Last week my roommate, friend, and co-coach Gabe decided he was going to partake in a "Screenless Saturday," and invited me to join him. I was hesitant at first and in all honesty did not want to join, but I also have an incredibly hard time saying no to a challenge. I had absolutely no reason not to partake either, other than that fact that I just wanted to be on my phone - which I realized was the exact reason why I should take on the challenge.
The Screenless Saturday inspiration came from Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the two men known more widely as The Minimalists. The Minimalists are authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers who promote a lifestyle with limited material goods and full of simplicity to counter the typical consumer-driven lifestyle so common in America. Screenless Saturday was a concept they devised that consists of a full 24 hours free of any and all screens - No laptops, TVs, gaming consoles, or cell phones. The goal of this technological purge is to reset and re-evaluate your daily habits and experience in the absence of technology, and helps guide you to an insight on your screen-dependency. Curious about what we would learn about ourselves and our habits, we decided to go in on the challenge together.
We agreed to keep our morning alarms on our phones to start the day, since neither of us have any other alarm clock, but determined that as soon as we turned off the alarm, the phone was to be put away in a drawer, bag, or shelf - basically anywhere totally out of sight. We also spent the previous day completing any emails, tasks, or work that needed to be done on a laptop, planning out ideas on how we would spend the day, and letting people we usually communicated with know that we would not be responding to any messages or phone calls for the whole next day.
Once the morning came, the alarm went off and I immediately silenced my phone and placed it in the drawer of my desk. I followed my usual morning routine of feeding Ilios and letting him out, making coffee, eating a small snack, and reading my book before getting ready to go on my morning run. Admittedly, I usually get very distracted by my phone during that morning process of sipping coffee and "reading" my book, but without the option to pick it up and check instagram, texts, and emails, it was so much easier to immerse myself in the story I had in front of me (I was reading The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins). The morning just felt quieter than usual and I ended up getting so lost in my book that I read past when I usually start getting ready to run.
I decided to switch my long run to that Saturday instead of Sunday because we didn't have organized track practice that morning and I would be leaving Sunday morning for a track meet. I also wanted to take up more time of the morning doing something I really enjoyed. I took Ilios out with me and we ran an 11 mile loop on the trails behind Western, which was the longest run either of us have done since early last summer. After our run, I took my time to clean up, make myself my usual post-run smoothie, and sat out on the porch in the sun, reading my book and chatting with Gabe, who had strung up his hammock between two aspen trees in our yard. As the weather turned from sunny blue skies to fluffy gray storm clouds - in typical Colorado fashion - we ventured back inside to continue our technology-free day. I spent the rest of that day finishing my book, visiting the library to return it and check out a new one (A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles), visiting the coffee shop, reading more, then getting the creative urge and spending hours making jewelry before getting started on dinner. Ilios was asleep on the couch by me from the afternoon on so overall, it was an incredibly relaxing and good day.
Even though this experiment lasted only a single day, I feel as though I learned a lot about myself. The most notable was the change in my baseline mental state throughout the day. My mind tends to feel like a TV or a radio, constantly flipping through channels with no pause. Today however, it felt silent. The thoughts did not race through my head in a rush to bring along the next wave of mental noise. Instead it felt like they slowly drifted in and out, as I had the time and patience to acknowledge each one on its own - like watching the clouds. I also felt my attention span and my focus were better. I could sit and read my book or make jewelry with no nagging thought in the back of my head trying to pull my attention away from my present self. Because I made a point to finish pressing tasks the day before, I was able to spend this whole day just doing things that made me feel good. I haven't felt that at-ease and just content in my day in a long time. Initially I thought I was going to feel so bored without being able to use my phone or laptop to numb my mind, but instead I found I was fully entertained the whole day. The quiet moments were not moments of boredom, but were just that - quiet moments - to enjoy just as they were.
Obviously most of our daily tasks, work, and obligations won't allow us all to just ignore our phones and laptops all the time. We all have emails, messages, and work-related duties that we need to attend to. We can, however, designate a day every now and then for this mental re-set. If we can calm the nervous system every once in a while and make a point to ground ourselves, we will not only be a little happier, but likely will even be more productive when we do allow ourselves back in touch with our technology. Personally, I found this practice enlightening and I will definitely be incorporating a screenless day again in the future. I highly recommend it to anyone else who might be toying with the idea as well. You could even start small, like not allowing yourself on a specific social media platform or your favorite app. Or you could just dive in like Gabe and I did. Either way, I hope this inspires some curiosity in at least one person who has read until the end :)