Pandemic Purge: How a Digital Cleanse and Self-Love Can Put You on a Path to Healthy Living

By Nick Masuda   |   May 27, 2021

Imagine yourself sans that iPhone in your back pocket — ahem, permanently glued to the palm of your hand if we are being honest — or countless work Zoom meetings where you pray that no one requires you to click the “Start Video” button.

Imagine not being among the 18% increase in year-over-year in-home data usage from 2019 to 2020. Or the 75% spike in online gaming usage over the same time span, according to Statista.

Did you know that 53.6% of the world’s population uses social media, at an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes per day? That’s 52,925 minutes, or 36 days, per year.

Yes, you are throwing away more than a month per year on cat videos, connecting with high school classmates that really don’t remember you, and watching other people play video games on YouTube (this really is a thing).

Sounds like we are all in need of a good ol’ digital detox.

Enter AHA!, or the Healthy Attitudes, Emotional Harmony, and Lifelong Achievement for Teens (try to fit that into a tweet!).

AHA! co-founders Jennifer Freed and Rendy Freedman were inspired to create change after taking in The Social Dilemma, which was produced in part by Lynda Weinman and Natalie Orfalea, both of Montecito.

Freed and Freedman left the viewing of the documentary “devastated and heartbroken,” according to Freed, shocked at the harmful effects that social media can and will continue to have.

So, in the middle of the pandemic, the staff at AHA! went to work, planning a “digital cleanse,” even though they didn’t know when the event would actually occur.

Now ready for primetime, up to 20 teenagers (9th grade through college freshmen) — and associated adults — will be presented with an opportunity to unplug and reconnect with nature with a five-day event from June 21-25.

And, no, you won’t just be sitting in some conference room pining for a WiFi connection; AHA! is setting up camp at El Capitan Canyon, with horseback riding, kayaking, writing, theater improv, and art on the initial agenda.

Nature will indeed nurture.

“This is not meant to be a black-and-white thinking about devices and usage; we are all going to be digitally dependent,” Freed said. “It’s about what it means to connect, soul to soul, physically, emotionally. We will all be connected, just not plugged in.”

There is an application process for both teens and associated parents that ends on May 31. If you’re interested in hearing more, contact Melissa at


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