We are always doing something, talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant external thing all day. — BRENDA UELAND
Have you ever felt like you’re in a rut? It could be a rut whether at work or in life. Here’s one tip on jolting the brain and the heart into excitement again. It doesn’t have to be a whole week or a whole month of it, only a few days a month, weekly if you will. It is unplugging.
Unplugging means no mobile phones, no laptops, no TV. These many screens that have become permanent fixtures in our daily lives can prove to be very tiring. They are like mini-tranquilizers, numbing us from activity. A single game on our mobile phone roots us in our seat for ours, with us having more interaction with avatars and characters than the people in our own homes. Checking e-mail every 5 or 10 minutes slowly swallows up our day. Too much of these digital connections can tire us out without our knowing it.
Some of us “plug and play” to escape the daily grind. A chat on Facebook during the work day is a welcome distraction from charts and reports, a funny video on Youtube cracks us up and wakes us up during sleepy afternoons at work. These screens are distractions. They take the place of more sensorial activities, once that fully engage our senses. Move the screen away from our faces and we’re thrust into an environment that requires more of our attention, more of our engagement. Shutting off the computer when at home allows us to look around the living room more and perhaps spark ideas on how to make it prettier. Pocketing the phone instead of looking at it while walking down sidewalks encourages us to be more mindful of the environment around us.
Being plugged in all the time numbs us. We need to deprive ourselves of being plugged in and see what activities we can take on to replace screen time.
The first thing you may notice upon committing to this deprivation exercise is how much quiet you suddenly have. We tend to fill in quiet spaces we have with activities. Since our electronics are so accessible we reach for them almost instinctively and play games, chat. But it’s okay to be quiet and not do anything. It is this quiet that will recharge us, that will give us that much needed jolt to break routine.
Going unplugged can be quite awkward, even scary for some. Being plugged in has become an addiction to some of us. Our phones are the first things we check upon waking up. We use our mobile phones as alarm clocks. We head to Facebook for the morning news. We read e-mails and news articles before getting out of bed. In a span of a few minutes, we’ve welcomed the day with what others have to say, versus welcoming the day with our own thoughts.
Try it for a day. Hide the phone. Shut down the computer. “What am I going to do?!,” some of us may wonder. “More than we think” is the answer! While we are not plugged in, we can do so many things we aren’t able to do when we’re hiding behind screens:
Cook. Go on a road trip. Fix the closet. Garden. Paint. Talk with friends. Rearrange furniture. Meditate. Go jogging. Invite friends to dinner. Sort – clothes, books, toys. Dance. Even catch up on much-needed sleep.
A Day of Unplugging
My friends and I tried this exercise a few months ago. I found it very difficult. We were to try unplugging for a week, and I found myself stumbling now and then. There was work e-mail to be checked, Facebook messages to catch up on. But if I was going to do this exercise, I realized I had to commit to it. So I started with a day, just one day. I said I’d take it from there.
For one day, my phone was kept hidden in the bedroom, my laptop not getting out of its bag. My hands were itching to check on my e-mail and play my favorite games, but this was also a test of commitment for me. It was a full 24 hours of social media abstinence, electronic deprivation. After I overcame resisting being unplugged, I realized I felt more productive and peaceful at the end of the 24 hours.
The joy of unplugging gave me much-needed mindfulness – from playing Lego with my son with my full attention to simply enjoying the process of cooking a dish without having to look for a recipe online. I observed how I was more in tune with the environment around me, and that I was more in touch with my instincts. Instead of Googling something when I didn’t have the answer, I simply asked the people around me for help. The day made me feel sheepish, having acknowledged that I don’t really need all these ways of being plugged in to enjoy my day. These are obvious lessons once cane immediately conclude even without trying a day of unplugging. But the difference is how you really feel afterwards – how you do feel more relaxed and rejuvenated after the activity. That’s how I felt.
Unplugging can be daunting in the beginning, but once you’ve tried it you might get even more excited to try it again. This is why I recommend doing it in pockets – a day a week, preferably a weekend so it recharges you even more, with no worries about missing work emails during workdays. (We do want to unplug responsibly!) There will be resistance in the beginning. But once we’ve embraced our commitment to unplugging for a day, we can surprise ourselves with what activities we come up with, who we connect with and how peaceful we’ll feel afterwards. We might just even look forward to the next day of unplugging!
Image credit: Joshua Earle/Unsplash