A few weeks ago, I left my phone on the charger while I went to the park with my family to throw the football around and enjoy the weather. Let me tell you, it was like something magical happened. I didn’t realize it until later that day, but it was the first time in a very long time I had truly unplugged.
That simple act of putting my phone away for a few hours allowed me to be genuinely present with my son and nephews, to truly take in the delight of all the yellows and oranges and browns of the leaves and scenery at the park, to intentionally allow my brain a break from technology and to ultimately live without distractions.
Our society has truly become so fast-paced and technologically driven that the term “unplugging” is not foreign to us, but the actual act of unplugging can be. We’re texting someone as we also refresh our e-mail inbox as an app alert pops up as we listen to the TV in the background and maybe, just maybe, there’s also a radio on nearby. We are constantly immersed in a sea of screens and media and technological stimulation, so it’s no wonder why we find it so hard to unplug at times; it’s always in our faces.
These days our abundance of technology makes an official “clock-out time” almost nonexistent. With constant accessibility to us and others, a sense of stress can emerge because we often feel rushed or “behind” or are always worried about something that is potentially coming. It is not ideal or healthy for us to always be “on”; our brains and our bodies need time to recover. Burnout is real, but it’s definitely not a badge of honor.
Sometimes we don’t realize how attached we can be to our devices, but if you took time to document how much time you are on a phone, computer, etc., it might be alarming. That is why the concept of unplugging, if put into action, is so necessary at times. Unplugging can allow you to de-stress, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, connect better with others, reframe your thinking, spark creativity, create more leisure time, truly reflect without distractions and essentially recharge your own battery. Unplugging also creates a great precedent for our children to let them know they don’t need to be attached to devices; they can find other ways to entertain themselves and enjoy life.
A digital detox could be something you did not even know you needed until you experience it and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! Unplugging isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it, even if it’s one time per week or every so often. Here are some tips for plunging into the amazing realm of being unplugged:
Always being “on” and accessible 24/7 is not healthy. Be sure to establish clear work hours and to stop checking work texts and e-mails at the end of your day. Set up automatic replies that you are “out of the office” and will respond when you are back at work. Because we live in such a quick-fix and “go, go, go” society, this can be challenging for some to postpone responses, so be sure to take baby steps and eventually try to make this a lasting routine…not an occasional fling.
Leave your technology behind.
Ok, so I know this can probably seem drastic or maybe even bizarre, but ask yourself if you absolutely need your phone or laptop with you at all times. Can you leave your house without your phone? Do you really need it? Think of the “good old days” when people never even had cell phones. They survived! If you can rid yourself of devices for an hour or more, embrace the freedom and release the shackles of technology.
Audit your technology use…and then find other ways to spend that time.
Are there days you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media? Are you constantly jumping on apps or games in your spare time, or reaching for your phone with any free moments that surface in your day? Are there some pages you follow that suck up some of your precious time? Really examine the amount of time you are potentially wasting and reclaim your power. Then you can make time to find other hobbies or activities you enjoy, whether it’s spending more time with family and friends in person, reading, journaling, walking, or drawing. You will find your body, mind, and spirit can feel happier and you will feel more fulfilled.
Setting realistic and manageable goals can help reclaim some of your valuable time that is otherwise potentially zapped by phones or other technology. You don’t have to go cold turkey or try to slash your technology use in half overnight, but even just setting a goal to reduce 5-10 minutes on your phone each day can yield wonderful benefits both physically and mentally.
Create alternatives to technology.
Can you write down your to-do lists instead of using an app on your phone? Can you find ways to talk in person with people more than just text? Can you surround yourself with nature more and keep devices away for a bit? Even if it’s just one day a week, or a few times per month. It all matters!
Declutter your phone.
Erasing apps you do not need on your phone, turning off unnecessary alerts that can distract you, removing apps or games that potentially fritter your time away…when you take time to de-clutter your phone, you’re also essentially making space to de-clutter your mind and eliminate extra distractions in your day. We weren’t meant to feel jumpy or on edge or always at the mercy of the next “ping.”
Unplugging can be everything you thought it could be and more! It’s all about balance and creating positive habits that become a routine. Being more present, feeling less distracted, and finding more peace in your life trumps being glued to a screen all the time, right? Your self-care and preservation matters. If you are willing to examine your relationship with your devices and screen time and make the time to unplug and recharge, you might just fall in love with the changes.