5 easy ways to disconnect from tech

Take a break from your phone and reap the rewards

Do you find yourself constantly checking your phone? You’re not alone. Studies show that around 30% of adults report being “almost constantly” online. The good news is that now is the perfect time to take action.

Back in March we had the Global Day of Unplugging, an annual event that encourages people to disconnect from technology and focus on in-person activities or quality time with loved ones instead.

Middle aged woman with tray, aroma lamp, cup and pastries reading book in the houseCredit: Shutterstock / Alliance Images

But there’s no reason to not try this out whenever you feel like it, even if it’s only for a few hours. It’s also an ideal opportunity to explore your phone’s settings and develop new habits to add more tech-free time into your daily routine.

There’s good reason to take a break too, as unplugging from tech can benefit your mental health.

There’s so much advice about how to use your tech less, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a few straightforward ways to unplug from technology that are easy to adopt right now and can have a significant impact on how you spend your time and how you feel in the future.


1. Phone settings

Learn how to use the settings on your phone

Most smartphones have built-in settings that allow you to see which apps you use the most and set restrictions on how you can use them throughout the day.

If you have an iPhone there’s a feature called Screen Time. One of the best settings in Screen Time is that you can set ‘App Limits’. This enables you to control the time spent on apps that you tend to overuse. For instance, you can set a one hour daily limit for the Twitter app.

Android users can benefit from similar settings called Digital Wellbeing. This feature allows you to set specific timers for each app, so you can manage your time effectively and receive notifications when your time is up.

By monitoring your app usage with these settings, you can gain insights into your phone habits and identify areas where you might want to cut back a bit.

2. Bedroom zen

Make your bedroom a phone-free zone

Carefree lady feeling full of energy after sleepCredit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Many studies have shown that looking at a screen before bedtime can significantly disrupt your sleep. One solution is to turn your bedroom into a phone-free zone.

Do this by planning ahead and setting up your charger in another room. If you rely on your phone to tell the time, consider using an alarm clock instead.

If you find it hard to resist the urge to scroll through your phone before bedtime – we totally understand – then consider using the settings in tip one. Both Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing settings have options to restrict all apps at certain times of the day.

It means you could restrict all your apps an hour before your usual bedtime. This way, if you feel tempted to check your phone, you’ll be reminded of the importance of getting a good night’s sleep instead.

3. In-person events

Arrange a real-life meet-up

Cherryson on a group walk on the Skirrid Mountain, in South Wales.Credit: Phillipa Cherryson
Cherryson on a group walk on the Skirrid Mountain, South Wales.

Feeling disconnected from other people and socially isolated can have a whole range of negative impacts on your mental and physical health.

While our phones offer a convenient way to stay in touch with loved ones, relying solely on virtual communication can still make you feel lonely. A simple solution to combat this is to make an effort to meet people in person.

This can include spending time with friends and family or engaging with members of your local community.

Once you’re with them, try to be fully present and engaged. Research shows that even having a phone visible on the table in front of you can be a distraction and stop you feeling connected from the person sitting across from you.

By prioritising face-to-face interactions, you’ll not only improve your social connections but also enhance your overall well-being.

4. Think free time

Be intentional about how you’ll spend your free time

man having fun cooking at homeCredit: Shutterstock / AlessandroBiascioli

If you want to reduce the time you spend on your phone, it’s crucial to replace this habit with a more positive and beneficial one.

According to habit research, the most effective way to break a bad habit, like checking your phone all the time, is to engage in a different activity instead.

It doesn’t matter what activity you choose. You could try learning a new recipe, taking a walk, reading a book, or finally watching that movie you’ve been wanting to see. The key is to intentionally select an activity that will distract you from your phone.

If your goal is to simply “relax,” you may simply pick up your phone without realising it. Be specific and deliberate in selecting your shiny new good habit.


5. Feel good factor

Notice what makes you feel good

We don’t recommend throwing away your phone forever. But the key to making lasting changes to the way you use your technology is to become more mindful about which activities and apps make you feel good and which don’t.

For example, some games can be soothing whereas social media apps can be stressful. Or maybe listening to an uplifting audiobook makes you feel happy and accomplished afterwards, whereas listening to a true crime podcast makes you feel anxious.

The more you pay attention to how your phone makes you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to make positive changes. By prioritising tech activities that bring joy and avoiding those that induce stress, you may find that you need to unplug less frequently anyway.

The key to success

Add new habits gradually to your routine

Unplugging from tech can be challenging and it’s important to remember that big tech companies intentionally design our phones and apps so they’re difficult to put down.

That’s why it’s essential to begin by taking small steps and being gentle with yourself. While it may be tempting to make lots of changes to your settings and establish a long list of rules, these changes are unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.

Instead, the key to success here is to identify one or two new habits to add gradually into your routine. This way you’ll increase the likelihood of achieving lasting change and hopefully develop a healthier relationship with your technology in the future.

Becca Caddy

Written by Becca Caddy she/her


Becca is a freelance journalist and author. In 2021 her first book, Screen Time, was published, which is a guide to help people find a better balance with the technology they use every day. For more than 12 years she’s been writing about the worlds of science and technology. She’s covered topics like which wearable smartwatch is best, how to get started with virtual reality and what the future of robots in our homes might look like one day. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Metro, Inverse, New Scientist, TechRadar, Wired and many more.

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