CAUTION: Reading this article may cause you to put your phone DOWN.
True story – It took me so long to write this article because every time I researched studies to support my unplug suggestions, I was actually convinced to walk away from my own electronics (laptop included). In order to get this article written, I went old school – full analog. I read actual printed books.
In The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll states, “From the boardroom to the bathroom technology has flooded our lives with more content than we can possibly absorb, washing away out attention spans in the process. Studies suggest that your concentration suffers simply by having your smart phone in the room with you, even if it’s silent or powered off!” Even our sleep suffers because of our phones (and the WiFi running through them). How many of us sleep with the phone on the nightstand or somewhere near our bed? It’s there the second we wake up, and often the first thing we reach for. It’s
with us all day and stays next to us all night. We have so little time throughout the day that is tech free, and, as a result, our brains are not used to, or easily able to, just rest.
There’s several studies scientifically proving that our brains thrive when given the chance to rest and reset. The details vary but the overarching message is clear. If we want to be our most productive, creative, intuitive, compassionates selves, we must find ways to be present and unplug.
Below, I’ve included seven of my favorite tech-free ways to give my brain a break.
I bullet journal. Listen, you do NOT need to be an artist to use a bullet journal. My journaling comprises of pen and paper, that’s it. You can make it whatever you want it to be. I highly recommend reading Ryder Carroll’s book to better understand the methodology behind bullet journaling. Or, if you already have a system you love, just get any old pad and pen. That’ll do!
Ryder states, “The complex tactile movement of writing by hand stimulates our mind more effectively than typing. It activates multiple regions of the brain simultaneously, thereby imprinting what we learn on a deeper level”. Meaning, we will comprehend and REMEMBER more by writing things down by hand.
Watercolors are my favorite. An artist friend once taught me about her “watercolor meditations” where she dumps water on a page and adds color drop by drop. She watches each color expand through the invisible currents and observes their unexpected journeys across the page. It’s mesmerizing and wonderous. To make it a form of mindful meditation, I give it my full attention. It’s that simple. You can choose whatever art practice speaks to you, like adult coloring books, scrapbooking, sketching, pastels,
clay sculpting, etc.. Any type of art creation requires your full attention, allows you to tap into your playful and creative side, and is, often, tech-free.
Read in Print
Put the e-reader down and grab an actual book, magazine, or (GASP) the local newspaper! You can better focus on the single task of reading because your hands are busy flipping pages and feeling the weight of the book. It’s also easier on the eyes than staring at the screen for hours on end. I actually enjoyed searching through my notes in books I had previously read. I love to dog-ear pages on both the top and bottom – the top is my current page in the book, the bottom are pages I want to revisit. I also write notes that help me connect the content to my life or my business. The best part about reading in print is that we can’t have 75 tabs open like we do when we read an article online. I know you’re flipping back and forth between this article and the 75 other things you’re trying to do right now! When we read a book, we have no choice but to give our full attention to it.
One of my favorite books is called “Breathe, Mama, Breathe” written by Shonda Moralis. It’s a book of 65 real-life (read: actually doable) mindful breaks we can take throughout a given day. It’s my go-to resource when I start feeling that swirl of overwhelm take over my brain or when I notice I’m getting a bit harsh with kids.
In her book, Shonda states, “In a study done by Britta Holzel and colleagues using MRI of the brain, participants who had meditated daily for eight weeks showed an increase in gray matter (the part responsible for learning, memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection) and a decrease in the size of the amygdala (the area responsible for anxiety and stress).”
What Shonda suggests is that we make time for 5 minute breaks, whether through a mindfulness activity or meditation. Even just five minutes of meditation per day can provide positive results!
Set Screen Limits
If you really take time to figure out how much of your day is spent in front of a screen (tv, computer, tablet, phone, etc.), you might be shocked. Honestly, it was sickening when I did it. We don’t even realize that we’re doing it sometimes.
An easy answer to this problem is to simply set limits. You can self-impose screen limits for you and your family, if you think you’re disciplined enough to follow them. Or, you can take advantage of apps like Moment, or the app that comes with your smart phone. It’ll give you an alert when you hit the limit on your phone, at least. It also gives you a summary of how much time you’ve spent on the phone over the past week and whether you’re making progress towards reducing screen time.
Dedicate Phone-Free Time
Choose some times of the day or specific activities that are always phone-free (screen-free) without exception. In our house, it’s dinner time. We don’t have the TV on, we make the kids keep the tablets away from the table, and mom and dad have to leave the phones somewhere else. No matter what, we keep that 20 minutes (we’re lucky if dinner lasts 20 minutes HA) totally tech free.
Outside time is another time that I try to be tech-free. I’d say I shoot for a 50/50 split. I love taking pictures of the kids while they’re playing or being silly, so I like to have the phone on hand for that. But, when we go for hikes or walks or bike rides, I try to be fully present so I can take it all in. From the fresh air, to the movement required by our bodies, being out in nature is so good for our souls.
Next time you go for a walk, or otherwise get outside, try to leave the phone behind. See what new things you notice.
Previously, one of the things I loathed about winter was that I never heard birds. This past winter, I was really working on my mindfulness practices, and GUESS WHAT? I heard birds singing songs nearly every single day in winter. They are a bit quieter and certainly less than in the peak of summer, but they were there! I just hadn’t noticed it before.
Get Together In REAL LIFE
The BEST thing for the soul is connecting with another person in real life. Tech definitely gets in the way of that connection. Virtual distance is created when you’re having a conversation with another person who is physically with you, but your mind is on your phone. What was that buzz? A text? An email? An alert? It happens when you’re already using your phone and someone who’s with you starts talking. You start doing the “yea’s” and “uh-huh’s” and “what did you say? I didn’t hear you”. When you have the privilege of spending time with another human being, whether one on one, at home, at work, at a conference, out for coffee…. put your phone AWAY. Listen actively and truly be with that person. You can read more about the pure magic that togetherness can bring here. In short, being together in person can provide a spark that no virtual connection can. So, when you have the opportunity to connect, go all in and be fully present!
Written with passion by:
Creator of Founders In Real Life