How to Unplug (for Real!) in 2021

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Read time: 4 minutes

As pointed out by the nonprofit Unplug Collaborative, 2020 was the year of “screen burnout” and “Zoom fatigue.” Lockdowns and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic prompted us to spend more time staring at smartphone, computer and TV screens, and more time participating in virtual meetings on Zoom.

Woman Who Learned How to Unplug Relaxing on Sofa with Eyes Closed and Arms Behind her Head |

Unfortunately, our pandemic-era attachment to electronics has spilled into 2021 as public health officials seek to corral the coronavirus through vaccination campaigns and other means. As such, this scenario suggests we’ll need to keep exploring avenues for unplugging — unplugging from electronics and unplugging from the stresses of everyday life.

If you have any doubts about the need to unplug, consider this: Data released in 2019 by the Pew Research Center shows 81% of Americans hop online each day.

Here are eight recommendations for unplugging in 2021 (or, really, at any time).

1. Cut back on social media consumption

A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting social media use to about 30 minutes a day may lead to “significant improvement in well-being.” In the study, college students who kept use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to a total of 30 minutes a day demonstrated lower levels of loneliness, depression and anxiety after just three weeks.

These research findings underscore the importance of taking short or long breaks from social media. This can help reduce information overload and mental fatigue, among other benefits.

“Consider how you would spend your time if you weren’t scrolling through the newsfeed on your favored social media platform. Whether such a hypothetical provokes anxiety or relief in you, perhaps it is worth investigating such a response on a deeper level,” Psychology Today advises.

2. Curb your Netflix habit

Devouring the latest Netflix hit or endlessly watching movies on Disney+ can lead to physical and mental issues. Therefore, shutting off the TV at least some of the time may improve your health.

“Few things are more relaxing than binging on Netflix after a long day. Unfortunately, this habit can harm your health in the long run. Back pain, heart disease, insulin resistance and weight gain are all common issues resulting from prolonged sitting,” according to Thrive Global.

3. Set up a digital-free zone

Thrive Global suggests carving out an area in your home, such as the dining room or kitchen, where smartphones, tablets, TVs and other gadgets are prohibited. This can allow you to spend more time with your family or spend more time on yourself.

4. Turn off your smartphone at night

It’s easy to get distracted by your smartphone (just think of all of the alerts that pop up) when you’re in bed and when you awaken during the night.

One of the drawbacks of using your smartphone, or any other device with a screen, at night is the “blue light” radiating from digital screens. This light can hamper your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Furthermore, a call or text message may interrupt your slumber.

Common Desk, an operator of coworking spaces, recommends switching off your smartphone from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. to decrease “digital madness.” But wait — what if you use your smartphone as an alarm clock? Simple solution: Rely on an old-fashioned alarm clock instead.

5. Play games

If you want to feel like a child again or have fun with your kids, consider playing a game. The website for the National Day of Unplugging, sponsored by the Unplug Collaborative, offers suggestions like hide-n-seek, board games, hopscotch or a scavenger hunt.

6. Get crafty

To take your mind off the world’s woes, you might try your hand at painting, crocheting, pottery, origami or some other creative undertaking.

“It might sound too good to be true, but simply engaging in creative behaviors (even just coloring in those trendy adult coloring books) improves brain function, mental health and physical health,” according to Forbes.

7. Work it out

The National Day of Unplugging emphasizes physical activity as a way to unplug. This could mean hopping on your bike, taking a hike or simply dancing around the house.

A research article published in 2006 outlined the myriad benefits of exercise, including improved sleep, stress relief, better mood, more energy, increased mental alertness, and reduced depression and anxiety.

8. Engage in self-care

A recent poll indicates that 73% of Americans were more conscious of needing self-care in 2020, and 69% planned to do more self-care in 2021 than they did last year, according to data cited by People magazine.

Among the self-care methods you may want to embrace are indulging in at-home spa rituals, getting a salon manicure and pedicure, meditating, practicing yoga or soaking in the bathtub. You also might consider trips to state or national parks or other peaceful outdoor spots to become one with nature.