We all know just how damaging social media can be, but many of us rarely take the time to unplug and truly experience a social media cleanse. So, we put Jessica Brady, a psychotherapist and counselor in private practice to the test, and what she experienced after shutting it down for 24 hours will surprise you.

My Social Media Cleanse

Last weekend I took the opportunity to take a much-needed break from the enticing world of social media. The idea came to me when I woke up one day and realized that the first thing I do, almost every morning, is check my phone. There are probably those of you who are thinking to yourself, “So what? So do I.” Most of us don’t even realize how much social media and technology has become ingrained into our routines, often taking away valuable time to connect with the real world.

While many of us have the habit of checking our phones before we’ve even put two feet on the ground, “everyone is doing it,” isn’t reason to consider it a healthy habit. Just because the entire world is doing it, and they “seem” fine, doesn’t mean it’s good for YOU. We are all wired differently; for some, the constant influx of social media feeds and emails is soothing and provides solace. If that’s you, than kudos!

However, this article isn’t written for those people. This is written for those people like myself, who don’t always feel satisfied after spending lengths of time staring at a screen. This is for those people who walk away from an hour scrolling on their phone maybe feeling inadequate or exhausted, having spent the minutes comparing themselves to the highlight reels of others. And if that sounds like you, it’s time for a social media cleanse.

Social Media Disconnects You From Reality

The point of this article is not to shame anyone, and for some of us, looking at our phone in the morning may not be causing much harm. What it is likely doing though, is programming your brain to disconnect from the real world before giving it a chance to connect with reality. When our brains are fed news stories, social media feeds and email inboxes first thing in the morning, we aren’t giving ourselves a chance to decide anything about our day, before the virtual world does it for us! How can we ask ourselves how we feel, what kind of day we want to have and what we need to do to get through the day if we are watching replays of the latest tragedy or comparing our “average” lifestyle to someone else’s social media highlight reel?

Social Media Can Affect Your Mental Health, Self-Image and Daily Life

My point here is this: While it may not cause any immediate problems, it’s important to consider the bigger picture around how social media plays a role in your daily life, mental health and overall self-image. Maybe your reality is difficult right now and maybe spending time on your phone provides you solace from something. That is OK! Especially for those of us who struggle with our mental health, sometimes the virtual world can appear more attractive than reality. However I have learned the hard way that even on days where escaping reality is most attractive, we need to give our brains a break! It’s all about moderation and being sure you’re spending just as much time disconnecting as you spend “connected.”

How To Do a Social Media Cleanse

As a way to alleviate some of the stress around my own social media use, I decided to delete all social media apps for an entire morning. I deleted the apps the night prior so that when I woke up and looked at my phone, I had no apps to check. It was such an odd feeling because force of habit caused me to immediately reach for my phone when I rolled over and opened my eyes but – voila – the apps weren’t there! No social media, no news and no email. It was amazing how different my morning went without my screen. 

It truly set the tone for the entire day. I had more time for my morning rituals and practices, I had time for a longer yoga flow and a slower breakfast and I had time to quite literally smell the coffee. It may sound dramatic but it felt like I was seeing my morning in an entirely new light. I felt freer when I wasn’t planning my next post or checking the endless feeds. After successfully keeping social media apps off of my phone for most of the day I decided to continue the trend throughout the weekend. I would delete my apps before bed and not re-add them to my phone until mid-way through my day and once more before bed. It was amazing how much more connected I felt to my real life, without the attachment to the virtual world. 

This is what led me to declare a plan to keep one day of the week logged off. I decided to keep Sunday sacred to a social media cleanse, and I’ve kept up with this for the last month. I’ll tell you, while nothing particularly spectacular happens on these Sundays, the difference in my overall mental health was reinforcing enough to keep this practice going.

What Happens After a Social Media Cleanse?

In hopes of inspiring others to spend more time disconnecting here is a list of what I learned on my days off from social media, enjoying a thorough social media cleanse:

  1. FOMO? You didn’t miss anything. I come back on Monday morning to some messages, new followers and some comments. Nothing to waste precious moments of my weekend on.
  2. You notice more of the amazing things that surround you. I noticed the birds chirping, the sun shining, the way my dog looks when she’s basking in the sun. I mean, I noticed these things before but when free from the obligation of my phone, I noticed it all much more vibrantly.
  3. You discover all the things you’ve been missing. Looking down at a screen leaves you missing everything happening if you looked up! It was so disheartening to know I was missing so many beautiful little moments because of my screen.
  4. You stop comparing. I didn’t feel an impulsive urge to create after comparing my art/life to others. Everything I did artistically for my day off was focused and patient. When I wasn’t being exposed to everyone else’s art and accomplishments I was able to focus much more clearly on my own.
  5. You maintain healthier sleep patterns. Surprisingly, I felt exhausted. I think I spent so much time distracting myself with what’s on my phone that I actually was able to divert from how tired I’ve been. During my social media cleanse, I was able to go to bed at 8pm with no issue and for someone with insomnia that’s amazing.
  6. You just sleep better. Speaking of which, I slept better. Not only did I go to bed at 8pm but my sleep was deeper and dreams more vivid. Without checking the latest updates before sleep my mind was able to slip more easily into REM sleep and my subconscious was able to sort through dreams I had been repressing.
  7. You stop rushing through life. I had more time for things I didn’t know I was rushing. I was rushing my meals, my showers and much more in an effort to get back to sharing and checking. When I let that go during my social media cleanse, everything slowed down a bit.
  8. You will start to realize your addiction to social media. I missed social media TOO much. While I was happy to be free from the burden there were moments where I felt myself being pulled to re-download the apps. It felt too much like not being able to put down a cigarette or other addictive substance.

Overall, the point here is just to encourage you to ask yourself how much is too much when it comes to your phone and social media? Are you spending precious life moments lost in a sea of highlight reels? Is your life more “connected” or disconnected? Is that what you want?

We would love to hear what happened after your social media cleanse. Connect with Anxiety Gone on our Facebook and Instagram, and join the discussion.

This post was originally published on Anxiety Gone.