National Day of Unplugging: How to Limit Screen Time

Published on: 04 Mar 2021
Limit Screen Time for National Day of Unplugging

Take a second to think about how much you use your phone. Whether you’re team iPhone or team Android, you likely check it first thing in the morning and use it right up until you close your eyes at night. Even if you aren’t using your phone at the moment, it’s definitely within reach, and let’s be real: you probably even bring your phone into the bathroom with you, right?

It’s no secret that phones are addictive, and many of us can’t put them down or stop checking our notifications. One survey found that throughout the day, 65.6% of people check their phones a whopping 160 times a day. Enter: National Day of Unplugging.

National Day of Unplugging

Holidays are typically anything but phone-free. That’s why there’s a designated day to unplug and give yourself a break from excessive screen time. The National Day of Unplugging is the perfect chance to challenge yourself to put your phone down for once. The National Day of Unplugging was founded in 2009, and the holiday’s mission is stronger now than ever. As we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of quarantine, there’s no better time to experience 24 hours of zero phone use. This year’s National Day of Unplugging is March 5th-6th, and there are plenty of reasons why you should unplug.

Why Unplugging is Beneficial for Your Mental Health

You may not realize it, but excessive phone use — and in turn, social media use — isn’t great for your mental health. The higher your screen time, the more detrimental the effects and significant social media usage is linked to depression and loneliness.

To test this, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania assigned 143 undergraduate students to two groups. For three weeks, one group was told to use social media as they normally would, and the other was told to limit daily social media activity to a total of 30 minutes. The researchers found that those who limited their use experienced significant reductions in depression and loneliness than those who didn’t. Therefore, reducing your screen time can benefit your emotional wellbeing, which is certainly a reason to unplug.

Social media use contributes to playing “the comparison game.” When you scroll through your feed, you’re bombarded with photo after photo, and chances are, you’re consciously or unconsciously comparing yourself to everything you see. Maybe you’re single and you feel down about it every time you see a new engagement photo, or maybe you’re comparing your body to posts from models or influencers. Regardless of the situation, it’s clear that social media fuels comparison, which can lead to lower life satisfaction and self esteem — according to research it can even lead to eating disorders.

There’s a simple fix for all of this, but it’s easier said than done: reduce your screen time. By spending less time on your phone, you’ll reap noticeable benefits and reduce your risk of loneliness, depression, and poor self esteem. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, ask yourself: could my screen time be at least partially to blame for this? If so, that gives you all the more reason to participate in the National Day of Unplugging. 

Ways to Unplug 

Looking to take part in the National Day of Unplugging? Here are some tips to *actually* unplug:

  • Have your phone out of sight and out of mind. If you keep your phone in your pocket on the National Day of Unplugging, you will probably find yourself checking it over and over again, even if you don’t mean to. Instead, keep your phone in a drawer or box where you won’t be tempted to reach for it. Of course, you should also turn it off so you don’t get tempted by sound notifications.
  • Have an accountability buddy. Whether you live with roommates or family, get at least one other person on board to participate in the National Day of Unplugging with you. This way, you can hold each other accountable, motivating one another to meet your goals. 
  • Tell people ahead of time. Inform those you talk to on a daily (or near daily) basis that you won’t be on your phone for 24 hours. This way, nobody worries if they don’t hear back from you that day.
  • Plan your day out beforehand. Plan ahead so you won’t find yourself completely lost, twiddling your thumbs without your phone. Ask yourself what you’d like to do on your phone-free day. Be sure to print or write down any important information or directions you’ll need.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve always wanted to do. Oftentimes we have lists of things that we’d love to do if we only had the time for it. Guess what? Getting rid of your phone for the day will give you hours of free time to do those things, whether it’s practicing piano, painting, spending the day at the beach, or simply having quality time with loved ones.
  • Get excited for it. Look forward to the National Day of Unplugging with excitement instead of fear. Think about all the positives that will come out of the day, like how for once you’ll get to be fully present and living in the moment without your phone.

Unplugging while working

Have to work on the National Day of Unplugging but still want to participate in some way? We have pointers for you, too.

  • Talk to your boss. This may or may not be realistic depending on your job and relationship with your boss. If you do have a good relationship with your boss, and if your company is pro-mental health, you may want to explain the National Day of Unplugging and ask if you can keep all work communication for the day to e-mails and Slack instead of texting and calls.
  • Keep screen time “work related” only. If you are required to be on call and use your cell phone for work, then limit your phone use to be only related to work. That means only texting or calling somebody if it’s involving work, not play. Don’t check your social media or other apps.
  • Have phone-free breaks. Additionally, you can give yourself a strict rule of not using your phone during your lunch break and other shorter breaks. This will ensure that even if you have to use your phone for work during the day, you will still commit to some screen-free time.
  • Don’t use your phone outside of working hours. You can also promise yourself that you won’t use your phone before or after work. That way, you still have a good amount of time before you clock in and after you clock out to practice unplugging.

The benefits of taking a break from screen time for a day will far outweigh the benefits of carrying on with your phone usage as usual. While the idea of being away from your phone for 24 hours may be a little scary, you can definitely do it if you put your mind to it. You never know how good it will feel until you try it, so join us for the National Day of Unplugging!

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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