When guests walk into Bali’s Ayana Resort and Spa, they are not-so-subtly nudged to unplug and recharge from the moment they check in. The popular resort’s newly implemented “In the Moment” program bans smartphones from the pool area in an effort to encourage guests to stay present during their vacation.
This initiative follows a rising trend of hotels and resorts urging guests to eschew poolside screen time in favor of undistracted, tech-free vacationing. Getaway, a company that rents cabins in the woods, spurs guests to lock up their phones in tech boxes upon arrival. A buzzy Swiss hotel chain offers guests the option to book a “social media sitter,” who will post for you while you’re indulging in some scroll-free time off. And after noticing an increase in guests’ poolside tech use, Wyndam Grand’s five U.S. resorts recently started offering special perks to those who put their devices in a locked pouch. Imagine handing in your device for the day and winning prime spots by the pool, complimentary snacks, and even a free return visit to the resort.
“Vacations provide an opportunity to capitalize on one of the key contributors to our happiness: social connection,” Timothy Bono, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis and author of When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness, tells Thrive Global. “Unfortunately, technology often invites social comparison, which undermines happiness most strongly.”
So while there’s no doubt that a vacation free of constant connectivity (and the social anxieties that come with it) is an experience we should all consider, most of us don’t need a strictly-enforced poolside ban or a lock box to reap the same benefits. “If we can redirect attention away from our devices and instead focus on the memories we are creating with our loved ones, we’ll be taking important strides toward the happiness those experiences can provide,” Bono explains.
There are ways to disconnect without fully ignoring your inbox during your time away, says Bono. Here are a few tips that can help:
Unfollow accounts that bring you down before you travel
If your whole feed is filled with users who make you feel lesser-than, do some prep before your trip by unfollowing anyone whose feed may give you anxiety during your vacation. “Within moments of logging on to social media, we have instant access to others’ accomplishments, vacations, job promotions, home upgrades, and culinary creations,” says Bono. “It’s hard to be happy if we constantly concern ourselves with how we measure up to those around us.” He notes that this cycle of comparison is often beyond our control, so it’s important to do what’s in our control to avoid our anxious feelings — even if that means losing a follower or two.
Use your devices for connection
Technology isn’t inherently bad, and you don’t have to put your phone away entirely to avoid the negative emotions that often come along with it. Instead, Bono suggests setting boundaries on your device that will allow you to use your phone without the anxieties of overwhelming social platforms. “If you are tempted to scroll through social media, find someone to call or FaceTime instead. The happiness you derive from an authentic connection with another person will be far greater than a random post or like on social media.”
Set bedtime boundaries
If you don’t want to commit to putting your phone away for your entire vacation, dedicate an hour or two before bed to wind down without the distractions of your screen. Aside from the proven scientific benefits of avoiding blue light to promote better sleep, Bono says bedtime scrolling can mentally prevent you from sleeping soundly and waking up happy — which is a main bonus of being on vacation. “Getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing us from falling asleep,” he says.
Focus on gratitude
When you’re on a trip, your mindset often drives the experience for you, even if you don’t realize it, says Bono. Instead of posting your whole vacation online, spend your time focusing on what you’re grateful for in the moment, like the calming sound of the ocean, relaxed time with loved ones, enjoying fresh local fare. “Gratitude has the opposite effect of social comparison — it redirects our attention to the many wonderful things we already have in our lives that we have likely taken for granted,” Bono says. Whether you dedicate five minutes to journaling in the mornings or expressing your thanks to your loved ones at night, focusing on gratitude throughout your trip can make a serious difference.
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