off all the time, I did find comfort and peace of mind hearing from the house sitter and seeing photos that my cat was happy and content. Maybe next time, I might not feel the need to check in so much and maybe be less of a control freak.

For years I have had email on my phone, like so many others but a few months ago, I decided to delete all mail clients off my phone. I have a few email addresses, 3 to be exact, and I found myself picking up my phone several times a day to check my email. I am not in a high-pressure job nor am I on-call to save lives, so why did I feel it was so important to check and respond to emails that are never urgent? So checking email on my phone was a habit I had already stopped. I also deleted all my social media accounts years ago – so no Facebook or Instagram to lure me in. Bye bye social FOMO and endless scrolling.

Airplane mode

For the most part, I left my phone either off or, if I wanted to take photos, my phone was on Airplane mode. This is the challenge of having a phone that is actually a really good camera, your navigation system as well as your source of music. It’s such a slippery slope to have the device and technology you are trying to wean yourself off in your hand to capture your favourite holidays moments. Honestly, I did use the internet to listen to music, to check up on tides and some sights I wanted to see. Otherwise, my phone lived in airplane mode, which also meant the battery lasted a whole lot longer.

No news is good news

The great thing about not checking the internet or messages is that you have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world. In fact, I had no idea of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II! Not diluting or distracting myself with other people’s news, stories or the happenings in the rest of the world meant that I could really be more present to each moment – to myself and to my husband. There is always going to be something urgent you need to tend to, but is it important? Can it wait? Even if there is an emergency, honestly, sometimes even that can wait in order for you to find time to reconnect with yourself, your loved ones and the do things that matter to you that usually get neglected.

The result

After those five days of doing a digital detox, I realised just how noisy instant messages are and how much time I let them consume my life. While they help me keep in touch with friends and family all over the world, I also let myself spend a lot of time on my phone and which eats into time I can spend enjoying other activities and hobbies. So I learned that I also need to set up time boundaries, when I am willing to turn my phone on and when I want to turn it off so my evenings can be peaceful.

I also decided to keep the notifications off from now on, so i can check messages when I have time rather than letting the notifications interrupt something else I am doing.

I also discovered, just how addicted I am to checking my phone. The physical urge to pick up my phone was pretty tricky to overcome, it is such a deeply ingrained habit and for the most part an unconscious act, so it was interesting to watch those urges arise and manage to let them go without acting on those impulses. This was also a great exercise in being more mindful around my phone habits. Also, having the phone out of reach helped enormously to counter the compulsion to grab my phone.

It didn’t matter at all that I didn’t know the queen had died, her passing didn’t need to intrude on my time away. I didn’t miss out on any other news of real importance – so the peace and quiet was well carved out. In the end, there was nothing more important than being present for each moment and enjoying my holiday. I found that to have time for my thoughts to wander uninterrupted and not be distracted by news and messages, was refreshing and relaxing. In fact, I loved the peace so much that I have decided that I’m going to make this digital detox a regular thing from now on. Maybe not limit it just to holidays, but occasional weekends too.


Take a moment to think about your relationship to your phone, how much time do you spend on your phone each day? Sending and receiving messages, checking social media, checking email or reading the news. How much of that time can you be doing something more empowering for yourself? Does reading all these messages, news or posts make you feel good? What emotions do you usually feel while engaging with other people’s news or posts? What are you maybe avoiding in your own life that might really need attention? How long can you go without checking your phone or emails? Be curious and not judgemental in your observations and discoveries. Think about these things and see maybe if you can also challenge yourself to your own digital detox and claim your time back.