Mental Health Tips

21-Day Digital Detox Challenge to Curb Phone Addiction

Are you ready for a digital detox challenge and break-up with your phone? Okay not break-up but let’s say a cooling-off period to cultivate better phone habits.

The marvels of smart phones are many. With one single tap you are face-timing with loved ones, planning your next vacation, sending that official email, stalking your ex (wink wink!). We are more dependent on our phones than ever.

But perils of phone addiction are real as are its benefits. Consciously or unconsciously we are wired to world of apps, which adversely affect our mental health, sleeping habits, relationships and other aspects of our lives.

Don’t believe me? Here are some numbers; we check our phones 58 times a day and spend about 3 hours and 15 minutes per day on our phone, according to a recent study by Rescue Time app.

This is all the more reason for you to do this 21-day digital detox challenge.

Even if you are not addicted to your phone this digital detox challenge will help you in understanding your relationship with technology and identify any problematic areas.

Digital Detox Challenge to Overcome Phone Addiction

woman typing on her phone keypad

5 Major Effects of Phone Addiction

Phone addiction has some serious effects on your health and behavior. Here are 5 major after-effects of phone addiction. Note how many problem you identify with.

Phone Affects Attention Span

The average attention span of an individual has gone down to 8 second in 2018 from the previous 12 seconds in 2000.

It is argued that one of the major reasons for this reduced attention span is extensive use of smart phone.

Now you may notice when you are engaged with your phone it has your full attention whereas at times you struggle to focus on your daily activities.

Phone Increases the Need for Instant Gratification

A major reason why you may need a digital detox challenge is because smart phones increase the need for instant gratification.

Ease of communication ushered by smart phones has paved way for instant knowledge. You want to know something just tap your phone and information is at your hand.

This in turn satisfies your brain cells instantly or in other words provides instant gratification.

Now at a first glance this may not seem like a problem but here’s the issue, sometimes it affects your mood adversely when you don’t get that information ASAP.

Did you ever notice how bored, moody or irritated you feel when you have no access to Wi-Fi or internet data?

Smart Phones Amplify the Need for Validation

The need for validation, acceptance is increasing among us and the primary culprit here is our smart phones.

There are people who seriously get upset with a drop in their follower count or likes and comments.

When you think about it seems really silly but the need for being admired and accepted is very universal and social media apps exploit this very basic human emotion.

This indicates another very serious behavioral issue if you constantly seek validation from online social platforms, you begin to see your worth in likes and followers, this increases your need for attention, once you are addicted to attention you eventually lose your touch with reality.

Phone Usage has Adverse effect on Mental Health

Studies have shown that increased usage of phones has been linked to mental health conditions like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, (OCD) and anxiety.

Increased screen time leads to poor sleep patterns. It hampers your ability to process things and delays your instinctive response to situations.

Your relationships with your partner and your family members may also suffer due to this. Smart phone addiction has also been linked to restlessness and increased mood-swings.

Physical hazards of Phone Addiction

The physical hazards of cell phone are equally worrying. Your smart phone causes serious health problems like:

Eye strain:

Your eye muscle experience a serious strain when you start at your phone for over 2 hours at a stretch. It can cause problems like blurred vision, headaches like migraine, eye muscle fatigue.

Text Neck Syndrome:

This lifestyle condition has been identified as stress, pain or injury to neck muscles due to staring down at your phone screens for a very long time.


Speaking or texting on phone while driving is one of the major reasons for road accidents. Humans are not meant to multitask, hence when you are driving and you have to absolutely answer a call just pull over your car.

Risk of Germs:

Apparently 1 in 6 phones have fecal matter on it! So gross! But what’s even grosser is that a study by University of Arizona has found that our phones carry 10 times more bacteria than our toilet seats.

18 signs you need this Digital Detox Challenge

A woman staring at her phone

Here are 18 reasons why you should opt for a digital detox and unplug your mind for a while. If you identify with at least three of these points please consider taking up this 21-day digital detox challenge.

1.You feel restless without your phone.

2. You sleep with your phone besides you or you keep it under the pillow.

3. You impulsively reach out for your phone every few minutes.

4. You find it impossible to concentrate on your tasks without checking your phone.

5. You check your phone first thing in the morning.

6. You feel uncomfortable without your phone.

7. You check your phone amidst conversations and even while eating.

8. You like texting, tweeting, or emailing rather than talking to people.

9. You have to check your notifications immediately. This is FOMO (fear of missing out)

10. You instantly want to share your life updates like any important birthdays, vacation pictures, family events etc. This is FONS (fear of not sharing)

11. You watch TV and stare at your phone screen at the same time.

12. You always carry your phone with you even when you are in your washroom.

13. Your family is annoyed with your phone habits.

14. You stalk people regularly. And yes, that includes people other than your ex.

15. You secretly love your likes and followers.

16. You compare yourself with others when scrolling your feed.

17. Social media gives you anxiety but you can’t stop using it.

18. You can’t stop from falling into the internet rabbit hole while working and it has seriously affected your work-time.

Most people will agree to at least one of these points. Smart phones have wired us at cost of our time, health and relationships.

If you want to seriously want some clarity as to what triggers your compulsive phone habits. I urge you to take this 21-day digital detox challenge.

Purpose of this Digital Detox Challenge

The purpose of this challenge is not to disconnect you from social media or your phone, but rather develop a healthy balance between your time spend online and other activities.

With this challenge you get a chance to accept and realize that there is a problem with how you consume social media.

Know Your Though Process with this Digital Detox

With the 21-day digital detox challenge you are cleansing your mind of all the negative thoughts that affect your mind when you use social media.

A digital detox gives you the chance of withdrawing yourself from your phone and possibly other electronic devices that result in unproductive use your time.

You can use this digital detox challenge as an opportunity to hold yourself accountable as to how you view social media and strive to be more conscious and intentional with your choices.

Cure Digital Bloating

An important purpose of this digital detox challenge is to cure your digital bloating. When you overeat it causes you problems like say bloating and acidity to cure that you may change your food patterns, undergo a food detox whereby you are mindful of your food choices.

Similarly if you when over consume social media and it causes information overload as well as a number of physical and mental hazards as mentioned earlier in the write-up. I like to call it digital bloating.

21-Day Digital Detox Challenge

This challenge will be into sections to ease you into the full phone detox mode. Each day you will make some small significant change and try to unplug yourself from your device.

Once you gradually disconnect yourself totally we will slowly be connecting ourselves with those aspects of social media that bring us joy.

This digital detox challenge will also help in building self-discipline to consciously unplug from our electronic devices and unwind everyday.

Day 1 – Day 3: Warm Up to Prepare for the Challenge

I would request you guys to go through the exact steps of the challenge and then participate. This challenge is not binding and you can modify some of the steps as per your convenience.

So this stage of the digital detox challenge is essentially the warm-up part to slowly get you unwired from your mobile. These are very simple tasks but be mindful you will experience the urge to grab your phone, but don’t give in.

Let’s begin!

Day 1:

This task has to be repeated on all days of the challenge.

Make your bedroom a ‘no phone-zone’. Switch off your phone an hour before sleeping and keep it in a separate room along with your phone charger.

During this digital detox challenger and here’s hoping even after that you will charge your phone in a separate room.

Day 2:

Don’t switch on your phone after you wake-up. Trust me the world won’t come to an end. Instead complete one task like brushing, drinking a glass of warm water, some deep breathing and then check your phone after 20 minutes.

This step will be modified in the later part of the challenge.

Day 3:

Switch off all app notifications and email notifications if possible. Repeat step 1 and 2. If you are deleting your official email app, let your colleagues know of this development.

Day 4-6: Detoxing Your Phone

a woman decluttering her phone

In this second stage of this digital detox challenge, you will repeat steps 1 to 3 you do some additional tasks of organizing your phone.

Day 4:

Today we will get to know your phone better. Make a mental note or even better make a list (I can’t function without lists) of all apps you hardly use, of all people you barely talk to, of all people you stalk online, of all social media accounts that make you feel like crap.

This includes Whatsapp groups, Instagram, FB groups, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitter groups and any other social media platform.

Now take a look at your list and delete or block them. Don’t think twice before removing anything or any such person who makes you feel deeply unhappy or makes you question your self-worth. Remove any person you’ve outgrown.

Day 5:

Today we go into a more deep cleaning mode of decluttering your phone, laptop and desktop.

Go through all text messages, old pictures, subscribed newsletters you no longer are interested in receiving, all your personal and professional emails that have served their purpose. Now delete them.

Through this you can remove all the junk and unwanted things from your phone. If you want to preserve something like old images etc. please put those items in a separate folder or drive.

Day 6:

Today we are increasing our unplugging time. Don’t check your phone for the first 30 minutes after you wake up and leave your phone when you are having dinner.

Day 7 – 12 Full digital detox mode

In this penultimate stage of the challenge we shall go into the full digital detox mode which means leaving our phone behind for an extended period.

Day 7:

Don’t check your phone for an hour after waking up. In addition to putting your phone away at dinner time, leave it at lunchtime as well.

Day 8:

Don’t check your phone while watching TV, and during lunch and dinner time.

Day 9:

Don’t check your favorite social media app for an entire day. Practice writing your email responses under 5 minutes.

Day 10:

Don’t spend more than 15 minutes at a stretch on your phone use a timer. Arrange a particular time to check and respond to emails.

Day 11:

Plan some interesting life event like a family dinner outing and don’t share it on social media.

Day 12:

Switch off your phone for one full hour and spend some time in nature, or sitting in a park.  

Day 13:

Switch off your phone until lunch time and if you want to push yourself with this digital detox challenge then switch off till your phone till the evening.

Day 14:

Leave your phone behind while you go out for a dinner or a movie with your family.

Day 15:

Switch off your phone for a period of 24 hours. If possible plan a weekend getaway without your phone.

Days 16- 21 Reconnecting with Your Phone

a young woman looking at her phone and smiling

This is the final stage of this digital detox challenge and now we will gradually acquaint ourselves with those aspects of social media that aren’t stressful.

Day 16:

Read some interesting blogs and subscribe to newsletters that motivate you to become better (hint Oh Well Yes).

Day 17:

Maintain a schedule on how much time you will spend on social media in a day after you are done with this digital detox challenge.

Day 18:

Watch some uplifting videos online but don’t spend more than 20 minutes at a stretch.

Day 19:

Choose to follow social media accounts across all platforms which inspire you, but be mindful of not spending more than 10 minutes on a particular app.

Day 20:

Create mindful, habits like reading three pages of a book instead of phone scrolling.

Day 21:

Make a conscious shift of opening majority of your apps through desktop, if can do without reinstalling certain apps then so be it.

How Frequent can you do this Digital Detox?

Whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressed with your digital consumption you can take this challenge. Again this is not at all a binding challenge you can modify some of the steps as per your convenience.

There are also many apps which help you to get over your phone addiction. Forest is one app that employs a very cool technique to control phone addiction; other apps such as Flipd and Moment are also good.

Final Thoughts on Digital Detox

Social media should relieve you of stress it shouldn’t be stressful. You cannot be a zombie staring at a screen and comparing yourself with others and living a fake life drenched in photo filters.

With technology we have access to unlimited knowledge and as they say knowledge is power. There are countless instances where social media has changed lives, initiated a discussion, started a movement for a greater cause.

You cannot and shouldn’t abstain from embracing technology, but you need to be mindful of that fact that are you consuming technology or is it technology consuming you.

Leaving so soon take a look at some of the similar posts!

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  • Bexa

    This is a really inspirational post, Suktara! I went on a very long social media break (4 months!) and noticed so many positive benefits, notably I felt so much calmer. I did want to go back to social media eventually, but now I am much more mindful about the amount of time I spend on my phone. I’ve found that I am enjoying more things offline such as reading and bullet journaling, which I find so relaxing. Thanks for sharing – fab post! <3 xx

    Bexa |