colton underwood and kelly uchima smile in front of illustrated blue background
Design by Jessica Murphy

Do you ever turn to your phone when you are sad, lonely, or anxious, only to realize that a few minutes of scrolling just makes things worse?

Does posting to your feed feel like an obligation?

Recently, Healthline and several celebrities and influencers collaborated on a social media detox to explore the mental health benefits of taking a break from social media.

Here, Kelly Uchima and Colton Underwood share their experience of getting a break from their screens and getting away from their feeds.

Colton Underwood is a former football player who found reality TV fame on “The Bachelor” and the Netflix series “Coming Out Colton.”

Underwood came out as gay in 2021, surprising fans by publicly sharing his story and embracing who he is. He grew up Catholic and had difficulty accepting his sexuality, which he was aware of since high school, he says in an interview.

After experiencing self-hatred, suicidal thoughts, and saying prayers to be “healed” from his sexuality, Underwood finally found self-acceptance.

What the detox was like

“When asked about the insights gleaned from participating in Healthline’s Social Media Detox, Underwood talked about being present.”

“He says it is nice to be present and present now. I got to live with it, I didn’t care about getting a picture or sharing it.”

The benefits were obvious, but it was hard to break the habit in the first few hours.

He says he caught himself scrolling through his phone looking for social apps. How muscle memory works is crazy.

Making new habits

After getting used to the change, Underwood says he felt an occasional twinge of FOMO (fear of missing out) but an overall sense of relief and calm.

He says he spent his time working out, cleaning the house and calling his family. I loved my break.

When asked if he will make social media breaks a regular thing, he was enthusiastic.

“He says he will start doing it every Friday. It’s a great way to reset and recalibrate.”

“I wasn’t worried about getting a picture or sharing my experience … I got to live it!”

-Colton Underwood

Kelly Uchima (aka Kelly U) is a content creator who shares her experiences with eating disorders, depression, family trauma, and an abusive relationship. She inspires body confidence, self-love, and sobriety, helping others on similar journeys feel less alone.

Uchima believes in healing even if it is not the most deep trauma.

On her Therapy Thursday podcast, she shares the lessons she’s learned from her own experiences in therapy and beyond, helping others implement the same tools in their lives.

What the detox was like

“Uchima had a lot of different feelings after she participated in Healthline’s Digital Detox.”

“I felt 10 times more connected to myself but completely disconnected from the rest of the world,” she says. “It’s fascinating that such a healthy break can feel so isolating.”

Part of the challenge for Uchima was that she felt she wasn’t doing enough from a professional standpoint.

It is hard to take breaks since I work full-time in social media and content creation. She says it can feel like she is missing out on opportunities to post meaningful content, connect with her audience, boost engagement, or appeal to more brands with her output.

Uchima stuck with it. She found her own tools to manage her urge to log on.

She says she takes a breath when she notices her urge to reach for her phone. It sounds cliché, but it helps to ask what you need right now. My answer is not my phone.

When Uchima slows down and checks in, she finds her needs are simple.

  • There is water.
  • A snack.
  • The sun is setting.
  • movement

She says she picks one of those and does it.

She noticed the deeper motives behind the urge to engage.

I’m on my phone a lot because I feel like I’m missing out on something,” she says. “I want to see the number of likes, comments, and messages incoming, and I also want to scroll and see what everyone else is doing.”

Uchima got out of the house.

Making new habits

“I went outside a lot more. More The sun is setting., more walks, and farmers market trips for my two favorite things right now: avocados and raspberries.”

She said she felt calmer, more present, and more grounded after the challenge.

The biggest difference was my energy level. Uchima says that he felt more awake, aware and engaged with the people he was around. The experience was positive.

Uchima is on board with the plans for future breaks.

“She says social media breaks are necessary. I have to take more extended breaks. I feel more creative when I don’t stare at my screen. That is a nice realization.”

“I check in with myself and ask, ‘What do you need right now?’ My answer is never ‘my phone.’”

-Kelly Uchima

Do you want to give social media a try? These are simple tips that can get you started.

Set up a phone-free space at home

A no-phone zone can help you detach from your phone and focus on your thoughts.

Similar to a mindfulness corner, this might be a corner of the living room with the comfiest chair where the light trickles in just right, or a little nook in your bedroom where you can decorate with pillows and candles.

Taking a break in your phone-free sanctuary is a better idea when you reach for your phone.

Play some music, listen to a podcast, break out a puzzle, or simply relax for a little while. Just giving yourself the intentional space to relax in another way can make a world of difference.

Put your phone in a drawer

This strategy works the same way as creating a no-phone zone, by making it a conscious effort to get your phone.

“It’s a little harder to get to your phone in a drawer than it is in a back pocket or on your bedside table. You have the chance to think twice when you get an impulse.”

You can check in with yourself when you do.

  • Do you really need a phone?
  • Do you have a reason to use it?
  • Are you reaching out to be bored?

You can decide if you want to bring your phone out to see the light of day.

Install a social media tracking app

There are lots of apps that can help you track and curb your social media usage. Many of them have built-in limits that block the apps you choose once you reach your maximum time.

Unpluq is an app with a unique solution. Instead of requiring a password or locking you out of using your phone, Unpluq uses “distraction barriers” to keep you from mindlessly using your phone.

These actions require a little bit of investment to unlocked certain apps so that you have a chance to decide if it is worth it. Shake your phone, repeat a random pattern, or use aQR code to find something.

Unpluq is working on a project that will require a physical key to be near your phone for certain apps to work.

Do it with friends

If you want to take a break from social media, get a few friends to do it with you.

It can help you beat the fear of missing out when you are feeling isolated.

Instead of scrolling, you can schedule a group video call, a coffee shop meetup, or a board game get-together. Need some pointers on getting out of your shell? Try these tips.

Choose specific times to check your feeds

You can set times for social media use.

Set aside a half-hour on your lunch break to check your feed, instead of scrolling during the morning meeting. You might have another half hour on your commute home.

You can block off your calendar when you want to check your feed. Set reminders, just like a meeting or date, and notice whether you want to use the time to scroll or do something else.

Keep it on airplane mode

Airplane mode makes your phone feel like a cloudless sky, with no notifications, missed calls, or voicemails to catch up on.

Notifications are designed to create a sense of urgency, but the reality is that you get to decide what’s important and what isn’t.

It is possible to remove all the noise from your home screen and remember that your phone is not the boss. You are. When you are ready, turn off airplane mode and check your messages.

Make a plan you can be excited about

“If you decide to take a break from social media, don’t leave a huge hole in your schedule. You should hype yourself up about the things you want to do.”

Plan to walk your dog in a new park, dig into that book you’ve had on your reading list all year, or finally redecorate that bathroom. Even little things can be sources of joy.

If you turn your attention away from likes and comments and towards something that is exciting, fulfilling, or inspiring, you will have a better chance of benefiting from your social break.

“Social media is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control you.”

“It is possible to use social media in a positive way that doesn’t take over your life or your mental health.”

You may find that healthy boundaries help enrich your life with more presence, flavor, and off-screen engagement than you might think.

Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses at Follow her on Instagram.