In today’s world of tablets, smartphones and endless free Wi-Fi, it might seem impossible to unplug. However, with constant connection comes the need to be, well, constantly connected. It’s no surprise that this allegiance to technology can be draining: Studies have shown that more time spent online can make you feel anxious and lonely, and can waste up to eight hours of your day-to-day life.
That’s why it’s important to unplug every once in a while. It doesn’t mean you have to chuck your smartphone in the trash or completely cut yourself off from those you love, but it does mean you should preserve some of your time for you. It’s important to relax and have a life outside of your devices.
If you’re ready to untether yourself from technology every once in a while, here’s how to do it:
Think back on your time in school: Would your professors wait around in their offices at all hours just in case you had a question? Obviously, that answer is no—being available at all times would clearly be a lot to ask of someone. However, your smartphone and its network connection make you completely available round-the-clock.
In order to break the cycle, set a timeframe in which you will respond to texts and emails and stick to it. It’s likely that your device(s) have a Do Not Disturb feature, which allows you to turn off notifications that someone has sent you a message. Without pings, buzzes or beeps, you should be able to focus on the life that’s happening around you, and therefore make yourself a bit less available to constant communication.
At the end of the day, it’s important to give yourself time to unwind free of your screens. Research has shown that the light from your phone or tablet can interfere with your sleep cycle; it’s so bright it can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. It’s important to give yourself at least two hours of screen-free time so you can ease into restful sleep. There might not be any better incentive to shut your technology down than some high-quality Zs.
It sounds silly, but, if your hands are busy, you’re less likely to reach for your phone. Therefore, find a hobby you enjoy that also happens to require the full participation of both hands. If you carve out an hour or two to partake in your hobby each day, you’ve effectively unplugged for that same timeframe. This could be coloring, exercising, knitting—anything that could help you unwind without fixating your eyes on a screen.
Many people whip out their connected devices in order to pass the time while commuting via public transit. It may seem like a good time to catch up on news, emails and texts, but it’s also nice to take a bit of a mental break before work. In fact, those who take advantage of their commutes can fight some of the negative side effects of commuting, like weight gain and high blood pressure. Of course, different cultures have different etiquettes about mobile manners, so you might not even be allowed to be on your phone while on public transit at all depending on where you live.
One of the easiest ways to pass the time while still sharpening your brain is to grab a great book and use your idle time to read instead of scroll. Other self-improving activities include chatting with fellow commuters, making goals for the day and listening to constructive podcasts.
Finally, you might excuse your digital dependency on the need to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. The good thing is that an unplugged hour or two gives you time to spend time with those same people in person. You can chat and catch up without texts, pauses and emojis. In other words, you’ll get way more out of the conversation than you ever would a digital one.
Unfortunately, it’s more or less impossible to completely unplug yourself from technology. However, simply incorporating just one of the above tips could really revolutionize your life by reducing your need to be connected at all times. So put your phone on silent, grab your knitting needles or schedule lunch with an old friend. You have a life to live, and it’s going to happen without the interference of your phone.
Image: Japanexperterna.se, CC-BY
Anum Yoon is Paste’s Unplugged columnist and a Philly-based blogger who founded Current On Currency.