10 Surprising Benefits of Taking Breaks From Our Devices

Taking time away from our phones and devices can allow us to reset and reconnect.

Skaman306/ Getty Images
Skaman306/ Getty Images

Countless studies have shown us that spending too much time scrolling through our social media feeds can lead to loneliness, social comparison, and other mental health challenges. Our phones have become central to our social interactions and professional networks, so it can be difficult to take a break. But at the same time, taking time away from our phones and devices can provide us with an opportunity to reset and reconnect with ourselves and the people in our lives.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the benefits they’ve experienced from taking time away from their devices. Which of these benefits resonates with you?

More time for the things that bring us joy

“When you take a break from your phone, not only do you gain time in your day, but you can also consciously allocate that time to something that brings you immediate joy, like baking a cake, reading a book, taking a bath, going for a walk or even cleaning up. Then, when you go back to your device, you may actually appreciate some of the messages you received a bit more. A break often allows us to appreciate something more, no matter what it is.”

—Marta Rzeszowska Chavent, management and change consultant, France

Better sleep

“I no longer sleep with my phone on my nightstand, and  in fact, it’s not even in my room. This allows me to fully disconnect at night when I’m winding down for bed. I wake up more refreshed and without the looming headache I never realized I had until it was gone!”

—Julie Bronsteatter, personal and executive coach, Chicago, IL

Improved focus

“I have made it a practice to take two 40-day breaks from social media annually — I call it a social media fast. One surprising benefit that I’ve experienced when taking that break is that I can focus on accomplishing a set goal — such as completing a book project without distractions.  During those days, this practice allowed me to quiet my life literally and somewhat refocus on when social media was not part of our lives.”

—Dr. Nadine Collins, women’s leadership expert, Atlanta GA

Space for creativity 

“Getting off my devices inspires new ideas. Being in PR and marketing, surfing online and across various social media sites is a constant part of my day. But I develop most of my creative ideas for media pitches, new content, and new messaging while I’m off my devices either on a nature walk by the ocean or the woods, listening to birds’ chirp, or meeting up with friends. These are the thoughtful and mindful moments when the absence of electronics allows clear thinking. The ideas come flowing in and out, making time behind electronic devices more productive and creative.”

—Jackie Abramian, corporate communications strategist, Kittery, ME

More energy

“The biggest thing I notice with taking a break from mobile devices and social media is increased energy. Constantly staring at a screen and being overloaded with information can be really draining on mind, body, and soul. Plus, having a break allows more time to connect to myself and can improve sleep too!”

—Sharon K, Lincs, holistic wellness, Lincolnshire, U.K.

Deeper connections

“A surprising benefit of taking screen and social media breaks is having more quality time with myself, my kids, my pets, and my garden. This becomes a time of presence, deep connection, active listening, and profound bonding in ways that are impossible when the attention is scattered. I have removed all notifications from my mobile apps and keep my phone with me only for taking photos, which I love, during the weekend and afternoons. A huge mental space opens up when I am away from screens.”

—Ioanna Vasilatou, coach, Mallorca, Spain

Less comparison

“A few months ago I took a weekend break from my phone. By the end of the weekend, not only did I realize that my racing thoughts and unsettled mind had calmed down but that I also had so much time to spend on the hobbies and personal projects that I had been neglecting. When I started to repeat this break from my phone, I started to feel more fulfilled and that I wasn’t comparing myself to everyone on social media because I knew that I was intentionally spending time on what I wanted to do.”

—Amal Mehic, continuous improvement engineer, Syracuse, N.Y.

Uninterrupted time with loved ones 

“I love taking 48 hours off social media over the weekends, and I recommend this to my clients. Switching off really enables me to be fully present with my loved ones without the temptation of checking in on Instagram! I find I am calmer, happier, and find more meaningful ways to use my time.”

—Charlotte Swire Wellness, wellness practitioner, Manchester, U.K.

Ability to take in our surroundings

“I find when I take a break from my smartphone, I really see what’s around me — whether it’s the people, the plants, or the animals. Just looking up at the sky can be a fabulous release.”

—Donna Peters, senior partner consulting, executive coach, Atlanta, GA

More time to check in

“I have created a one-hour ‘devices time out’ each day. I spend my day dealing with challenges and problems. During this time I tap into my heart and gauge my spirituality (how am I feeling?), read something inspirational, breathe deeply, or listen to music. This time is set aside for me to know where I am and where I need to go for that day. This time has allowed me to eliminate negative energy, focus on my desires and find joy, and better manage my emotions.”

—Gerry Tucker, vice-chancellor at Austin Community College, Austin, TX

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