Maybe you've heard of 'Meatless Mondays.' The idea is that you go vegetarian for one day a week to improve your health and the health of the planet, as well as to experiment in the kitchen. By aiming for such a small goal, the concept is designed to appeal to the widest range of people, including those who would never dream of swearing off meat entirely.
The idea spread around the world and research shows it has actually made a small but meaningful impact on people's health. The campaign was, in short, both a marketing and public health success. Could the idea of 'No Screen Sundays' do something similar when it comes to our problematic relationship with tech?
No Screen Sundays: a catchy new name for a 'digital sabbath'
The idea of a 'digital sabbath' or 'digital detox' has been around for years. You probably don't have to guess why. Study after study shows we check our gadgets a ridiculous amount and waste a tremendous number of hours staring and scrolling. But most of us don't need too much convincing that we could use a healthier relationship with our tech.
Just like we know we eat too much meat but still recoil at the idea of giving it up entirely, plenty of folks would like to cut down on screen time but aren't able or willing to take radical measures like quitting social media or deleting apps entirely. They want a moderate approach, a 'Meatless Mondays' for their gadgets.
But 'digital sabbath' just isn't as catchy or as self-explanatory a name as 'Meatless Mondays' (and a detox sounds downright unpleasant). Maybe we'd do better with 'No Screen Sundays.' After all, experts and self experimenters suggest making a conscious decision to swear off your screens for even one day a week has big benefits.
You'll understand how bad your addiction is. Blogger David Roberts took the digital detox idea to extremes, quitting the internet for a full year. One of his big takeaways: screens really are an addiction. By using variable rewards, our favorite apps train our brains to crave another hit of connection, another like. Taking a break for a day and actively experiencing your itch to check your phone will bring that home in vivid terms. And that might light a fire under your butt to get your screen situation sorted.
You'll feel less stressed about time. Science shows that the more we chop up time into little blocks, the more we notice and stress about it. That's why time management strategies we hope will make us feel less frantic often backfire. It's also why forcing yourself to tackle longer activities uninterrupted on a phone-free day will also leave you feeling like you have more time and less stress.
You'll see what you miss. Author and computer scientist Cal Newpost advocates a month-long 'Digital Declutter.' This break allows participants to get a sense of the applications and uses they really miss, so when they switch everything back on they can make wiser choices about what to give their attention to. No Screen Sundays could be a quicker way to accomplish the same goal. "Apps have solved many hard problems like location tracking, mobile navigation, cashless payments, etc. so well that we take them for granted. But I really missed their convenience on #NoScreenSunday!" writes entrepreneur Sartaj Anand about his No Screen Sunday experiment.
You might read a book. If you can't look at a screen, you're more likely to pick up a book, and science shows immersing yourself in a long text has unique brain benefits that scrolling through short-form content just can't match.
Your relationships will benefit. A host of studies show the mere presence of a phone on the table is bad for conversation and connection. In a world as lonely and disconnected as ours, we should take any help we can get forging and maintaining real friendships.
Your boss, your spouse, or even your anxious mom probably won't allow you to opt out of technology every day of the week. But trying to live without your screens for a single day each week should be doable. Giving it a try may teach you something about yourself and your relationship with your devices that can radically improve your life the rest of the week.