Breaking up with my phone* [what happened next]

Breaking up with my phone* [what happened next]

Dear Kula Diaries,

Listen to the article voice over here

As many of you know, I recently shared a two part series documenting my own compulsive addiction to my cell phone and social media and subsequent ‘break up’ with that addiction. If you haven’t read those, you can find them here:

My Body is There but my Soul Isn’t - Part 1

My Body is There but my Soul Isn’t - Part 2

After I shared those two posts and read the feedback on them, I realized that The Kula Diaries was offering me the opportunity to host a meet-up to talk with others about the idea of Cell Phone/Technology Mindfulness. During the month of December, our virtual group met 2x per week — and we enjoyed our meetings so much, that I am continuing with the group into January.

While I shared my first post about this topic in October of last year, my own journey of ‘breaking up with my cell phone’ started long before I ever felt comfortable sharing the somewhat embarrassing details. Admitting to a lot of people that you spent more time staring at videos of your own Instagram Stories rather than spending time with your actual real life husband (while simultaneously blaming him for never talking to you)… ugh…let’s just say that it doesn’t feel great. However, I knew from the very beginning that I could not possibly be alone in my compulsive addiction to the irresistible endorphins of social media and my cell phone.

“The Kula Diaries” is a free newsletter written entirely by me, Anastasia Allison. I’m the founder of an outdoor gear company called Kula Cloth. You can join our monthly events and support this newsletter and my writing by becoming a paid subscriber. I appreciate you so much! Love, A.

The meet ups that I hosted in December were, quite honestly, one of the first times that I had ever really had the chance to speak with others who felt the same way about their relationship with their phone. There was no judgment in the group — no condemnation of behavior or ‘phone shaming’ … and we even tried to refrain from labeling cell phone usage as a ‘bad habit’ — opting to identify it as more of a coping mechanism and/or a compulsive addiction or unconscious brain program. It was a really beautiful experience to have the opportunity to share these struggles with other folks — and the most thrilling thing for me to watch was the way in which each person began to untangle the threads of their own particular ‘breed’ of cell phone addiction.

We are all very different, and each of our relationships and addictions to our phones prey on different things — some people use the phone to numb themselves, other people use a phone to cope with boredom, others (like me) use the phone as a source of validation or dopamine hits. As we progressed through the month, we were able to clearly identify the aspects of our phone usage that were helpful … and the aspects of our phone usage that were harmful.

Helpful phone usage often included things like:

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Watching educational videos

  • Taking a class on Zoom

  • Connecting with loved ones through video calls and/or text messages

  • Attending Dance Experiment sessions on Zoom (obviously)

  • Taking photographs

  • listening to audiobooks

  • Using Social Media to genuinely connect with people in our lives and meet others with similar interests

  • Using meditation apps (like Insight Timer)

  • Reading poetry

  • making a conscious (not unconscious) decision to use a cell phone for a short break or pause on social media or otherwise

  • Reading books

  • Listening to music

  • Using the Maps feature to navigate

  • Using AllTrails or GAIA for navigation in the backcountry

Unhelpful phone usage and its destructive effects often included things like:

  • obsessively filling every single second with ‘checking in’ on social media

  • feeling a compulsive need to share every single aspect of our day or life with others

  • feeling a compulsive need to post and obtain followers

  • an inability to feel joy from real life experiences

  • obsessively checking on our own stories or posts to see the reactions of others

  • comparison with others

  • seeking validation

  • playing games for hours and hours

  • spending so much time on the phone that important things were neglected

  • using the phone during times when real connection could be happening with others

  • Impulsive shopping

  • Impulsive ‘researching’

  • Neglecting ‘ real life’ responsibilities for cell phone usage

  • Losing the ability to think for one’s self by assuming the collective consciousness of what social media tells you that you need to think about things


I made the conscious decision to ‘break up’ with my cell phone last year. I was in the process of reading a book called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, and I did a visualization one day while sitting on the rocky ledge above my house at sunrise. As I sat on that ledge, I visualized the best version of myself — and really tried to embody who I wanted to become. In my mind and heart, I thought I’d see myself frolicking on a beach in Tahiti… or speaking on stage at a huge awards show… or receiving the first ever Academy Award presented to a pee cloth… but NO. Much to my chagrin, I saw one very clear image and felt one very strong message. As I sat on the ledge, I knew without a doubt: The best version of me does not have her face smooshed into her cell phone all day. The Anastasia that is running a successful outdoor company is not addicted to her phone. On that day, I resolved to break up with my phone and let go of my compulsive addiction… and now, many months later, I’m happy to report that life is much, much more peaceful on the other side of a cell phone addiction.



I took this image of myself and then superimposed a mini-Anastasia onto my blank cell phone screen for this image. I’m sad to say that for far too long, the digital version of me was the one who felt more ‘real’.

On our cell phone meet-ups, a familiar theme developed: a repeatable past creates a predictable future. This is one of my favorite quotes from Joe Dispenza, and it was made perfectly clearly through my own struggle with cell phone addiction. Armed with the knowledge that the best version of myself did not have her face plugged into a cellphone, It was simply unreasonable to expect that any amount of hours spent on Instagram was somehow going to ‘launch’ me into the stratosphere of success as a human or business owner. In short, if I wanted different results (i.e. to find more peace, success, abundance, freedom and creativity) in my life … I needed to change my behavior.

During the ‘Don’t Cell Your Soul’ meet ups, I hosted 2x weekly sessions with other folks from the Kula Diaries, where we had the chance to really focus on developing a new relationship with our phone and social media. As I progressed through the month of intense focus on this new way of being, things started accelerating and changing in my life in unexpected, challenging and beautiful ways. I’m going to share some of my personal ‘epiphanies’ with all of you, because they really highlight the results of this ‘cell phone experiment’ with so much clarity.

Stirring the pot

I resolved to give up my addiction to my cell phone and social media in the first half of 2023, and it was not an easy habit to break. I had no clue how addicted I was, and in the first few weeks I felt disconnected, depressed, and almost numb to the world around me. The things that used to bring me such a feeling of joy - like watching my cats or hiking or watching a sunrise… felt empty and bland. Why? Because I wasn’t getting the endorphin hit from sharing my latest sunrise photo on Instagram… or I wasn’t allowing myself to go back onto Instagram to see how many people liked my posts… my body, deprived of its usual source of dopamine, essentially, went into freak out mode. My expectedly steady stream of endorphins vanished into thin air, and I was left feeling very indifferent about the things I loved the most. For about two weeks it really sucked. I felt a literal physical urge to pick up my cell phone and use and check it almost constantly - even for completely mundane things like obsessively checking the weather forecast. It felt like my body and brain were trying to ‘trick’ me into using it in anyway possible. It was almost painful for me to go somewhere or do something interesting and not share about it on Instagram. It’s embarrassing to admit that, but I’m saying it with the hope that if you are going through this right now — it’s OK and normal and just a part of the process.

Gradually, the physical discomfort subsided and I started to feel something unexpected arise in its place — genuine joy. Not from sharing a 15 second video, but from being alive. From feeling peace and love within my heart. From experiencing a moment of life and truly loving it, without anybody else needing to know that it had happened. Slowly but surely, the love that I felt began to show me that the illusory feelings of joy I had micro dosed myself with on Instagram were a mere fraction of what I could have been feeling, if I had simply allowed myself to fully enjoy where I was. Sharing a 15 second video of my cat playing is nothing compared to running with her in the grass and bearing witness to her innocent joy — without needing to capture it on my camera and immediately post it so that other people can make me feel good about my existence.

Beautiful illustration for our 2024 Calendar by Amanda McIntyre. I thought this adorable image was perfect to represent what it’s like to be truly present with another human or animal friend.

In addition to the newfound joy and peace that I was experiencing, I also started to feel something else: chaos… and a lot of it. Almost immediately after I made the decision to give up my phone, I embarked upon a journey of back-to-back clusters that tested me and challenged me in new ways that I had never experienced. While it would be easy to say that this was just a coincidence, upon reflection, I don’t think that it was. When I was staring at my cell phone all day long, I was doing the one thing that allowed me to avoid looking at things that were difficult: I was numbing myself. It was really easy to ignore things when all I cared about was how many people had seen my latest dance video. If something uncomfortable came up, I could easily jump back into the fake world in the palm of my hand and avoid everything. As I took this coping mechanism and escape away… I was unable to avoid watching the thoughts that moved through my consciousness. Those thoughts were on a variety of frequencies that I had intentionally brushed under the rug for a long time: fear, lack, anger, frustration, worry, and doubt. Unable to hide them anymore, I had to look at them directly… and each of them, in their own unique way, decided to pay me a visit in one form or another. Through that process, I didn’t allow myself to simply revert back to aimlessly scrolling Poshmark for yet another pair of high-waisted carpenter pants. I sat with the discomfort, accepted it, found the energy of the solution, and learned how to walk beyond it.

Surfing the Feeling

In one of our first meet-ups, our group talked about the ‘brain programming’ that happens very unconsciously when using a cell phone and social media. While this is not a scientific diagram, it could roughly be described like this:


Most cell phone use and social media use is completely unconscious. This means that there is absolutely no ‘gap’ between the moment that you have an impulse to look something up or ‘check in’ and the moment that you lift your phone up to your face and open it. For most people, this is a completely automatic activity that involves zero decision making — you just do it, without thinking about it. Awareness of this moment is what creates the gap… the magical pause in time that gives you the conscious (not unconscious) choice to make a different decision. Right now, if you are addicted to your cell phone, you are running on auto pilot. You have a thought… and then instantly do what you have unintentionally programmed your brain to do: you pick up your cell phone and fill the space with it. It is not a conscious process — you just do it, because you can’t help yourself. During the course of our month together, the most important thing that we focused on was the practice of developing a new muscle: the muscle of awareness… the muscle of noticing. If you can notice that you are doing something, then you are giving yourself the chance to change your behavior. In that moment of noticing, you can make a new decision. Namely, your repeatable past… starts to change, because you start to make different choices. It is a magical moment, and the importance of noticing cannot be understated!

As a group, we practiced something that we called surfing the feeling. This term was given to us by Lia, one of the members of our group (and founder of an amazing company called Noofah). Lia had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Nir Eyal, where she first learned the concept of ‘surfing the feeling’. When you have a thought and a subsequent impulse to check your phone, instead of immediately acting based on the impulse… you can slow it down:

  1. You have a question, thought, idea or empty space that creates an impulse to use phone or check social media


  3. Surf the feeling — do not instantly pick up your phone. Take a deep breath and allow the impulse to wash over you like a wave. Out loud you can say, “STOP” or “SURF THE FEELING”. Allow the impulse to crest and then wane.

  4. If needed, keep a small notebook on hand to write down anything that arose in your mind that you might want to research later.

  5. Keep your phone in your pocket or purse and continue with your day.

  6. At a later time, when you have access to a computer, pull out your hand written list and see if you still want to research or do the thing that popped into your mind. If you do, consciously and intentionally sit down at a computer and perform the task.

As a group, we discovered that most of the things that ‘popped into our minds’ as being important… were indeed throwaway tasks. When I take my walks at 4am, I usually have about 10-20 instances of ‘impulses to check something’ on my phone. In the past, I did most of my walk with my phone out and would spend nearly 1-2 hours trying not to trip in the dark while I randomly looked at social media and/or did completely mindless research for no reason at all. At the time, looking those things up seemed important and reasonable. Afterall — when a thought or a question occurs in my mind, don’t I need the answer… NOW? Once I began the process of breaking my addiction, I started the process of surfing the feeling: I use the gap to heighten my awareness of my unconscious behavior so that I can make a conscious choice not to look something up. I often get back to my house and can’t remember what I wanted to look up to begin with. Because, in all reality, none of it is important. I don’t need to look at a menu for a restaurant that I might want to go to at 4:30 am. I don’t need to search for a lined blazer or sweater tights while I’m tripping over a thorny vine of blackberries in the dark. There is not one thing that I’ve ever looked up when acting on a sudden impulse that has ever been unbelievably important. And if I think it might be? I will write it down on a tiny notebook in my pocket or speak it into my notes app using Siri (without actually opening my phone).

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a walk in the dark before sunrise (as I do), and a thought popped into my mind that instantly created an impulse to pull my phone out of my pocket and ‘check something’. To be honest, I can’t remember what I wanted to look up — but it couldn’t have been very important. As I walked, I slipped my hand into my pocket and grabbed my phone without even thinking about it. As I began to remove my phone from my pocket, suddenly, I stopped myself. “STOP!”, I said. I took a deep breath and allowed myself to feel the impulse. I heard Lia’s words in my mind repeating the phrase, Surf the Feeling. I smiled and put my phone back in my pocket. My phone wasn’t in control of my life anymore. The first few times that this happened, I was shocked at what I felt: after I ‘surfed the feeling’, the impulse was replaced by a deep sense of peace, clarity and stillness. The stars in the early morning sky seemed to twinkle brighter and the air seemed crisper. The urge to check my phone over the course of months and months has gradually subsided from a strong, physical desire to a low, occasional murmur in the background.

If nobody knows, did it even happen?

It’s weird and scary to venture into the unknown, and making this change is not without challenges. As somebody who had previously shared almost every single aspect of my life… and then spent all of the other minutes of my day checking in on whether or not people had viewed the things that I had shared… letting go of that ‘connection’ to others comes with a sense of fear. It felt really weird to go and do something fun… and not to share about it on Instagram. As a part of breaking up with my cell phone, I made an intentional effort to stop sharing everything. I released myself from a specific responsibility to post anything on social media. I’ve realized that somewhere underneath the things that I shared and my own internal need for validation was a fear that I was unloved or forgotten. In my seeking, I substituted digital ‘love’ and ‘validation’ for actual connection and meaning. I was, in essence, looking at a holographic projection of something that I already had within me.

For so long, I saddled myself with the ‘responsibility’ or requirement of adhering to some sort of social media posting schedule. I often did this under the delusion that I would somehow become forgotten or irrelevant or a failure if I didn’t share every little thing on social media. But here’s the thing — people not watching your Instagram stories doesn’t make you irrelevant or forgotten. It won’t shut down your business. What really bites hard is the realization that in the process of looking for validation in those external places… We simultaneously disassociate ourselves from the real love that we seek.

While my social media and phone addiction had some disastrous effects at its height, I do not think that social media is bad. In fact, the purpose of our cell phone meet-up sessions was not meant to be a phone-bashing class. We all wholeheartedly agreed that there are beautiful and important things that we do with our phones. So, the question became: How can I keep those things… and remove the things that are hurting the parts of my life that are most important to me? And, if I can find that balance, what will happen in the empty spaces that are no longer being filled by a digital world? To the outside world, my relationship with my cell phone probably doesn’t look much different: I still post things on my personal Instagram (although much less frequently) and I still share silly and fun things on Kula’s account. What do I not do? I don’t spend my entire day checking my phone and re-watching my own stories to see how many people have watched them… or to get a sense of approval from others. I don’t look at my phone while waiting in lines. I don’t bring my phone into the bathroom. If I’m sitting on the couch and my husband gets up to make some tea, I don’t ‘use the opportunity’ to check my latest post, I don’t check my phone at restaurants. I barely use it on the weekends. I prefer phone calls, rather than text conversations. My life feels like it has slowed down… and I feel like I’m able to see things with more clarity and in more brilliant color than ever before — because I’m not looking at everything through the lens of a phone.

Surprising things happen

When I began my cell phone experiment, it started with a vision of the best version of myself — I saw myself as a successful founder of an outdoor gear company… I saw myself speaking on stages, getting interviewed on podcasts, and I even saw Kula making an appearance on TV. I knew that I had to change the energy of me so that I could become the best version of myself now — not at some imaginary point in the future. Remarkable things happened as I gave up my cell phone habit. As I mentioned earlier, the change in energy did stir the pot… but other things started to happen too. Big and exciting changes and ideas that I can directly connect to breaking up with my cell phone are:

  • I found a business coach and started mentoring with him… somehow, miraculously, I was paired with the founder of a very large and very successful flashlight company

  • I developed a new way to reach out to wholesalers and I moved our distribution for Kula in a very positive direction

  • Opportunities to be interviewed by podcasts and other speaking opportunities popped up out ‘out of the blue’

  • I embarked upon a Lighthouse Quest with Aaron and spent 6 months visiting lighthouses

  • Aaron taught me how to throw a football and we started playing catch together — we even brought the football to the beach over a short Christmas trip

  • I purchased a few ‘Mystery/Puzzle’ books and Aaron and I have been slowly working our way through solving a variety of logic based puzzles

  • I went miniature golfing for the first time in 20 years (do yourself a favor and watch Holey Moley on Netflix… you can thank me later)

  • I wrote about my Cell Phone Break Up and started hosting our cell phone mindfulness meet ups and had some really beautiful conversations in the process (thank you to everybody who joined!!)

  • I started a dance practice in the evenings with my husband - we are currently dancing for 15 minutes together every night in our little garage (which used to be the Kula office)

  • Kula Cloth moved into its first official HQ building!

  • I (finally) started working on two new products that had been in design purgatory for about a year since I didn’t have ‘enough time’ to finish them.

    This is one of the puzzle books we started working on together — it’s super fun, and we’ve loved following the hilarious adventures of Detective Logico!

I am 100% sure that none of these things would have happened if I hadn’t broken up with my cell phone. Leaving that addiction behind has changed the course of my predictable future… and set me on a new path, towards greater healing, expansion and growth. I know that the path ahead isn’t going to be paved with marshmallows and glitter… but I also know that, instead of living my life on repeat, I can choose to create something new. I can choose to let go of habits that are not in alignment with the best version of me.

Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists

During our meet-ups, and while preparing for them, I experienced some pretty profound realizations about the nature of reality and my decision to be more present in my real life. I am still on social media, and I enjoy many aspects of it very much — some of my best real-life friends are people I met on social media, however, I’ve let go of the compulsive need to check my phone. A few weeks ago, I actually went to the store and forgot my phone at home — something that would have been completely unheard of a few years ago. In fact, I find myself ‘losing’ my phone in my house all the time — I don’t use it much when I’m home, so I often forget where it is.

I do still actively write here on Substack, but the act of sitting down to write The Kula Diaries feels so much different that attempting to share every second of every day. This platform doesn’t beg me to come back back every 2 minutes for my next endorphin hit — it’s not something that I check in on. I feel like I can be authentically me, and use writing as a way to process experiences and share stories. My words sit in the Kula Diaries, waiting for anybody to discover them — they don’t disappear in 24 hours, and I don’t feel the need to obsessively monitor my analytics. I write because I genuinely enjoy it and love the process of watching words take shape into something meaningful.

During our cell phone meet-ups in December, we spent a lot of time talking about the illusory nature of ‘connection’ that we experience from social media. Instagram and Facebook are designed to ‘trick us’ into thinking that we are actively participating in others’ lives, but as we learned, it’s an illusion — a substitute for actual connection. When you are lying in bed at midnight and watching an Instagram story of your friend dancing for her bajillionth day in a row… unless you are directly messaging back and forth with them… they aren’t there. In fact, they are probably asleep. You aren’t actually connecting with them. The connection in that moment is an illusion — one human simply staring at a ghost of another. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t really your friend — but what it does mean is that you think you’ve connected with them, because you watched them doing something… and in that moment, you become less likely to really connect with them. A more meaningful connection (like a conversation or phone call to see how they are doing) is replaced by snippets of curated life that disappear after 24 hours.

I want to be very clear: I am not saying that you should stop commenting on your friend’s social media posts or videos — in fact, I still really enjoy looking at my friend’s videos. But completely substituting those videos for a real-life friendship and/or fooling ourselves into believing that DMs with a random internet stranger are an actual ‘relationship’ is a surefire way to unintentionally isolate ourselves in a world constructed of 0’s and 1’s. I know this… because I’ve done it. As somebody who has spent a lot of time alone staring into a cell phone and, essentially, speaking to nobody for hours on end… social media has, very unfortunately, tricked us into think that we are ‘more connected’ — when, in reality, we have never been more disconnected. We venture outside, and look at a mountain sunrise through the lens of a phone instead of with the lens of our eyes… we spend our time waiting to see how many people looked at our latest dancing video, instead of actually just dancing… and we substitute traces of our friends for the real experience of speaking to them. We have never been more privy to so many other humans all at once… and we have also never been more lonely and disconnected from ourselves (if you want to look at a haunting photo essay about this, I highly recommend contemplating Eric Pickersill’s ‘Removed’ series).


When I look back over the past year, I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve navigated as a business owner and a human. There have been times when I’ve felt demoralized, exhausted, frightened, ashamed, and scared — but, through it all, I’ve known that there was so much growth and expansion and love in each part of the experience. Miraculously, I didn’t turn back to my cell phone for validation, even though it was a constant temptation. I genuinely looked within myself at the source of the pain I felt, allowed it to be there, and tried to nurture it with love. It has not all been pretty, but I would not change any part of it and releasing my addiction to my phone and re-establishing a deeper connection to the real world has been one of the best decisions of my life. If you’ve never watched The Social Dilemma, I highly recommend taking the time to watch it — it is a very eye-opening documentary about the harmful effects of social media. In the documentary, there is one part that stood out to me — a moment where the speaker says something to the effect of, “If you aren’t paying for an app… then you are the product.” In other words, the time that we spend mindlessly perusing Instagram is being bought and sold. And who pays the price? Advertisers, yes… but also, arguably, we do. I can’t get back the lost days of my life that I spent numbing my brain — but I can create something new starting right now. I can make a choice in every moment of every single day to give my attention and intention to the things that bring me real joy.

I hope that, in some small way, my words can help you observe and evaluate your own actions from a place of conscious awareness — not from a place of living on autopilot. Cell phones are not bad, and social media can be such a powerful tool for connection, and I do believe that, if used mindfully, it can enhance your life in beautiful ways. I love knowing that our Kula Instagram account makes people laugh — to me, that’s a brilliant use of social media. There are other accounts that share profound poetry… spiritual teachings… adorable cat videos… recipes… and other important information that provides a tangible benefit and special contribution to our lives. If following those accounts is something that you find value in — please don’t stop. This isn’t about ‘quitting’ the things you love. It’s about doing the things that you love, and letting go of the unconscious behavior that creeps in, disguised as something else. If you are struggling with your relationship with your phone or social media, that’s totally OK and normal … but it is possible to find more balance, peace and meaning in your life and I promise you that you will not find what you are looking for while re-watching your own stories for the 1,000th time (like I used to do).

Next week, I’m writing another piece that will give you a simple method about the how of breaking up with your phone. This is an intentional and conscious process that involves awareness and alertness and a readiness for something new. It is a new way of living that says farewell to old energy… and welcomes the beauty of the space between. What could happen if you didn’t fill the empty spaces? What could you invite into your life? There is only one way to answer that question — and it begins with a choice to surf the feeling… put your hand back in your pocket… and be willing to feel the realness of the world around you.

I am sending you all so much love today!



Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.