Digital detox retreats: a game-changer for mental health?

Published 25th Oct 2023 by PB Admin

Unless you’re reading this article well into the future, or have taken the time to print it out, it’s safe to assume that you’re looking at a screen right now. 

With an estimated 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, it’s fair to say that mobile phones haven’t just entered our lives – they’ve basically taken over. 

With so much of day-to-day life taking place on screens, from laptops at work, to a film on a flatscreen to wind down at the end of the day, it should come as no surprise that people are trying to limit themselves through setting time locks on TikTok and blocking access to apps during deadlines and study sessions.

But what is on offer for those wanting to take a bigger step back from social media?

The answer: digital detoxes.


What is a digital detox? 

In short, a digital detox refers to taking time away from your devices, whether that be reducing the amount of time you spend day-to-day or putting the device down altogether.

Digital detoxes are said to improve mental health through a number of factors – from improving sleep by reducing blue light exposure before bed to reducing stress and anxiety, helping to boost mental wellbeing, as Alicia Ovalle, communications manager for Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, explains:“Digital detox helps to recentre, relieve stress and anxiety from their life, can help with addiction that many people feel from having to respond right away. 

“This sets new boundaries for people to have alone time and simply disconnect from the world.”

For those wanting to take their digital detox to the next level, several wellness spaces, spas, and overnight stays now offer a digital detox element to help their clients switch off from the outside world.

Digital detox spas

Case study: The Lazy Duck

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The Lazy Duck rural retreat offers an environmentally focused holiday experience based in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, with luxurious eco huts for couples, a group bunkhouse and pitched safari tent at its six acre off-grid hideaway.

Guided adventurous days are followed by relaxing evenings in the woodfired hot tub or infrared sauna, and yoga and massage offered in the wellbeing studio, with bespoke sessions welcomed.

While the cabins don’t have a strict no-phone policy, stepping away from social media is encouraged, as operations director Phil Hodgkiss and marketing director Sarah Miller explain:

“We see the digital detox as an encouraged, optional element of our hospitality that is heavily weighted in the delights and luxury of the experience, while using a phone for what it is intended for: communication, checking weather, booking restaurants, and so on.

“All our accommodation encourages guests to step into slow living. By this we mean connection and interaction without distraction. 

“We feel that making something obligatory (by not allowing WiFi, for example) defeats the intention of offering the acceptance of a space/activities that are more fun for couples, families and groups than it is for individuals to be on a screen. 

“Making our offer more interesting than a screen encourages our guests to leave their phones and join in.” 

Time away from phones can be hard, but the team recommends a minimum three-night stay, sharing, “We offer three- or four-night stays, however, the most change is seen in guests who stay for seven nights; really dropping into our pace of life and meaningfulness of their relationships, to relax, recharge and reset.”

When it comes to wellness, the pair say, “Interrupting negative digital patterns will lead to increased connection, interaction and cohesive, positive thought patterns, musculoskeletal improvements, and improved emotional and mental health. 

 “Cognitive, physical and cardio health benefits will be gained from swapping doom scrolling with conversation over boardgames, skiing or mountain biking, for example. 

“We believe it's the combination of our accommodation, location and wellbeing sessions that create a deep state of relaxation. We offer hot tub and sauna sessions to complement our wellbeing therapies: therapeutic massage and yoga sessions. 

“We also offer a wellbeing package in our Lazy Journey, leading guests through a journey of therapy, water and heat, as well as mountain bike guiding and coaching for the adventurous, providing safe access to adrenaline and endorphins.”

As for guests wishing to continue to work on their relationship with their phone following a stay at The Lazy Duck, the team says, “We find guests tend to leave not only rejuvenated but inspired. 

“They appreciate the change in behaviour, feeling deep relaxation has enabled them to make changes for the long term, creating rituals and patterns to support wellbeing. 

“The majority of our bookings are return guests, coming back to top up on their slow living – more like friends than guests. 

“This gives us the confidence to continue with our offer and be curious about ways to improve.  

“There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than seeing guests arrive highly stressed then leaving deeply relaxed.”

Case study: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

While The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park isn’t a phone-free zone, the spa encourages all guests arriving for a treatment to turn off their mobile devices and place them in the locker for the time they are spending at the spa.

For those wishing to take embrace a digital detox during their time at the spa, guests are able to take part in the annual Silent Night event, which takes place at all Mandarin Oriental spa locations, which invites guests to disconnect, supported by its award-winning wellness menu and mindful treatments.

Ovalle explains, “For the digital wellness escape, guests will be provided with a digital wellness quiz to complete upon arrival, and the therapist will have a brief conversation about the results of this after.

“Guests are encouraged to hand over their phones to a member of the team for a short time. 

“During this time, guests will have their phones cleaned and returned to the guest in a phone pouch alongside a digital wellness tip sheet – which is given as part of the experience asking the guest to place this in their locker for the duration of their time at the spa.”

As to why they encourage the spa to be a phone-free zone, Ovalle says, “Digital detox helps to recentre, relieve stress and anxiety from their life, can help with addiction that many people feel from having to respond right away. 

“This sets new boundaries for people to have alone time and simply disconnect from the world.” 

To help clients embrace the digital detox, the spa has a number of ways to keep them connected. 

“The spa reception offers mindful colouring books and colouring sheets to assist guests to move into a state of mindfulness and reconnection with self. 

“Mindful Meetings were created as a way to recommend guests to disconnect from there devices so they can be fully present in the meeting. 

“The spa also provides the digital wellness quiz during mindful meetings, phone pouches and mindful tips.”

Is your beauty business a phone-free zone, or have you ever considered adding digital detox elements to your offering? Let us know in the comments…

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 25th Oct 2023

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