An island city in the world’s happiest country declared a phone-free summer of ‘digital fasting.’ Here’s how to disconnect on your vacation

Fortune Well July 7, 2023

Lifestyle

An island city in the world’s happiest country declared a phone-free summer of ‘digital fasting.’ Here’s how to disconnect on your vacation

Your phone does not eat first—that is if you’re vacationing on the island of Ulko-Tammio in the happiest country on earth. 

The temptation to jump on Instagram and showcase your aesthetically plated dinner will have to wait because the island, described as “the jewel of the Eastern Gulf of Finland,” has declared itself phone-free this summer. 

Visitors “will be asked to keep their phones in their pockets,” according to the island’s press release, which says the recommendation is the first of its kind worldwide. “The aim is to encourage holidaymakers to switch off their smart devices, take a break from social media, and enjoy nature.”

 

Not to fear—locals aren’t making you go completely cold turkey by locking your phone in a safe. The announcement is voluntary and meant to encourage a summer of “digital fasting.”

“We encourage visitors to put their phones away voluntarily and to focus their senses on nature rather than on their phones. This is a great initiative that could be implemented in other natural and recreational destinations, too,” Joel Heino, a manager at Parks & Wildlife Finland, says in the press release. 

The campaign is not without scientific backing. 

We all know how it feels when minutes of scrolling turns into hours; we seldom feel better once we look up. Constant screen time, including social media use, can increase feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, and depression. It can also diminish in-person social interactions and productivity. 

“We’ve lost the art of interpersonal communication,” Jennifer Kelman, a licensed social worker and mental health expert with JustAnswer, previously told Fortune. “We are all so willing to give up our mental health, our family time, our friendship time…For what? To the detriment of oneself.” 

Vacation is a time to try something new and reap the benefits of PTO. As Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic, previously told Fortune: “It’s very hard to use vacation for what it’s worth,” ultimately succumbing to the guilt of not being reachable. 

So disconnecting is vital to combat burnout. 

To appreciate the hiking excursions in the national forest, ocean views, and rare flora and fauna of Ulko-Tammio, the island says the phone can wait—especially because spending time in nature can improve your mental health. 

“People are not meant to be glued to screens all the time. Even a short digital fast can be useful and improve our well-being and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression,” says Terhi Mustonen, a psychologist and program manager of the Limitless Gaming and Limitless Social Media programs at the Sosped Foundation, in the press release. 

You don’t need to travel to Finland to commit to a digital detox. If you want to disconnect wherever you are, start slow.

 

Here are 5 ways to disconnect on vacation:
  • Delegate work tasks before your vacation 
  • Set limits on your screen time 
  • Prioritize genuine connection 
  • Turn off notifications 
  • Choose a book or activity before bed instead of scrolling

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