A Day of Digital Detox and Partial Fasting: A Dry Run

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I recently shared Meghan’s uplifting journey—a reporter for CNBC Make It— who found peace by spending quiet time, like going to walks without distractions, which helped her cope with anxiety and feel better. Her story inspired me, and I wondered if I could spend a day away from my phone, and enjoying some quiet and productive time alone.

As part of a self-imposed dry run experiment, I decided to disconnect myself from the most distractible digital gadgets, like cell phone, social media, background music, and TV, and engage only the following productivity tools.


Any Motivation? The primary motivation for this experiment arose from our recent visits to religious sites and a slight weight gain resulting from less-strict (starch-rich sugary) dietary habits during our trips to Nepal.

From our recent trips to some religious sites in Nepal and India, I came back home inspired by the self-discipline of many Hindu priests. After doing some quick research, I found that that fasting and observing silence, the two popular religious practices appealed to me the most. They seem to be practiced across many religious groups, and are also supported by scientific evidence to offer therapeutic health and well-being.

-From Previous Post (March 29, 2024)

Preparation and Strategies

Even though I had been considering and researching fasting and silence for a few days, and had a partial fast last Tuesday, I hadn’t actually planned for a digital detox until last night.

As part of this experiment, I took some time last night to sort out my plans. I decided that I would rely solely on my desktop computer for using productivity tools throughout the day. Here’s how I intended to make the most of this day:

  • Journaling with Day One & Simplenote Apps: Journaling, record thoughts, experiences, and reflections throughout the day without the distractions of notifications.
  • Reading Bookmarked Articles with Firefox: I’ve put together a list of articles that I’ve been meaning to delve into. Today presents the perfect opportunity dive into list, and expand my knowledge without the temptation of endless scrolling.
  • Crafting Content with WordPress: With social media off the table, I could focus my creative juice on drafting a draft post about my dry run experience. WordPress will be my canvas, allowing me to express my thoughts and insights in a meaningful way.
  • Engaging with ChatGPT: ChatGPT will help me streamline my ideas. ChatGPT will be my virtual assistant, helping me stay focused and productive, whether it’ be planning out my day or summarizing article content.
  • Partial Dietary Fasting: I am also combining the day with a partial dietary fasting by avoiding from sugary treats and processed cereals and consuming a diet rich in fibers (oatmeal), fruits, vegetables, salad, and sweet potatoes.
  • Reclaiming Creativity: Instead of passively consuming content, I plan to actively engage with my own thoughts and ideas. I plan to explore new concepts, challenge assumptions, and seek inspiration from within. This deliberate approach to creativity expected to help me to tap into my creative potential, free from the distractions of likes, shares, and notifications. Instead of becoming a consumer slave of social media and digital world, I plan to make today a productive day of creativity.

For full disclosure, I switched off my phone for 31 hours, starting at 2 a.m. Sunday lasting until 9 a.m. Monday. I used the Activity app on my Apple Watch to track my daily activities, and I used cellphone only to take the three pictures included in this post.

The average American spends 68 minutes per day on the top five social media platforms, equaling almost 5% of their life, or 3.81 years.

Forbes

Digital Detox

A digital detox means taking a break from screens and technology in order to relax and unwind.

A digital detox is defined as “The definition of a digital detox is to take a break from using electronic devices or certain media for a period of time, from a few days to several months. But the specifics are different from person to person”. Some of the examples of our digital activities include, (i) checking emails, (ii) playing video games, (iii) scrolling social media, (iv) text messaging, (v) using smart phones or tablets, and (vi) watching news or other TV programs.

I am not expecting this to be without problems, as there are documented issues with digital detox and partial fasting.

Expected Problems with Digital Detox

Followings are some of the problems that people face while practicing digital detox:

  • Dependency on Technology: Many individuals rely heavily on technology for work, communication, and entertainment, making it challenging to disconnect.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): People may experience anxiety about missing out on important updates, news, or social interactions while offline.
  • Social Pressure: Pressure from peers or societal expectations to be constantly connected can make it difficult to commit to a digital detox.
  • Habitual Behavior: Engaging with digital devices has become a habit for many, making it hard to break the cycle of constant checking and scrolling.
  • Professional Obligations: Work-related responsibilities or commitments may require individuals to remain accessible online, limiting their ability to fully disconnect.
  • Lack of Alternative Activities: Some individuals may struggle to find fulfilling offline activities to replace their digital habits, leading to a sense of emptiness or restlessness.

Digital Detox Creates Boredom

In today’s world, filled with digital gadgets and social media, it might seem boring to take a break from screens to many. Boredom creates productivity. But, surprisingly, boredom can actually be healthy and encourage creativity. When we’re bored, our minds wander and come up with new ideas. This gives us the space to daydream, think deeply, and come up with new ideas. Boredom allows us to tap into our imagination to find new ways to interact with the world around us. Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, being bored can ultimately make us more creative and innovation in our lives.

Digital Detox as a Day of Reflection

While digital detox and a day of reflection aren’t exactly the same, they share similarities. While a day of reflection may not necessarily involve disconnecting from technology, it often encourages individuals to create a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to deep thinking and contemplation. While the primary focus of a digital detox is on unplugging from technology, it can inadvertently create opportunities for reflection. Without the constant stimulation of screens, individuals may naturally turn inward, contemplating their thoughts, emotions, and life experiences.

Digital Detox: Inspiring Examples

Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post, is one of the inspiring examples who has practiced digital detox. After experiencing burnout due to her hectic lifestyle, she made significant changes to prioritize her well-being, including implementing digital detox strategies. Ms. Huffington recommends unplugging devices to recharge and reconnect with oneself. She even launched a movement called Thrive Global, which encourages people to unplug from technology periodically.

Thrive Global was born, “in response to the need to take control of our lives, offering new strategies and tools, based on the latest science, to address the unintended consequences of technology,” and to end the global epidemic of stress and burnout.

– Arriana Hoffington on Forbes

Another example is comedian and actor Chris Evans, known for his role as Captain America. Evans took a break from social media to focus on his mental health and personal life. He realized the importance of disconnecting from the constant pressure and scrutiny of social media platforms, allowing him to cultivate a healthier relationship with technology and prioritize his own well-being.

There exists numerous similar examples from celebrities who have reportedly found total or partial detox of their social media usages to be beneficial for their productivity.

You can learn more about the science of boredom in this Bored? It’s good for your brain, article.

Partial Dietary Fasting

Partial fasting, often practiced by limiting certain food groups or specific meal timings, has gained attention for its potential health benefits backed by science. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting, a form of partial fasting, can lead to improved metabolic health, weight loss, and even longevity. For instance, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that intermittent fasting can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging demonstrated that intermittent fasting may promote cellular repair processes and increase the body’s resistance to stress. These findings highlight the potential of partial fasting not only as a tool for weight management but also as a strategy for enhancing overall health and well-being.

My diet for the day started with early morning yogurt with organic vegetable protein powder, a banana, and a cup of green tea.

For the 10 o’clock breakfast, I took oatmeal, one banana, one apple and a glass of milk, while I took vegetable salad, antioxidant-rich millet pan bread, and oranges for the lunch at 1pm. I snacked on lightly-salted dried peanuts and fruits for afternoon snacks. My 7:30pm dinner included roasted sweet potatoes, a banana and a glass of milk.

Expected Problems with Partial Dietary Fast

Even with intermittent fasting practiced once or twice a week, individuals may face several challenges:

  • Hunger and cravings: Intermittent fasting increases hunger and cravings, especially during fasting periods (Nutrients, 2022).
  • Fatigue and weakness: Despite less frequent fasting, some individuals may still experience fatigue, potentially due to lower calorie intake (Nutrients, 2022).
  • Mood fluctuations: Irritability and mood swings can occur around fasting days, though less pronounced than with more frequent fasting (Dis. Markers, 2022).
  • Headaches: Although less frequent, headaches may still occur, particularly in the initial stages of fasting (Cochrane Library, 2021).
  • Difficulty concentrating: Cognitive function may be affected during fasting periods, impacting focus and attention (Nutrients, 2021).
  • Digestive discomfort: Some individuals may experience temporary digestive discomfort during fasting periods (Cureus, 2023).
  • Muscle maintenance: Adequate protein intake and exercise are crucial to preserve muscle mass during fasting (Nutrients, 2019).
  • Nutrient intake: Maintaining a balanced diet on non-fasting days is essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies (Nutrients, 2020).
  • Risk of disordered eating: While less frequent fasting reduces the risk, it’s crucial to approach fasting in a balanced manner to avoid unhealthy attitudes towards food (Clin. Diabetes Endocrinol. 2023).

What I Learned?

After turning off my cellphone, I felt a bit disconnected and lonely at first. Throughout the day, I had to keep myself from reaching for my phone and scrolling through social media. It was hard not to feel like I was missing out on something.

Usually, I check the weather app multiple times a day, but today, I had to rely on just looking outside of my windows to see what the weather was like. It felt strange not having that information at my fingertips, but it was also kind of nice to just look up and see the sky, like good old days.

I was even surprised that I didn’t even listen to background music today like I usually do. I enjoy having music on while I work because I can’t concentrate well in a quiet environment.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of social media, I do use apps like Signal and WhatsApp to stay in touch with my family, loved ones, and close friends. I was surprised to find that I was much more productive without constantly checking the apps. Instead of wasting time browsing through news or contently checking on social media whenever I felt bored, I was able to put that energy into creating content. Shifting my focus from consuming to producing felt refreshing, and it made me realize how much time I’d been wasting on on things that were not important.

Did I feel the absence of my phone and social media? Absolutely. Being away from the gadgets you loved using for a while was not a much fun. Missing out on watching my favorite local evening news, sports, or reality shows to unwind myself was particularly tough.

However, on the bright side, I discovered that my newfound quiet day was surprisingly refreshing and productive. I’m looking forward to repeating it next week.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, it’s important to acknowledge that how we use the digital landscape is ultimately a matter of choice. Technology, like many other things in lives, such as medicine, firearms that we rely in our lives can be beneficial when used responsibly and in moderation. As the saying goes, it’s not the technology itself that’s inherently good or bad, but our habits and behaviors surrounding its use. We have the freedom to decide how to spend our time or money, as well as how we engage with technology on a daily basis. Ultimately, our individual decisions shape our experiences, productivity, and overall well-being in the digital era.

  • Consider how you can apply these insights to your own life, whether it’s through setting boundaries with technology, prioritizing offline activities, or incorporating moments of mindfulness into your daily routine.
  • Keep in mind that reflection is a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery. Take this chance to use what you’ve learned and make positive changes that align with your values and well-being.

This is not for everyone, especially for those who rely on their mobile devices or social media to make their living or pay their bills. But for folks like me, who are retired and have time to explore new things, this practice is definitely worth a shot.


How do you interact with mobile phone and social media? Do you feel overwhelmed with social media and want to take a detox? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Acknowledgements: ChatGPT was used to summarize some contents from the following resource links.

Related Resource Links