The Screen Free Day: A Great Gift

When our son was young, one of his closest friend’s mother was a rabbi at the local temple. I was especially fascinated by how this family observed each Sabbath. They truly rested for 24 hours from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. They did not answer the phone, except if those calls involved their son. So if I was calling about logistics for the day for volleyball or going skiing and taking their son, they would pick up the phone. They would not answer all other calls, except emergencies. They did not go on their computer at all. They allowed their bodies and minds to rest and be recharged. I thought it was the loveliest of all traditions and I admired them greatly for doing this.

I thought about their tradition for many years. How could I bring a day of rest and inner reflection into our family? Barry and I decided to make Sunday our special day of rest and recharging. Our intention was good, but soon we were going on the computer for “just a little” to check an important email. That “just a little” would turn into several hours and soon a big part of the day would be over. So we decided that every Sunday we would be computer (and work) free. The computers would not be turned on at all and we would not use our smartphones to check emails or do texting. The only thing that would stay on would be the cell phone with a special ring for our grown children in case they need to get in touch with us.

I would like to say that it was easy to leave our computers and smart phones off. It wasn’t. I was surprised at how addicted we had both become to checking emails, texts and getting work done on the computer. I was used to checking my emails every hour or so and responding right away. I was used to constantly checking for texts and getting back to people right away. And when that habit is taken away for one day, we are left with ourselves. And that is the most beautiful gift of all.

As with most addictions, it took discipline to not turn on the computers. I had to keep reminding myself that there was a beautiful gift in being free of them for one full day. As Barry and I continued with our Sundays, we grew to love the absence of the computer. We could instead focus on each other more and do fun things like new hikes, bike rides or gardening. We rested in the sun and had lovely talks and would spend time feeling and expressing our gratitude. We read to each other special spiritual verses that inspired us. We appreciated each other. And often on such a relaxing day, we would make love together and then linger in bed just enjoying being together. We would make dinner together and eat by candle light and then go to sleep very early for the night. We find that our sleep is much deeper Sunday night with the absence of computers and smartphones during the day.

This practice has brought amazing gifts to our relationship and to our health. The rest and peace from being computer free for one day stays with me all week. I find that I look forward to these screen free days very much and then, when Monday comes and it is time to turn back on the computer, I can do so with more consciousness and wisdom about how long to stay on. It no longer feels like an addiction, but more of a choice. I have found that no email or text is so important that it cannot wait one day. My health and peace are much more important.

When Barry and I were raising our first two children we did not have a computer. Every Sunday was family day and we did wonderful outdoor things with our daughters. We all looked forward to these adventures very much. By the time our son came along we had a computer. Perhaps from seeing his dad on the computer so much (I resisted computers for a long time), he wanted to be on the computer as well. We had to set limits and it took much discipline to enforce them. Finally for him as well we claimed Sunday as a computer free day. He rebelled at first, but eventually he also grew to love the day as we did fun things as a family. I believe it is from these once a week computer free days that he learned the value of not letting the computer and screen time dominate his life. When he went to college he was surprised at how much his fellow classmates stayed on their computer, when there was a whole wonderful world of fun and adventure just outside the building.

We have asked several people to join us in this tradition. One dear couple in Norway decided to also be computer free on Sundays. We all shook hands and promised one another to carry on the tradition. We recently talked with them and asked them how it was going. The man was not that much into the computer so he loved it as he got more quality time with his wife. His wife said that she was enjoying the time with her husband and the hikes out in the snow. She reported that one Sunday when it was raining and cold outside she wanted so much to go on her computer, but she remembered shaking hands and the promise we all made. So she baked a cake that she has always been wanting to try. It turned out delicious and she was able to give pieces to friends and family and it made her very happy.

A screen free day is good for your relationships, for your health, for your spiritual life and is a wonderful example for your children that life is wonderful without screen time. From our experience we can promise you that you will love this time. It may take a little time to get used to, but once you do, you will look forward to it every day as the best day of the week.

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