Unplug to Get Connected: Why a Digital Fast Will Help You Spring Clean Within

By Leanne Lindsey. Photography by Eric Michael Ward.

I wish I had the willpower and self-discipline to not need a digital fast, but the truth is journaling is the only non-digital activity I do, other than my daily chores such as cooking and bathing.
 
Self-care is very important to me and I regularly take time to unwind, but even my go-to activities of choice—reading and listening to music—involve digital devices. I read on my Kindle and use Spotify on my phone to listen to music.
 
I am almost always "plugged in" and it takes its toll on my well-being. I feel it mentally, physically and emotionally. My brain is overstimulated and I find it difficult to get to sleep at night. My eyes are dry, I get pains in my thumbs and wrists and my neck and shoulders are tight. Emotionally, I feel drained by the negative, derogatory, offensive and fear-based content shared online.
 
A lot of the time, the online world overwhelms me and I have to disconnect which is why I believe a digital fast is essential and a valuable addition to any self-care practice.

Why Do You Need a Digital Fast?

I highly recommend a digital fast if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Is your phone the first thing you reach for as soon as you open your eyes in the morning?
  • If you're bored or waiting, do you automatically reach for your phone?
  • Do you feel anxious if you lose your phone or forget it at home?
  • Do you regularly lose track of a conversation because you are doing something on your phone?
  • Do you check your phone even if you've not had a notification, just in case?
  • Do you spend (lose) hours each day mindlessly scrolling through social media, binge watching Netflix/YouTube videos or playing video games?
  • Do you feel emotionally drained (or triggered) after spending time online or experience any physical aches or pains due to excessive usage of a digital device? 

The aim of a digital fast is to disconnect from the online world and reconnect with yourself and the real world. It is about taking time out to reflect on where you're at and assess what areas of your life are thriving and which parts you are struggling with.
 
Of course, there are many aspects to the online world that I greatly appreciate.  I discover and connect with amazing people and brands, such as BGIO. I attract clients for my freelance writing services. I stay in touch with friends and family across the globe. I have an extensive library of knowledge, books and music available to me anywhere, at any time.
 
With that said, for many of us digital technology has become a handy distraction that allows us to avoid real life. We become invested in the lives of people we don't even know and conveniently ignore what’s going on in our own lives. It can become all-consuming, dangerously toxic and a serious threat to your physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.
 
Personally, I find it difficult to balance being online to do research, promote my services and authentically connect with people with mindless scrolling. I regularly fall into the online "rabbit hole" and each time my self-discipline weakens. The more time I spend connected online, the more disconnected from myself I become. 

This is why a digital fast is vital. It is a way of regaining perspective and control of your online usage and consumption.

What Can You Do During a Digital Fast?

There are so many options for what you can do during your digital fast but here are some things that I find helpful and that you can do whether you’re fasting for an hour, a day or an entire month.
 
Journal
Journaling is an excellent activity to do during your digital fast as it will help you to explore how you're feeling. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How am I really feeling—today and generally? (If there are any issues or challenges you're dealing with or avoiding, ask yourself how you really feel about them)

  • What is working in my life? What areas of my life are thriving? What am I feeling good about? What am I grateful for?

  • What is not working in my life? Where in my life am I struggling? What areas of my life do I need support with?

  • What do I need more of in my life?
  • What do I need less of? What can I get rid of? What do I need to remove completely?

You can also use your journal to track how you are feeling during your digital fast. What emotions surface? How does your behavior and mood change? What thoughts are going through your mind? Write it all down in your journal.
 
Do Nothing
Literally.

Sitting quietly is another activity I highly recommend during your digital fast. I spend a lot of time on my own, but I am rarely in silence. I am almost always listening to music.
 
Our minds are constantly stimulated by something - the TV, internet, music, our phones, and other people - so it's necessary to just sit still, in silence. This can be an extremely uncomfortable experience for many, as sitting in silence often forces us to think about or feel things we've being trying to avoid or suppress.
 
Doing nothing is not as easy as it sounds, so you can start with a few minutes initially if you find it too difficult. Writing down what comes up for you can also be useful and very enlightening.
 
Plan
Your digital fast is a good opportunity to review your plans for the year. Look at the progress you have made so far and see if anything needs to be altered, removed or added. Your digital fast gives you time and space to become intentional and enthusiastic about your life again. It is also beneficial to assess your use of digital technology and set intentions for using it in a healthier way once your fast is over.

Reignite your passion for life and rediscover your purpose. Think about everything you want to be, see, do, experience and the impact you want to have. Make plans to spend less time connected and identify the actions you will take to manifest the vision you have for your life. 
 
Get real
Reconnect with the real world.

Go outside—to a beach, park, forest or garden—and just sit. People watch, eavesdrop and observe nature. Focus on nothing other than the world around you.
 
Spend time with people you love and feel good around and have real authentic conversations. Visit a museum, library, exhibition or show. Or try a workshop of some sort. Get creative and follow your curiosity. Rediscover and immerse yourself in the physical world around you.

What Are the Benefits of a Digital Fast?

The two main benefits I get from doing a digital fast are clarity and a sense of gratitude.
 
We all know that what we see online is often exaggerated, distorted and only a fraction of reality. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real and as you scroll through your timelines, it is easy to feel as though you and your life are failing in some way. It can feel like the rest of the world has life figured out and that you're not doing enough and not enough as you are.
 
Taking a break from the online world helps me to regain perspective and give thanks for everything I have and all that I am. It refocuses my priorities and I am reminded how important it is for me to take care of myself in the real world.
 
I reconnect with my physical and emotional self and notice what areas of my life need attention. I become aware of any changes that need to be made and where I need to do better and step up my game. I am also able to hear my own voice rather than the voices of the millions of people I am connected to online. I feel more at peace within myself and my choices.
 
I am able to re-establish boundaries between real life and the online world. I become more intentional and look at my relationship with digital technology, where I'm using it excessively, where it's actually distracting me from my goals and life vision and how I can use it more effectively after my digital fast is over. 
 
The internet and many of the technological advances born from its invention have enhanced our lives in so many positive ways. But it can also be disruptive, toxic and generally bad for your overall health. And, in the grand scheme of life, it is still relatively new and the full consequences of being constantly connected will not be known for a long time to come. So until we know for sure the long term impact, make digital fasting part of your regular self-care practice.

Leanne Lindsey was born and raised in London but currently lives between London and Tenerife. She spent her early twenties being all things to everyone, her late twenties learning the importance of self-care and her early thirties shedding the guilt of prioritizing her own needs. As a certified life coach, she now supports women on a similar journey by promoting self-care, self-love and wellness. Leanne's go-to self-love practices include journaling, getting lost in a good book and baking. Connect with Leanne in The Self-Love & Wellness Lounge, at  www.leannelindsey.co.uk.