Remember the days when you could just let your phone ring and have it go to voice mail? People actually ignored technology. Yes! There was a time when we had more control over who and what we allowed in our world. Since the advent of smart phones – and the infinite ways in which we can entertain ourselves with them – that has all changed.
The proliferation of technology – in the hands of almost everyone – has shifted the way we relate to it. It has gone from being an adjunct to our lives, to being a necessity. Most people freak out if they can't find their phones. And it's not going to go away. We now have more mobile devices than people on the planet! According to Cisco's Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2014–2019 White Paper:
“By the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2019 there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices per capita.”
There is no doubt that technology is awesome! If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and have lost your way you can access a map app and find your way to your destination. If your tire has blown out on the highway you can call for emergency road service without leaving your car. If you want to get fit there are great apps that help you track your progress and provide motivation. But, there is a downside to the wonder of technology.
The portability of technology, with smart phones and tablets, and the uber-connection of social media can make it especially challenging to take time off from the world at large. This constant connectivity has become a way of life for many and it has some serious drawbacks:
- Brain Fatigue. Digital devices deprive your brain of down time. Downtime lets the brain go over experiences, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories. Processing too much information also leaves you fatigued.
- Eye Strain. Small, bright screens on smartphone's force you to squint, leading to eye strain, difficulty focusing, dry eyes and even double vision.
- Neck Pain. Routine texters place extra pressure and stress on their neck column, giving them intermittent pains in the neck.
- Sleep Disruption. Two hours of exposure to light-emitting devices, such as smart phones and tablets, can reduce your melatonin levels (sleep hormone).
- Loss of Attention Span. Excessive cell phone use can cause loss of attention span.
As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to give your digital devices a break. That change is going to have to come from you. There is now a whole industry of mobile software developers competing to provide you with games and apps to meet your every need. The choice is yours.
Do You Need a Digital Detox?
Let's check in to see if you can use a break from your digital darlings. Take a look at the list below and give yourself 20 points for every one that's a ‘Yes.' Anything below 80 and it's time for a digital detox:
- Check email or social media first thing in the morning.
- Take your mobile device everywhere you go: dinner, bed, bathroom, etc.
- So much on your computer, it keeps you from spending time with real people.
- Constantly posting to Facebook or texting/emailing when with other people.
- Can’t get important work done because you have to check your messages.
We all need a little escape from the day to day routine, but when checking out with technology becomes the norm it's time to reassess and realign.
How to Unplug From Technology
Are you ready to leave your computer, cell phone and tablet behind? Maybe that's a bit drastic but there are some adjustments that you can make that will give you the freedom to avail yourself of the real world:
- Schedule technology time. Whether it's posting to social media, reading and responding to emails or writing a blog post, don't do it willy nilly. Schedule a specific time of day for these tasks. Do not make yourself available at all times. It will suck your life force.
- Turn off notifications. You don't need your phone dinging every minute to advise you of emails or social media updates. (Better yet, remove social media apps from your smart phone. It's a bold move. Be brave.)
- Talk don't text. We're quickly losing the art of conversation. Texting opens you up to much more misinterpretation. There's no way to convey tone and inflection, which deeply shapes the meaning of your words.
- Don't take your phone to meals. Is there anything more annoying than having lunch with a loved one or friend, and they pick up their phone every time it dings? When did it become okay to rudely ignore your current company for a social media notification? Leave your phone in your purse or your pants. Pay attention to the person in front of you.
- Don't take your phone to bed. This is very tempting, especially if you sleep alone. Your phone keeps you company. It keeps you connected. It can also disrupt your sleep cycle. Two hours before bedtime shut your phone off. Gasp! (I know. This will take some getting used to.) Protect your melatonin levels and cherish your sleep cycles.
- Take a social media sabbatical. This isn't for everyone, but it's highly recommended. Take a 30-day break from social media. Let your friends and followers know you're taking time off. They'll get it. I've done this the past two years and always come back refreshed and renewed.
Just as your cell phone needs to be recharged after so much use, so does your brain and your body. You need to recharge and one of the best ways to do that is by turning off the computer, the phone and all other forms of technology.
Without all the distractions, your mind is free to actually think about things clearly and can recharge. This is important for busy parents, business owners, and especially for those whose work is creatively driven.
Here's a great practice that you can use on an ongoing basis: Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you, look at them eye-to-eye and encourage active listening.
The world around you is amazing. You'll never experience it if you're spliced to your device. Your inner world is awesome too. Explore your thoughts and feelings. Deliberate and dream, review and reflect. Instead of consuming information and entertainment, allow the absence of devices to free your being to create. Read a book, dive into a conversation, listen to music, talk to perfect strangers.
Your inner essence requires unplugged time. Plug into the source of ALL life. Consult the genius within, reach into the depths of your being and share it with the world. Be the force that inspires and ignites. There is no better connection than that!
PS Ready to unplug and put your self care first? Join us …