The No-Phone Zone: Secrets of a Tech-Free Summer

I love summer for a million reasons. I love the beach and long summer nights spent with friends and the fact that strawberries are back in season. It’s the perfect time to unwind and unplug from our technology-saturated lives. With warm weather and long sunlit days finally here, I’m craving some phone-and-laptop-free connection. After all, studies show that reducing the use of tech has a ton of benefits including increased satisfaction levels with our own lives, better sleep, and stronger communication and connection with those around us. I know that I sleep better if I disconnect earlier in the evening, and I feel much closer to my friends and family if I put my phone away when we’re spending time together. One of my goals this summer is to foster more technology-free connection. To that end, I’d like to share a few suggestions that might help others do the same.

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One of the best ways to disconnect from tech is to get outside! Whether camping, hiking, forest bathing (it’s totally a thing!), canoeing, birdwatching, or even just taking a stroll around your neighborhood, unplugging and spending time outdoors is a surefire way to relax and increase creativity. Go ahead and snap a photo or two of a sunset, flowerbed, or your beautiful self for the sake of both posterity and Instagram, and then challenge yourself to keep your phone away for the remainder of your outdoor adventure. Take in a few deep breaths and soak up the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

If, like me, you like playing in dirt, looking at beautiful flowers, or enjoying your own home-grown herbs and veggies, consider planting a simple flower or vegetable (or both!) garden. This can be accomplished in a tiny backyard, a community plot, or even with some pots on a windowsill. I started my own garden in a community plot for the first time last summer. It was the perfect reset. I was working as a hospital chaplain intern, and it was amazing to leave the hospital with its gazillion machines and startling beeping noises and find myself in a vibrant world of plants and flowers. It was a space where I could feel peaceful and let the worries of the day slide off my back. Picking tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash right off the vine reminded me of my own connection to the earth. And I can testify firsthand that plucking a raspberry fresh from the patch is way more fulfilling than scrolling through your Facebook feed.

Now, I know that not everyone loves the outdoors as much as me, and that’s totally okay. There are still many ways to unplug without sleeping under the stars (or fending off bugs). Unplugging indoors, like unplugging outdoors, is all about being intentional. It can be as simple as devoting an afternoon or evening to doing a puzzle, knitting, scrapbooking, hosting a game night, reading a book, or just chatting with a friend over a glass of lemonade and a plate of cookies. Tuck your phone and laptop away in another room and settle in for some quality hobby and bonding time.

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One of my favorite ways to go tech-free indoors is to try a new recipe from an actual cookbook. Just a couple weeks ago I used a real-life cookbook to make bread. This was a game-changer. For one thing, I eliminated the Netflix phenomena of scrolling and scrolling for the best possible recipe, and there’s something delightful about turning the pages of an actual book, pasta sauce-stained pages and all. Plus, cookbooks are easy to find. If you don’t have any, head to the library or swing by a tag sale or Goodwill to pick up your own on the cheap.

While I have books on the brain, public libraries are a great way to go tech-free in the summer. If you don’t have a card, you can easily get one and then check out and read books to your heart’s desire. Libraries also often have awesome summer programming. My local library hosts chats with artists and book discussions, which are great for meeting new people and exploring new ideas without being in front of a screen.

Cutting down on screen time doesn’t have to be boring, and it’s a great way to reconnect with yourself and others, as well as have a ton of fun exploring new (or old) hobbies. Making an effort to disconnect, get outside, and talk to real live people has made my life so much richer. I find I have gotten to know people better just by doing simple things, like ditching TV for a game night or not checking my phone during conversations. I feel more at peace when I’m living my own life rather than constantly comparing myself to other people’s lives online. So this summer,  I’ll be right there with you trying not to check Facebook.

Originally published on June 13, 2019.

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