How to unplug

Deshons Retreat's guide on how to unplug and digitally detox in the modern world

How did we get here? Technology was supposed to improve our lives right?

From email checking that borders on being obsessive compulsive, to being glued to social media, we push ourselves towards digital overload on a daily basis. This constant stress on our systems wreaks havoc on our well-being.

Spending every spare moment checking Facebook isn't helping our mental health. A study conducted by the University of Michigan and Leuven University found that the more time a person spends on the popular social media platform, the more dissatisfied they end up feeling about their own lives.

Do you sleep with your phone next to your bed? According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 44% of you do. The bad news is that scientists from Harvard Medical School have found that using mobile phones or laptops before bed can disrupt our body's production of melatonin, hence seriously mess with the quality of our sleep.

Its clear that our very 'human' bodies aren't built for sustaining this kind of 'robotic' technological pace. The answer then is a digital detox, the notion of disconnecting to promote reconnecting.

While that sounds promising—when the romance of the idea is overtaken by the reality of actual disconnecting—a wash of anxiety tends to push us back into technological submission. How could you go a day without emails? 

Relax—of course cold-turkey techno silence will leave you rocking in a corner...but...with a little preparation, you'll do just fine. Its not as bad as you think...really.

Here's the rub on detoxing digitally—what you should know before you start and what to expect by the end.

Go with the flow

When you first let go of all that's digital in your life it's likely you'll suffer from phantom-phone syndrome, "Was that my pocket vibrating?" when your phone is not around. You'll probably also cheat by sneaking in data when no one's looking. Know that its ok to feel a sense of loss, you are after all outside of your comfort zone. Take some time to work through what it means for you. This awareness is part of the unplugging process. Technology is so ingrained in our lives that we forget that our phones and keyboards aren't actually physical extensions of ourselves. Don't be too hard on yourself and embrace the novelty of this change.

Withdrawal

Once you release the impulse to check status' and newsfeeds or randomly Google things, you might start to remember what it takes to make a 'real' connection. The friends and loved ones who you can see face to face may actually enjoy your presence and a conversation using your mouths and facial expressions, instead of fingers. That sense of loss you felt starts to dissolve.

Digital detox

While social media and email covers a growing patch of ground, it still can't make up for the intangible stuff that human connection offers. Unplugging forces you to choose creative ways to spend your time. Playing with the kids in your life, gathering socially or actively listening to what's going on in people's lives. Do you remember what its like to create real, fond memories? Experience does this, not sitting in front of a screen. Lock away your technology, even for a little while.

And while we're on about experience

For true techno addicts, it can be exciting to feel the turning of a real page in a real book. We spend so much of our lives on autopilot and never really 'see' the vibrancy of what's in front of us or 'feel' the tactile bliss of everyday things. If nothing else, you'll remember that not every delicious meal needs to be viewed via Instagram or have validation from a digital acquaintance who you probably couldn't even fill ten minutes worth of conversation with were you to see them in the flesh. Live in the moment. Breath it in. 

Get your Zen on

Have you seen those people at the airport whose flights have been delayed and the first thing they do is broadcast their discontent to the world via social media? The same people who've just clocked off for their holiday? There are times when we unknowingly self-sabotage our goals. If the goal is to relax, why are we working ourselves up and venting especially when there's nothing to gain? Unplugging allows us to slow down reaction time and be more reflective about what really matters in the scheme of things. Instead of complaining over things we can't control, wait and read a real book. Yes, I did say 'wait'. Its something you could actually get used to if you give yourself permission to turn your lemons into lemonade. 

Feel the JOMO

The truth is that if you go missing offline its unlikely anyone is going to be agonising over what you're up to. Likewise, you'll start to realise that the time spent keeping tabs on everyone and everything don't equate with the value you get out in terms of your mood or health. FOMO was coined to describe those who carry the 'Fear Of Missing Out' on things. But a break from all things techie has the potential to turn you into a JOMO...someone who experiences the Joy Of Missing Out because you're now spending that recovered time on things that sincerely make you happy.

Cut the clutter

The shift from browser to book can be a significant boost to your attention span. The continual distraction and unlimited options that the internet provides makes us loose our skill to focus. The Energy Project president and CEO Tony Schwartz wrote "I became increasingly aware that the relentless diet of information I ordinarily consume leaves me feeling the same way I do after eating a couple of slices of pizza or a hot dog and french fries—poorly nourished and still hungry."

Igniting creativity

The best thing about detoxing digitally is that you end up with newfound free time. This allows you to channel it into something constructive or a long lost hobby. For this reason turning the switch off can boost your creativity. If you've not known any interests outside the realm of the interweb now is the time to get into something new. Use your mind, your hands, your body. Reacquaint with simplicity and fun.

After all...even computers need to reboot every now and then

As traumatic as the disconnection from technology and the outer world may seem, you have the light of reward at the end of the tunnel. Your body and mind will thank you for pulling away from from the pixels and posts. When you remember what life was before the digital world became pervasive, you start to actually live.