Recently, a friend of mine was packing for a trip. Along with the usual necessities of clothing, shoes, and toiletries, she also had her carry-on bag. In her bag was her laptop, Kindle, iPod, tablet, and cell phone. Of course that also meant 3 different chargers and 2 sets of ear-buds. She was going to be gone for two weeks. Sound familiar?
A recent article in Fast Company magazine entitled “What Really Happens To Your Brain And Body During A Digital Detox” gives us a very interesting insight on what happens physically and mentally when we are “unplugged” from our technology. The article shares the experience of a group consisting of 35 CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other influencers who had their behavior studied with and without access to their cell phones and other gadgets. The part I found fascinating was the fact that there was five undercover neuroscientists observing the group.
I encourage you to read the short article and then reflect on your own dependence of all things techy. Most likely, you will find that although “necessary” for whatever reason, it’s also probably a bit excessive.
The thought of unplugging for an entire weekend causes many people to come down with a case of sweaty palms and nervous twitches. That is a good indication they are actually addicted to their technology. They have trained their brain to always know where their phone is, how much battery is left, and the strength of their signal. Some people finally have a lightbulb moment, recognize their dependence, get fed up, and simply go cold-turkey; actually disconnecting for periods of time without issue. Others, well, let’s just say they need to take a more gradual approach.
Here is a suggestion that should do the trick (and it’s also a great method to help your kids become more comfortable with learning the importance of everything in moderation – including technology).
Step 1: Unplug for a specific daily activity. Daily is key. The easiest time to do this is generally meal time. This means more than just banning phones at the dinner table. It means distancing yourself from your phone during any meal. Turn the phone off and place it in another room. It is important that during that time you are unable to hear any calls or notifications which would cause you to stay mentally connected as you wonder who is calling or what urgent (aka not urgent) text you may be missing.
Step 2: Ration your online usage. Fully charge all phones and gadgets Thursday night so in the morning every battery is at 100%. Friday morning is “drop your charger” day when all chargers go into a box to be put away until Sunday at bedtime. Everyone has fully charged electronics and can choose to use them whenever they want and for whatever they want. The only rule is….once it’s dead – it’s dead. No recharging until Sunday at bedtime. I really love this step because it makes people actually aware of just how often they reach for a phone or tablet out of boredom. Much like mindless eating.
Step 3: When no-phones-zone during meals becomes a habit and you are able to go all weekend without running your batteries down to 0% then it’s time for a fully “unplugged” weekend. Phones and all other gadgets get put away before Friday’s dinner not to return until dinner on Sunday.
There is no need to fully unplug every single weekend however Step 1 and Step 2 can easily become the norm. Just like the men and women observed in “What Really Happens To Your Brain And Body During A Digital Detox” don’t be surprised if you find unplugging at least refreshing if not life changing.