I stopped using screens on Sundays. This is how it changed my life – Fast Company

Posted: September 28, 2020 at 11:56 pm


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By Mary Lemmer8 minute Read

At the end of 2019, I experienced a traumatic fainting episode, seizure, and concussion in the middle of the night, which landed me an overnight visit at an NYC Emergency Room. Afterward, I decided I needed to slow my pace in life downa lot. Prior to this, I didnt consider myself addicted to my phone. I turned off my notifications years ago; my phone doesnt join me in bed, and its easy for me to spend time doing things that dont involve any technology.

Despite all of this, Id always be a bit shocked at my Weekly Report of screen time. My phone usage seemed to be made up of a lot of micro moments, small chunks of time on my phone spread out over the course of the day.

After my fainting episode and concussion, I started to spend less time in front of screens. I needed to abstain in order to recover. As awful as the accident and subsequent symptoms were, I did enjoy this restful, quiet time, and way of existing that brought healing beyond the physical symptoms. Inspired by this experience, I opted to bring a weekly screenless sabbath to my life, in what became my Screenless Sundays.

In January of 2020, I eliminated use of my laptop and texting on Sundays. Instead, I spent my time doing old-fashioned things, like reading physical books, writing with pen and paper, and going for silent walks (thats right: No podcasts or music).

At first, I felt a bit unsure about the experiment. Would this harm my friendships? Would I feel more lonely and less connected to people? Would I be less productive? Early on, I encountered some changes I needed to make. For instance, when Id make plans to see friends on Sunday, I had to let them know ahead of time that I wouldnt be checking my texts or emails, and ask them to let me know Saturday if they needed to cancel. When Id head to a yoga class, either walking or by subway, I did so without scrolling my phone or listening to an audiobook.

Rather, I sat and observed myself and the world and people around me. If I was planning to go anywhere on Sunday, Id make sure to look up directions on Saturday, or else on Sunday, Id do the unheard of: ask someone for directions. Without my digital friends, Google and Siri, I struck up conversations with people nearbyat the park, subway, cafes, yoga studio.

I felt more connected to these people than I did people I just followed on Twitter. I noticed things I wouldnt have otherwise had my nose been buried in my phone. Things like colorful birds, cute dogs walking on the street, the sky, the emotional expressions of strangers on the street, signs advertising events or looking for lost pets, and street performers, or artists sharing their craft.

The hardest Sundays were the ones when I didnt leave my apartment or block. Isolated in my one-bedroom apartment without use of my phone or TV to connect me to anyone else. Those days became the days where I was really forced to be friends with myself. I asked myself questions. I looked to myself for entertainment. I did art projects, wrote handwritten letters, cooked food, read books, cleaned my apartment, practiced yoga, and sometimes, I just sat looking out my window or walked alone at the park across the street. This time alone helped me realize my resiliency, creativity, and inspired confidence and satisfaction knowing that I could feel joy, rest, excitement, from just being with myself.

Once the pandemic hit in March, I went to quarantine at my familys farm in Michigan. During a time when people were craving virtual interactions, I found value in the digital silence on Sundaysno phone, computers, tablets, or TV. When I told my friends that I go completely screenless on Sundays, they responded with admiration, intrigueand, often, several reasons why they couldnt do something similar.

I lost nothing and gained improvements to my business, team collaboration, relationships, and health.

Theyd say, What if I miss out on something important in the news or on social media? My response: Its only one day. When was the last time important news ceased to exist after 24 hours? Youre either choosing to miss out on a headline or Instagram post that will still be there the next day, or choosing to miss out on quality time with people around you, the nearby environment, and yourself. Its ultimately your choice, and thats the tradeoff youre making.

For people with children, 56% of parents report spending too much time on their phones and 71% of adults are concerned their kids are spending too much time in front of screens.So why not set the example, and the practice of going screenless? Even Bill Gates and Steve Jobslimited their kids screen time. Do it together with everyone and practice a family ritual, as research shows that family rituals are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents sense of personal identity, childrens health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships.

During the pandemic when we are spending more time using screens, there is no shortage of loneliness, doubt, and uncertainty. The screens dont solve these challenges, unfortunately. But I noticed that on Screenless Sundays I feel connected, calm, joyful, grounded, rested, and energized. Those are all things I want to feel during the pandemic, and I got them without a screen.

The world didnt end when I fully unplugged. In fact, it was more of a beginning. In addition to the obvious benefits from this practice, like giving my eyes a break from screens, there are so many benefits and implications in my life that I didnt even anticipate.

I feel less lonely. I feel more connected to myself and others. My relationship with myself has improved. Daily journaling (and extensive journaling on Sundays), about my life, my feelings, my fears, my dreams, has all fueled self-awareness that improved my relationships and my work. Ive made intentional decisions about my work and life, rather than reactive decisions based on whatever the world on the screen is influencing. Im also feeling healthier, too, and havent fainted again (knock on wood).

I sleep better. Previously there were nights I wouldnt fall asleep until 4 a.m. Now, Im out by 11 p.m. and sleep consistently. I wake up ready to get out of bed, versus wishing I still had another hour (or four) to sleep.

I am more focused. Ive completed several projects that Ive been wanting to complete. When the work week starts and Im back on screens, I am able to shut off the screen distractions. If I can go an entire day without using Instagram, I can definitely go three hours without it, so that I can focus on a project, a conversation, or a meeting. Screenless Sundays have helped me feel more creative, too.

I didnt need to go Thoreau and disappear into the woods for years.

I didnt need to go Thoreau and disappear into the woods for years. I could incorporate a media fast into my week, regularly, and reap benefits consistently. I didnt need to abandon my life, my family, my friends, or my work. I could give myself a break, some offline time, to reconnect with myself and whatever is around me, and in taking that day I improved my relationships with my family, my friends, my work, and myself. Doing this puts me in control of my time. I decide when I am going to use the screen and when I am not.

I love Sundays. They are by far my favorite day of the week. And though Sundays are my favorite day, I dont wish for every day to be Sunday, because every day doesnt need to be Sunday. Thats part of the magic about this practice. Taking one day, fully off, is enough, if done regularly. Its restorative, reenergizing, and helps me regroup.

When Monday rolls around Im excited and energized for another week. I appreciate myself and everything else so much more. When I do use screens, its so much more intentional. I dont spend as much time on them during the week, because I realized I dont need to. I used to outsource my happiness, joy, entertainment to my phone. It sucked at that job, so Im taking it back in-house. I dont need to use screens in order to feel connected, energized, engaged, informed, involved, or creative. I got all of that on Sunday, so I dont need to rely on screens anymore to generate those feelings.

Mary Lemmer is an entrepreneur, improv comedian, author, startup adviser, philanthropist, and recovering venture capitalist. Shes the creator of Improve, empowering leaders and teams to improve communication, collaboration, creativity, inclusion, and more, with improv comedy.

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I stopped using screens on Sundays. This is how it changed my life - Fast Company

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September 28th, 2020 at 11:56 pm

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