How I survived 2 weeks without tech and supercharged my mental clarity, mood, and creativity. Join me on an adventure of a dopamine detox and tech-free break.
The dream to disconnect
I am sure you fantasised about a digital detox at least once. You’ve heard about your dopamine receptors getting fried with notifications, your focus is shrinking, brain is fogged, and relationship with your phone is harder to control.
It’s tough, I know. But there is a way out.
The stars aligned
I wanted to re-imagine my relationship with technology for a while. I read “Digital minimalism: choosing a focused life in a noisy world,” and “The stolen focus: why can’t we pay attention” (which I highly recommend), installed The Minimalist Phone app, and put my phone away when working to avoid distractions. It helped, but marginally.
What I needed was a real transformation.
A 2-week all-inclusive retreat in Bali seemed like a suitable setting to cut all the technology and see what happens. Apart from both my parents' birthdays, there were no urgent demands of me. So I went for it. When I arrived at the beautiful Udara Bali, I turned my phone and laptop off, and locked both in a safe box.
I had several intentions for this experiment. It’s been a tricky year. A lot has happened, and I felt drained, uninspired and lacked clarity on my next chapter. I was hoping to rest my mind, improve mental health and gain clarity. Spoiler alert, I achieved it all, and more.
The first few days were a breeze
Really, I was almost surprised how easy it was. I didn’t have the urge to look at my phone at all and felt relieved that I don’t need to take photos of everything around me (it was a magical retreat in Bali after all!). I felt I can just relax and enjoy the moment. It was shocking, however, to see how everyone was on their phones all the time.
As a seasoned digital nomad and an explorer, I really missed maps! It was excruciating to arrive in a new place and have no way to explore what’s around the corner. Luckily, there was a paper map at the hotel and I played a Robinson Crusoe game to explore the surroundings.
The dopamine withdrawal
The plan was to rest and reset. And there were plenty of restful things to do. Each day I had a massage, did yoga, walked by the ocean and soaked in a spa. I danced, sang, did lots of breathwork, took ice baths, connected with people. On the one hand, I wanted to share those magical moments with the loved ones, but no pressure to ‘document everything’ or talk to anyone felt liberating.
Yet, on day three, I had the urge to work. I checked my email (not proud of it!) and discovered that a My Life Quest user got stuck and needed help. As a founder, of course, I was happy I resolved it. But was it really a life and death situation? Definitely not. I forwarded the request to my development team and put everything back into the safe box.
Two days later, the urge was gone. I called my parents to say happy birthday and checked in with my sister on her newborn. Apart from that, I stayed tech-free until the end of my retreat, two full weeks.
The magic of digital detox
I expected the withdrawal, but I didn’t expect the huge payoffs.
1. Enhanced mental clarity As I entered the detox, I felt overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas about my next chapter in life and the direction of my business. Tech-brake allowed to create space without noise or information entering my brain. It felt like a void for some time, but then that void filled with ideas. It was crystal clarity. With no enforced planning or reflections, I just knew what I had to do. Towards the end of my retreat, I sat down and wrote a step-by-step plan.
2. Better mood I noticed a while ago that scrolling and social media ruin my mood. It’s a combination of gloomy information entering your brain and social comparison mechanisms that kick in when you follow other people’s polished realities. Taking a break from both meant I could focus on what advances me: self-reflection, curated information, mindfulness. I read five books in two weeks, and certainly became a better version of myself. Instead of comparing myself to others, I transformed my reality.
3. Calmer mind In our day to day, we have a million things to worry about, and we do. Our minds race, “monkey brain”, they call it, although I doubt monkeys struggle as much as we do. The information diet turned out to be a magic pill to calm the mind. When you turn off your phone, you are forced to be present. You notice things around you: smells, sounds, sights. This switches on mindfulness, which calms you down, both mentally and physically.
4. Improved creativity Tech-free brake forces you to re-focus on things that truly fill your cup. For me it was singing, dancing, journaling, walking, talking to people. Those things inevitably bring you into an inspired state and the ideas flow. I felt as if someone opened my “creativity tap”. I carried my notebook everywhere to write all the ideas.
5. Massive personal growth Disconnecting from the world allows you to take a step back and see things from a new perspective. It forces you to evaluate what you are doing, and, combined with an enhanced creativity, pushes you to grow. As I was writing all the ideas, themes emerged. I turned those into the new rules for my life and my business (I will publish them soon, stay tuned).
If you want to improve your mental and physical wellbeing, productivity and focus, you can do a full-blown digital detox or implement these simple strategies into your daily life.
Prioritise rest. You are your most precious asset, regardless of whether you are a parent, an entrepreneur or a manager. In our capitalistic world, we were trained to de-prioritise rest in favour of constant productivity. In reality, it doesn’t work. You may intuitively feel like powering through may be the best strategy, but it’s not. If you take a week or two off, the world won’t stop (mine didn’t anyway). But the renewed energy, clarity, productivity will pay off in no time. Try and see for yourself.
Take a step-back regularly. When you remove yourself from the daily grind, you see things clearly. You will recognise unhelpful thinking patterns, see where you are doing ‘busy work’, and discover how to achieve more with less effort. Suddenly, it becomes obvious where you are ineffective and what you can cut off from your life to create space for what really matters.
Use tech with intention. We are the creatures of habit and fall into the traps of using tech habitually. If you aren’t ready for a complete digital detox, try this. Before you grab your phone or open your laptop, define exactly what you are intending to do and stick to it. I write specific things I want to google, or specific tasks I want to do for my work. This helps me not to get carried away by the infinite scroll into hours of unproductive screen time.
About the Author
Natalya Permyakova is a Life Design Coach, founder of design studio Life Startup and the author of life design platform My Life Quest. She designed new products and services for Fortune 500 companies. She now does the same — but for people, helping them design and live life on their terms. Learn more about her coaching methodology and apply to work with her here.
One last thing before you go…
Life is too short to be unhappy. Are you tired of feeling stuck, unfulfilled, and longing for something more in life? The answer is right in front of you: My Life Quest.
Imagine a life where you wake up excited, pursue your passions, and design your destiny.
Embark on a quest and say goodbye to:
Boring Existence: Break free from the mundane routine that drains your energy & enthusiasm.
Uncertainty and Confusion: Find clarity and purpose in your life, make decisions with confidence.
Regrets and What-ifs: Stop wondering “What if?” and start embracing a life filled with meaning and fulfillment.
Limiting Beliefs: Overcome self-doubt and unleash your true potential to achieve extraordinary success.
Settling for Less: Don’t settle for mediocrity when you can experience a life that exceeds your wildest dreams. Take action now & invest in your future happiness.