In the past 2 years, I have dropped my phone in water exactly 3 times. Yes, count em’ 3 times. Being a regular trail runner and someone who tends towards the clumsy side, it just happens. Each time it has happened I know just what to do. Power down, take out the battery, and try the trusty ol’ rice trick letting my phone dry out a couple days. What that means while the sucker is drying out is a self induced digital detox. Insert panicked feeling.
At least at first…but truth be told, usually about half a day into being unplugged I kinda fall in love. Suddenly everything feels so peaceful. So calm. Time slows down, stress fades away, and my mind shifts over from left brain frenzy to right brain feeling mode. Then a couple days later, the phone’s back up and running and that little piece of heaven seems to…poof ! Away it goes floating further and further away with each ping.
While my previous unplugging adventures were accidental (at least at first), the digital detox phenomena is gaining momentum. Many people (myself included) are realizing that instead of us controlling our phones, that somehow the roles have reversed. Our phones now control us.
“When it comes to social media, there are just times I turn off the world, you know. There are just some times you have to give yourself space to be quiet, which means you’ve got to set those phones down.”
– Michelle Obama
Amen Michelle . There has been all sorts of research lately on the addictive nature of technology. Most of it is focused on children and teens, whose childhood is immersed in screens and stimulation that us grown folk never had to mess with. But even for adults technology can become addictive, ever so sneakily, without you really every realizing what’s going on.
For me I’ve been a little suspicious I was a technology addict for a while. Lately, I could feel almost this magnetic pull between me and my phone, like my fingers had a mind of their own and were typing and scrolling away without my permission. The internet had been just as bad, where often I’d check my email only to find an hour later I was on some random website, not really even remembering how exactly I ended up there. It felt like I needed someone to hit a gong to snap me out of some digital trance.
So rather than waiting for my phone’s next shower I decided it was time to stop the insanity willingly. Yes, it was time to have myself a full on Digital Detox.
What the heck is a digital detox? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
“Digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers. It is regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress, focus more on true social interaction and connection with nature in the physical world.”
Ah…sounds good to me. Having a week and half off from work for the holidays was the perfect opportunity to give this whole unplugging thing a shot. I decided it would make the most sense to do the detox on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, since I’d be with family I don’t see all that often. That way rather than spending lackluster quality time with them engrossed with my gadgets, I could experience what it’s like to be fully engaged for a couple days.
Let the digital detox begin…
I was driving to my mom’s place in Houston the day before the detox began so figured it would be a good chance to slowly delve into digital free land. It’s a 3 hour drive from Austin so normally I’d fill that up singing along to the radio or on a podcast binge. But this time…silence. It felt really weird. But after about an hour or so I noticed that I was enjoying the scenery more and was less likely to be irked by wacky drivers. Midway I even stopped at this “Quirky Country Market” I’ve passed a gazillion times that always sparked my curiosity. I ended up exploring the art gardens there and chit chatting with the owners for an hour, and even picked up some pretty amazing Christmas gifts made from local artisans. Something that never would have happened if I’d been engrossed in Tim Ferriss’ latest podcast.
So a few hours later I arrived at my mom’s place feeling zenlike, rather than feeling whittled away in some stressed out frenzy from all the Houston road rage.
Christmas Eve was my first full day of being unplugged. At first waking up I felt pretty panicky. It was weird not checking email, my regular multitasking breakfast ritual. I was also worrying that people may text and get offended if I did not text them back right away. But I reassured myself that any hurt feelings would be quickly forgiven once the delay was explained (and they were).
While my momma was at church and my bro was off running errands I decided to go to one of my favorite trails for a run. Leaving my mom’s house I felt a wave of panic flood through me, as my mind starting playing the worst case scenario game. “What if your car breaks down and you don’t have your phone on you?”. “What if you get in a terrible accident and there’s no way to contact anyone and let them know?”. What if, what if, what if… After a minute or so of this nonsense, I realized that before smart phones were invented, people managed to drive across town sans phones just fine. And that any car mishaps could be solved by the kindness of strangers, rather than electronics (a much more fun solution if you ask me).
When I safely arrived in one piece at the trail, I realized that digital detox meant I would be running without music to cheer me along. Right away I assumed a silent run meant I’d get a subpar workout, not enjoy myself as much…and how the heck am I supposed to know how far I went? etc. etc. You get the idea. Well, a few minutes in all those silly thoughts were put to shame. Because I wasn’t distracted by the Spotify playlist jamming into my eardrums, I decided to take a path I’d never taken before and ended up exploring a completely new area. Mind you I’ve run this trail dozens of times before…but only when I was unplugged did I listen to the nudge to wander.
“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”
― Paulo Coelho The Pilgrimage
Not only that but because all was quiet I noticed I ended up talking to way more strangers on the path, and appreciated the beauty in nature around me in a completely new way. I could hear the unique call of that bird, see the sunshine flickering off a dragonfly’s wing, and admire the rainbow of fall foliage still itching to fall to the ground. In short the run felt more like an adventure rather than an obligatory workout to check off a to do list.
By the end of the run, I was realizing this digital detox thing was some magic stuff. And I was no longer resisting it but embracing it. I spent the rest of the day having quality time with my family, without the incessant distractions of gadgets getting in the way. We had conversations that involved…eye contact !! Yes, that’s right, rather than scrolling through a screen while halfheartedly listening to the person across from us, we talked like they did in the pre-gadget era. We played board games, cooked and chowed on yummy food, and I gave my mom’s neglected piano some much needed love.
By Christmas Day being unplugged had gotten to the point of feeling luxurious. It was almost like I had gone back in time to get a glimpse of what life was like before all this technology came around to make our lives easier. And as much as I was enjoying it, there was part of me that was scared that the minute I turned my phone back on, I would go back to zombie land. Have you seen this video before?
So the morning after Christmas rolls around and the digital detox comes to a close with a mixture of feelings. Part of me felt relieved to be plugged back in, and part of me felt sad. Almost like I was already mourning the peace and calm the digital detox had brought…assuming I’d fall back into old habits. I asked my brother to give me my phone and laptop back, as I asked him to hide them so I wouldn’t be tempted. I turned the phone on and checked email, instagram, my website, etc. And I could feel that old addiction trying to pull me back in. But the thing is, because I’d had a few days away from it, I was able to recognize the feelings for what they were. To call their bluff, and realize that habits can change if you have good reason to make them happen.
So what now???
I’m a few days in being back among the plugged in, and while my digital detox didn’t last all that long, it lasted long enough that I know it’s something I will come back to. I foresee a lot more unplugged time in my future. I learned that technology is not just addictive as a metaphor, but truly felt the addiction in my body and mind. I felt the withdrawal at the onset and felt the peace once that space had been made.
“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Rumi
I’ve been feeling for some time like my brain has been on information overload (hence this post from a few months back). And this digital detox proved it to me. Unplugging allowed my brain to take a vacation from the hyperactive cortisol frenzy left brain to the chillaxed, intuitive right brain. And I don’t know about you, but I want to hang out there way more. So for me, this digital detox may be over, but the unplugging fun has just begun.
Since a full on digital detox just isn’t reasonable every day, I’ve been brainstorming some ways to reduce the insanity day to day. Things like putting my phone on silent or airplane mode for chunks of the day. Having an email checking limit and sticking to it (twice a day seems plenty to me). Leaving the phone at home when I’m running errands. And going for phone free bike rides, runs, and hikes no longer consumed with obsessing over all the data from my fitness apps.
So as the new year rolls its way into town, one of my main intentions is to cut back on the tech. To make space to live in my body and hear the nudges and whispers of my soul, rather than letting my brain run the show 24/7. You may be feeling the same… This was a pretty long post, so if you’re still reading I’m guessing you may be curious to try this whole digital detox thing yourself. And if you are, congrats! I am excited for you already, and I may very well be doing it right alongside you in the near future. Let me make this as easy as possible for ya:
Tips For Doing Your Own Digital Detox:
Timing is Everything – Make sure you pick a time that makes sense to unplug. The weekends and holidays definitely make the most sense since we live in a world where our employers tend to expect us to be available nonstop. But you could also try unplugging a few evenings when you get home from work. Just make sure you pick timing that will lesson the laundry list of excuses to cheat.
Accountability – Tell a friend or family member your digital detox plan so that you’ll have someone to help you stick to it. Once you’ve spoken aloud a goal, it makes it that much easier to follow through with it. Peer pressure can be a good thing sometimes.
Warn the Peeps – Once you know the timing of your detox, tell the people in your life your plan and that you’ll be incommunicado for a while. You don’t have to go as far as sending out some monster group text or email to everyone you know. Just the people you are in touch with on a pretty regular basis. Anyone else who happens to contact you while you’re unplugged that didn’t get the memo will understand (and if they don’t..well it may be time to rethink that relationship).
Do the Prep Work – Do what you need to do beforehand to successfully complete the detox. For me this meant giving my gadgets to my brother to hide away so I could reduce the temptations. Unless you have an iron will I’d suggest you do the same. Looking back I wish I would have kept a list of phone numbers of family and close friends in my wallet in the off chance that something freaky did happen while I was driving. That way my mind wouldn’t have as much material to go to worse case scenario land. Also print out any directions you may need during the detox. No tech means no googlemap robot directing your every turn.
Brainstorm activities – Once you remove the gadgets you will be opening up a whole heck of a lot of time and space. Brainstorm what you want to do with it. Get out and go for a hike, hit up your favorite yoga class, meet a friend for coffee, go for a bike ride, whip out those paints, or get those gardening hands in the dirt. Whatever sounds good to you that often gets edged out of your day from the technology monster.
Vacation All I’ve Ever Wanted – If doing a digital detox at home doesn’t feel doable and you have a vacation on the horizon…viola! You have yourself the perfect opportunity. A lot of people pay big bucks to go to exotic locations with the primary intention of unplugging. If you feel like the support of fellow digital detoxers would be helpful, then go for it! If simply removing yourself from your home and out of your daily routine is enough, you could easily have a luxurious unplugged vacation at a homeaway in a cool spot. But don’t feel like you need to be in some fancy place in order to truly unplug. You can unplug anywhere.
Whew! I know this was one monster of a post. Congrats for making it all the way through! If I was there with you right now I’d hand you a cookie . The length of this post speaks volumes to me, as we tend to write about what we most need to learn.
If you do decide to do a digital detox yourself know I will be cheering you on all along the way. I’d love to hear more stories of digital detox magic, so please leave me a comment with what it was like for you!
The post My Digital Detox Experience & Why to Try One Yourself appeared first on Belly Mind Soul.