National Day of Unplugging : Why and How to Unplug
Hello everyone, Maritere here! Hope you’ve had a great productive week, and as we approach the weekend you are gearing up for some quality down time.
If you were not yet aware of it, just like I wasn’t, every first Friday of March we celebrate National Day of Unplugging. And what exactly does this mean, you ask? Well, National Day of Unplugging consists of 24 hours to unplug, from sundown to sundown, to use that time to connect with people, to unwind, relax and do many other things rather than using modern day technology and social media to stay connected.
That being said, we thought it would be relevant and useful to give a special space on Wear + Where + Well to talk about modern day connectivity and the need to unplug in order to renew ourselves and work on real life connections (away from social media and the Internet).
EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY, CONNECTIVITY, AND OVERUSE
It is no secret that technology has evolved at a very rapid rate in the past couple of decades. We have gone from hand written letters, to faxes, to emails, to live video chat in less than 20 years! What one day seemed suitable for only something out of a Jetsons animated series episode is now becoming a very tangible and accessible reality.
Of course, technology comes with its many advantages. When I long-distance dated my husband, as we were planning a wedding, we relied on handwritten letters, at-the-time-newcomer Hotmail emails (when the lines for dial-up were available), and long distance calls that had to be kept short given the hefty long distance rates between Mexico and the USA. A decade and a half forward, and we can text message all day long if we wanted to, and even video conference on our cell phones at any time. Not to mention, we can do that with any relative, friend, or business associate anywhere in the world!
Technology has truly made it possible for us to stay easily connected in more than one way, which in most cases is quite extraordinary and convenient. That is, until we begin computing the number of waking hours a day we spend staying connected or ‘”plugged in.” Do the simple math; I can assure you most of us, myself included, overspend time being “plugged in”, which then leads us to over-dependability on connectivity, hence being unable to unplug and connect in real life.
It has become a modern day problem, so much so that according to several studies, Internet use disorder has been growing to become the newest kind of “substance abuse” and mental health disorder. Imagine that! According to a 2015 study by Nottingham Trent University, the average smartphone user checks their device more than 85 times a day, spending more than 5 hours a day browsing the internet and using their smartphone apps. Yikes! That is a little alarming, isn’t it?
With that being said, the question now is, how do we unplug?
So, let’s now talk about great ways to do so, and the benefits of unplugging! I promise it might sound harder than it is, but once you discover how much more you can do when you put that computer, tablet, and cell phone down, you will want to unplug more often.
Note that the whole initial reflection on this article is based on personal experience; from realizing myself how much in need of unplugging I was. I’m not just “talking the talk” when I reassure you the benefits of unplugging are real, and that unplugging is a necessary habit to be developed. I have ways to go, and even though I’ve always been one to enjoy the little joys of life, the demands and responsibilities of my life as a mom and a photographer are real. They do require a certain level of connectivity daily, but making yourself aware of the need to unplug will also help you in truly making the most of the time that you allot for doing so.
WAYS TO UNPLUG
Unplugging, and how often we do it and how we do it, will vary depending on our personalities and lifestyle. There is no one better way to unplug than another. What can help one feel renewed might make the other person only feel bored. Keep that in mind as you’re reading the below list of options, and choose your way to unplug. Better yet, practice a combination of habits and activities to better help you unplug.
Of course, these are just some ideas and you can creatively come up with what bests suits you. The goal in mind is to truly and efficiently unplug and allow for quality time to renew, connect in real life, enjoy life away from our devices and internet, and relax! It has been shown that when a person makes an active effort to often unplug, he or she comes back being not only happier, but also more productive and focused!
And now, let’s get to work on that unplugging, shall we?
Keep your devices away while eating meals
This might seem like a simple thing to do, but truly keeping those phones away while we share a meal with our relatives, loved ones, or friends, is truly a great first step to allow for more conversation time and face-to-face connecting. Conversations will most likely turn more interesting and meaningful, and it is simply a great way to be respectful towards those you are sharing a meal with. Give them your undivided attention. Okay, you can snap a picture if needed, but the whole point of this exercise is to disconnect, so keep that in mind.
Allow for personal time to do something you enjoy
Whether it may be going to the movies, listening to music, dancing, doing yoga, getting a massage, taking a run or a walk, we often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves. We consciously and sometimes unconsciously neglect ourselves by continuously being on the go, connected, busy, trying to be productive, producing results, taking care of responsibilities and life in general. Well, here’s something that might make your jaw drop: YOU are important too, and the better you take care of yourself, the better you can take charge of life! Take some time to unplug and treat yourself to doing something that will help you unwind and relax. Do it often. Twice a month? Sure, why not! If you can do it more often, even better.
This might be one of my favorite ways to unplug! Given, it is not always easy to find the time or make the budget work for you to travel, but if you are anything like I am, even a short trip will uplift and renew you. If you cannot take many days off from work or life, schedule a short weekend trip. Look for a destination where you can really enjoy, where you can engage in activities that will help you disconnect. Even better? Take that trip with a loved one, your family, a great friend or relative, and use that time to disconnect and work on your real-life connections and strengthen those relationships. Build happy memories, relax, laugh, enjoy! Remember, the point is to disconnect, so while you travel, be conscious of reducing your online time. Take the sights in around you, sleep an extra hour, laugh more, converse more.
Make a list
Yes, you read that right. Allow time to sit down and write some relevant lists in a journal (pen and paper, people, not on your cellphones; remember we are trying to disconnect). Make a list of how over-connecting impacts your life, of the things that you are missing out on while being connected, on how over-connectivity might sometimes prevent you from being productive and making some meaningful real life connections. After you’ve made that list, start a second list of all the things you would like to do when you unplug and create more available time to enjoy other things in life. Got your lists? Great! You’ve already worked on disconnecting for some time while you worked on those. Now, you get to unplug and select things from your second list that you can do with your unplugged time… ready? Enjoy!
Schedule a get together/meal/coffee with someone you care for
Often our lives get so busy that we can spend months without in-person connecting with close friends or relatives. Schedule a special time to get together and reconnect. Use that time to catch up on life, then try to figure out a good time to meet again, even if it is a month or two from that date. Commit to staying in touch more often. This quality time together will most likely be a great time for both of you to unplug and renew yourselves. While you are enjoying this time, don’t forget our first suggestion. Keep those phones away while you visit. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, emails can all wait for a little bit.
Sleep more and manage your sleeping schedule
I’m sure you have read it repeatedly that adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy, function better, and recharge, but how many of us get those 7-9 hours of sleep consistently? Right, not many of us. Monitoring your sleeping cycle and making an active effort to procure healthy sleeping routines is most certainly a great way to unplug! Did you know that people that sleep better tend to be more productive, gain less weight, feel less anxious and stressed? Not only will your body thank you for more sleeping hours, but by doing so, you will be actively disconnecting from technology and social media for more hours during the day. Now, don’t forget to set your phone on silent or sleeping mode (aside from your morning alarm) when you go to sleep. You don’t want those constant beeps and notifications disturbing you.
Start your day on the right foot
So, if what we are trying to do is reset, renew and relax, then why reach out for our phones first thing in the morning when we wake up? Instead of opening your eyes and directing them immediately to our phones, let’s try to start our day by doing some meditation, stretching, setting our goals for the day and having a healthy breakfast (now, how many of you skip breakfast? Most important meal of the day!). Even if you don’t have much time in the mornings, a couple of minutes to get your day started on the right track can make a significant difference on how the rest of your day will play out. A quick tip? Remind yourself of something you are grateful for and something you want to work towards every day.
Get some good pen and paper and write some snail mail
Yes! The post is still in service, and you can still reach your friends and loved ones the old way, via snail mail! How long has it been since you’ve penned a letter to a friend instead of writing a quick text or email? Don’t wait for their birthdays to write them a card or letter and tell them how much you care for them! I don’t know about you, but I still LOVE getting snail mail from friends and family! It always makes me feel so grateful and special that they took the time to write and send me a letter or postcard. This exercise will not only help you unplug from the internet and social media, but will help you to reconnect in a special way with special people in your life.
Set work hour boundaries
I understand that depending on your line of work this might or might not be easy or fully attainable, but, really, we shouldn’t be expected to be available 24/7 for our jobs/bosses/coworkers. Calls can go to voicemail. There are certainly things that can wait until the next working day. Your work should not be your life. You should have a life and a job that you work. Unless there is an important deadline, a matter of life and death, or your company collapsing, once you leave the office and get home, especially if you have a family, make an active effort to keep the computer closed, the cell phone away or on mute, and spend quality time either taking care of those you love, or taking care of yourself. If you are a night owl like I tend to be (I can often only edit quietly until everyone goes to sleep – big busy family), then disconnect while everyone is still awake; once everyone else is in bed, connect again to finish work. Again, keep in mind the number of hours an adult should sleep, so that whenever possible, you can close that computer at a reasonable time.
You don’t have to become an Iron Man overnight, but get active. Get those endorphins released! Exercise can come in many different forms and can easily be adapted to suit your health and lifestyle. You can simply get into the habit of taking regular walks, getting into dance or Zumba sessions, or challenge yourself to a more demanding workout routine or training. The goal is to use time which would otherwise be spent connected to a device or computer, to get your heart rate up, your body moving, and have those endorphins flowing to your brain. With this you will not only be engaging in an activity that benefits your health, but you will most likely be able to take your mind off other stresses in your life, and procuring a healthy environment for your body and mind. After all, endorphins trigger that positive feeling in our bodies!
Be good, do good
This is another one of my favorite ways to unplug. Think about others and do something for others. Put those devices away and allow yourself some time to help and be there for those in need. This can be as simple as helping someone with an errand, or as dedicated as volunteering for a charity. Not only will you be doing someone else some good and making a difference in someone else’s life, but you will be growing as a person and nourishing yourself with the exercise of kindness. When we are busy doing good, we easily unplug and more likely than not, renew ourselves in more than just one way. Some quick options? Volunteer at your local food bank, get involved in doing visits to the sick, dedicate quality time to talk to a friend in need, take over someone else’s chores for a day, give the gift of time, and make yourself available.
Live in the moment
Allow yourself to have fun, to laugh, to enjoy, to think, to cry, to meditate, to love, to be yourself, and be a better version of yourself. Often, our lives are so consumed by our daily responsibilities that we forget to truly enjoy and savor life! Most of us need our gadgets, internet and connectivity to perform daily obligations, but we are dependent on them to the extent that we forget to live in the moment. So much of our lives go by while we text, browse, post. Remind yourself every day of the value and importance to live in the moment, especially when time is being shared with those we love. When was the last time you laughed till you cried, or you broke into a spontaneous dance, or you gave that hug or kiss that has been long awaiting? Every day of our lives is a gift. Live it fully! I know it sounds easier that it might be, but as you try to be more conscious of living in the moment, you will notice happier days and brighter smiles in your life. And who doesn’t need more happy in their lives?
I could continue listing suggestions to unplug, but most of them would fall under one or more of the options above. As I mentioned before, get creative in the ways you might unplug! You know yourself better than anyone, and upon some reflection and honesty with yourself, you will know just how you can improve your real-life connections and benefit from taking steps towards unplugging. I am aware that this all might seem a little overwhelming for some, but start with baby steps… just be consistent and proactive. You know good habits can easily be developed by repetition and consistency. Work on unplugging, whether it be in a big way or a small way, just take the first step!
I want to finish this article sharing a personal experience that might help others on their journey and efforts to unplug. A couple of weeks ago after crashing from a stressful week of responsibilities and work, I made a proactive and conscious decision to unplug as much as possible for a couple of days. It was my husband’s birthday that weekend, and I know how much he appreciates when I unplug, so that’s what I did.
Here is what I shared on my Instagram after those two days of unplugging: “Because we all need to renew ourselves from time to time, this weekend that is just what I did… I spent quality time with my husband and kids, went to the beach on a beautiful windy day, played ultimate frisbee until I had to catch a breath – and then some more, shared great smiles and conversations, laughed until my belly hurt and happy tears were cried, danced at dinner time, sang in the car from the bottom of my lungs – like no one was watching, slept just a couple more hours a day than I usually do, started the week on a Tuesday after a long weekend full of great moments, great people, and unforgettable memories, and disconnected a bit from my social media… hello again, renewed and grateful for a great weekend and the people I shared it with.”
Happy National Day of Unplugging! Hope you found some good tools to get you started on your unplugging efforts, and please share with us your experiences with unplugging and any other great suggestions you might have in the comments below.
** Want to read more about the National Day of Unplugging movement? Follow this link http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/