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Sometimes the only way to break an addiction is to go cold turkey. That’s what A-GAP does with its no-technology weekend retreats.

Bethany Baker, executive director of A-GAP, said organizers collect cell phones when participants arrive Friday night and return the devices on Sunday when everyone leaves.

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“We find that it takes 24 hours without your phone to let your anxiety levels drop,” she said.

A-GAP surveys participants after the retreats to understand the impact, and Baker said people often list an increased awareness of the addictive tendencies of mobile phones.

“We help people think about what speed bumps can they put in place so that they don’t automatically go to their phone,” she said. “In the long run, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by always being plugged in.”

After COVID-19 shut down in-person events, A-GAP switched to online events and partnered with digital wellness experts to host conversations about how to manage screen time while spending a lot more time at home. Baker and Liana Pavone, founder of TTYL and a new A-GAP partner, recommend taking these steps to reduce screen time and give your brain a break:

  1. Get an alarm clock: If your phone wakes you up every day, it is the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing you look at before you go to bed. Keeping it out of the bedroom helps set up physical boundaries that will help you follow through on your healthy tech goals.
  2. Go for a phone-free walk: Get your daily dose of Vitamin D, and give your mind a rest from email, music, and podcasts.
  3. Go grayscale: App designers mimic the flashy design of slot machines to keep users hooked. Changing your display to grayscale makes your phone less appealing and is an easy barrier to put in place.
  4. Limit your social media apps: Pick your favorite one and delete the rest to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and FOMO. This also stops you from checking multiple accounts, often for similar content.
  5. Create accountability for your new habits: Find a friend who also wants to reduce screen time and share your goals with that person. Ask him or her to check in regularly to see how your new habits are going.

Baker said two habits have made the biggest difference for her and her husband.

“A big thing that we do is using physical alarm clocks. And on the weekends, Sunday is my screen-free day,” she said.

She has been the executive director of A-GAP for three years, and she needs to revisit the disconnect guidelines often to keep her good habits in place.

A-GAP has two retreats planned for the fall, one in September in Asheville, N.C., and in October in Florida. Some A-GAP events are designed for people who follow Christian teachings.