We resorted to devices for convenience. Ding. Ring. Vibrate. Stress. Before we realized what had happened, we became slaves to the flashing of their screens and chiming notifications. Take your life back by making time to take charge, unplug and recharge.
We may hate to admit it, but we share a collective obsession with staying up-to-date with the latest news and information live from our devices. Emails, status updates, tweets, and pics populate our screens large and small, whether on our smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, or a combination of these devices. In a recent survey of 1,200 American adults, more than 30% admitted to spending over seven hours a day fixated on these screens.
How do you know if you’ve fallen prey to the plugged-in pandemic?
- You remember to take your phone but not your keys
- You know where you left your tablet but not where you parked your car
- Your first response is to text instead of call
- You went through the emails in your inbox five times already but haven’t sorted through the snail mail piling up on your desk
- You spent more time glancing at your phone screen than making eye contact with another person in the last hour
If you identified with any of the statements above, you probably spend more than your fair share of time poring over text and graphics across several screens.
Notifications from our devices act like small pinpricks that make us susceptible to every informational update, regardless of its actual importance. This insatiable hunger for information becomes a habit due to dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that makes us feel good when we seek a reward. The collective effect of these continuous pinpricks is to keep our brains on high alert anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day, creating an inability to filter out distractions or prioritize information. This state of high alert causes stress, irritability, and exhaustion. It threatens the quality of sleep, shortens attention spans, and reduces productivity. We become trapped in a cycle of seeking out small bursts of adrenaline, even when we know the rewarding feeling won’t last. We end up feeling deceived and depleted.
We may not be able to completely isolate ourselves from technology, but even small breaks from our devices can help. Here are a few tips on how to unplug and recharge:
Pick one: At the start of the day, select one critical, positive activity you want to focus your attention on. Don’t let you mind linger on to-do lists, worries, doubts, emails to be answered, statuses to be liked, or comments to be shared.
Less is more: Instead of letting an hour slip away on email or social media, focus the first 45 minutes on critical tasks and give yourself the last 15 minutes to indulge. Set an alarm to keep you on track.
Alert-free zone: Turn off pop-up banners, sounds, vibrations, and other alerts on your smartphone. Take an additional step and log off social media. Check any pending notifications only during a designated time slot.
Be Mindful: Be deliberate about focusing on one activity all the way through. Concentrate on doing it right even if it takes you more time. Set buffers between tasks so that they are not too closely packed together.
Hit pause: Set aside a meal time or an hour a day where you put your devices away and out of easy reach. Engage in conversation. Sit quietly and reflect. Share a fun, low-tech activity with friends or family. Go for a drive. Exercise. Play a board game or card game.
Bond with nature: Get up and go outside. Observe the birds, insects, and trees. Breathe in fresh air. Hone in on details in your surroundings. A walk in nature fosters better retention and long-term memory-building.
Hobby happy: Think of two or three activities that make you happy. These could be going out with friends, taking a walk around the neighborhood, playing a sport, or making a home-cooked meal. When you have longer periods of down time, give those a try before you reach for your tech fix.
Silent serenity: Before pushing play on your phone, MP3 player, or tablet, spend a few minutes indulging in calm quietness. Listen to your breathing. Close your eyes and let your muscles relax.
See not look: While waiting in line or when stuck in traffic, try to really see the people around you. Notice their expressions. Watch their mannerisms. Make eye contact. Smile. Strike up a conversation.
Share a meal: Instead of checking their Facebook updates or sending them a text, invite friends over for a potluck and games.
Back to paperback: Read a print edition of a newspaper, magazine, or book. This will help you to focus on and savor each page instead of scanning and scrolling through a webpage or an electronic page.
24-hour reservation: Once a week or once a month, unplug for a full day. Take time to build relationships, enjoy experiences, and simply be present.
What are some of your favorite ways to unplug? Share them with us in the comments below.