This past summer my wife and I loaded up the minivan and took our three kids on a good old-fashioned family camping trip to Acadia National Park in Maine.
It had been a very busy summer at work, and while my job constantly connects me with thousands of amazing and inspiring people through social media, I felt that as an introvert, I needed to recharge in relative quiet away from crowds. So for this trip I decided I was going to take Facebook off of my phone and allow myself to detox from social media and technology in general. For the seven-hour car ride, we allowed the kids toys and books, but no movies or screens (and they did fine!), and while we were away for two weeks, I never checked Facebook once, nor did I post a single update. And, you know what? It felt amazing. Instead, I gave myself permission to experience life the “old fashioned” way: without a screen between the world and myself. I let moments go by and did not try to “capture” anything, and the less I tried to capture, the more at ease I felt.
When I feel like technology may be impacting the balance in my life, I often take a minute to ask myself the following: Is technology coming between myself and someone I care about? Could I benefit from using some of the time I spend on my smartphone to take a few deep breaths and reflect on my day? Am I spending too much time on social media?
If I answer “yes” to any of those questions, I know it may be time to consider a digital detox. Unplugging from my social networks and my devices, like my cell phone, is an important facet to self-care, and it helps me to be more present with my friends and family—instead of tuning out and getting lost on my Facebook feed or worrying about a work deadline.
I know what you’re probably thinking. I could never go without my phone for a whole day. I need to keep in touch with my kids, my work. I can’t afford to unplug. While a digital detox can sound intimidating, it doesn’t have to be extreme. Instead, I just think of it as carving out a small oasis of time each day, just for me. Whether it’s five minutes or thirty minutes, I determine how long I allow myself the gift of unplugging from social networks, email, or media outlets. By taking the time for a digital detox, I am able to find balance, to quiet my mind, to connect better with my own needs and wants, and to connect better to those around me. For example, sometimes I set a goal to not use my phone from 7-10pm on weeknights. If one night I end up taking a call from an old friend and forget, that doesn’t mean I failed. Sometimes even just a one-degree shift in my use of technology can make a big difference over time. In the end, yoga is a practice of being present and awake in every moment, and by increasing my practice of trying to be relaxed and open in every moment possible, I am succeeding.
With technology available at our fingertips, it’s hard to determine when exactly the right time to take a digital detox is. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the best time of day to avoid LED screens, devices, and media is right before bed. By the end of the day, my senses are fatigued since I have literally been ingesting input through my eyes, ears and body all day. If I can I try to start a detox around 8:00pm until I fall asleep, it’s a great way for me to wind down. I bring the lights down low, sip warm tea, reflect on my day, and sometimes even take a few minutes to meditate or journal.
Another important time I try to detox is during meals. Meals are a precious time in the day, and our bodies digest better if the nervous system is relaxed. Meals are also an important time for social bonding, so I try to make at least one meal a day phone and tech-free. Instead, I focus my attention on the food and the people I’m sharing it with. If I start to get agitated, I tell myself that e-mail and Facebook will be there in 20 minutes. By detoxing during meals, it also allows me to engage with my kids about their day, be with my wife and experience the gift of nourishment—all of which are things I am grateful for.
A digital detox truly allows me to be more fully present in my life. Rather than experiencing so much of my life through a screen, detoxing creates a window to look up, feel the wind, and disconnect from myriad projects, relationships, conversations and to-do’s that compete for our energy. Taking time to unplug allows me to refocus the energy that is flowing out into all of these places and redirect it to simpler, or perhaps more tangible, things like the smell and crackle of a campfire (without having to take a photo and post it to social media), my children’s voices, or the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. When we take a break from technology, we remember that life can just be, and does not always need to be interpreted, branded, packaged or “liked” to be amazing.
Author: Micah Mortali
Editor: Caroline Beaton