What Happened to My Mind & Body When I Quit My Phone for a Week

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Everyone seems to be talking about “kids these days” and their addiction to technology. Yet, where’s the accountability for adults? With many of us checking our phones up to 85 times a day, it feels like we could all use a bit of an intervention. So this is exactly what I decided to do. I vowed to give up my phone for a week with just three simple rules:

1. No cell phone or social media for a week in any way.
2. No cheating.
3. Seriously, no cheating.

I powered my phone off and put it in a drawer so I wouldn’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind… or so I thought. Here’s what I learned during my cell phone hiatus (which, by the way, I’d do again in a second).

GPS has left me with no real sense of direction

I was only two days in, and I came across my first really big challenge. I was in an unknown neighborhood to meet up with a friend, and I must’ve missed a turn or something because I was completely lost. It really threw me off. I felt helpless, confused, and a bit panicked. I finally pulled it together and went old school by stopping to ask for directions. By the way, the guy I asked looked at me a little strange. He had this look on his face of, “Did you just ask me for directions? What year is this, 1995?”

(Image credit: Charlie’s)

I reach for my phone a lot more than I realize

The whole “out of sight, out of mind,” thing doesn’t really work if you have something that is habitually part of your day. For instance, when I stop off to get coffee, I reach for my phone when I’m waiting for my order. I also reach for my phone in waiting rooms, commercial breaks, while cooking, and pretty much any time there’s a pause in the day. It was actually kind of embarrassing how much I subconsciously thought about my phone even days into my hiatus.

I actually like people

I’ve always been a people person, yet I didn’t realize how much my phone makes me anti-social. I’m sure you’ve seen it for yourself. Just go to a coffee shop, sporting event, or group gathering and look up. You’ll see that there are so. many. people on their phones. My week off showed me that when I wasn’t obsessed with checking my phone, I had some of the greatest, most random encounters. While at the coffee shop, I had this great chat with a woman about gardening, and she told me where to buy the best heirloom tomato plants in town.

Having a lack of technology makes other people uneasy

I had so many friends ask me in horror, “But why? Why are you doing that?” They couldn’t understand why I would willingly give up my phone. Was I sad? Was I mad? Did I hate the world? It really freaked them out. “Well let me know when you’re back in the world of the living,” they’d say.

I rediscovered parts of my old self

This sounds spiritual and new age, and it kind of is. When I didn’t have my phone to fill little pauses in my day, my mind wandered to other places instead. I was more thoughtful, reflective and present throughout much of my day. Then at night, instead of going on my phone or checking social media, I would actually do things like read, listen to vinyl, and other things that I didn’t usually have time for. It was a really good reminder to myself about how important it is not to let technology take over life.

(Image credit: Samara Vise)

My brain is different when it’s not on technology

Technology is such an integrated part of our daily lives today, and we’re only just starting to learn the effects of our hyper-connected lifestyles. Doctors have linked ADHD to kids who have a lot of screen time, and it’s easy to see how high amounts of technology could have similar results for adults. I know when I have a lot of technology going at once that my brain feels very “bouncy,” constantly moving from one thing to the next. Now I’d like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for multi-tasking, but when I need to focus, setting my phone aside definitely helps.

There’s power in being able to talk yourself off a ledge

It was hard giving up technology for a week — far harder than I thought it would be. I had no idea what was going on in my friends’ lives without Facebook. I had photo ops that I felt oddly compelled to capture for Instagram. And there were many times where I just wanted to pull my phone out of the drawer and check my texts. Going phone-less actually gave me anxiety far more than I’d care to admit, at least at first. But by the end of the week, I settled in and almost enjoyed not having the obligation right there at my fingertips. It also gave me a great sense of accomplishment by making it through a whole week.

My week of no phone really forced me to look at technology in a whole new way. Even though the phone is back into my life full-time, I still take breaks from it at times. Sometimes I even leave it at home on purpose for some extra brain relaxation. Now if only I could kick my coffee shop addiction…