Are you glued to your electronic devices? Do you find yourself spending more time communicating with friends and family over instant messaging or text message rather than meeting up and spending quality time in person?
There’s no denying that technology is changing the way that we live. Currently, we’re living in the digital revolution where smart technology is playing a huge part in the way we communicate, shop, and complete tasks amongst many things.
By advising that you ‘unplug’, we’re not suggesting that technology isn’t beneficial. In fact, quite the opposite – technology can help to lift your mood by putting you in touch with old friends and family, providing lines of communication to important people who enrich and fulfil your life, and giving you the opportunity to learn new things.
However, the downside to technology is that it can often create a disconnect from the real world. Studies show that the average smartphone user checks their device six times an hour – and if you’re checking for just five minutes at a time, that’s a full half of your twelve-hour day spent on your smartphone.
With that in mind, it’s little wonder that many people today are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Six hours per day is a long time to spend checking your smartphone – and that’s without added gadgets and devices such as tablets, laptops, and televisions!
What makes matters worse is that we’re the ones who are constantly interrupting ourselves, constantly feeling the urge to check our smartphones and other devices when they buzz or even when they don’t. What is this constant influx of information doing to us as people? It’s creating a world where people are stressed out, running out of time to get things done, exhausted and perpetually on the brink of catching a cold or even worse due to their fried, tired-out immune systems. This isn’t a healthy recipe for happiness.
If your morning routine involves checking your smartphone for half an hour, logging straight onto your email or switching the television on, stop. Scaling back to make your morning routine simple, refreshing and relaxing is key to getting a great start to the day and will set you up for a happy, relaxed and positive state of mind all day long.
In the morning, try to avoid technology and gadgets as much as possible. Instead, go about your morning routine and enjoy the calm and quiet which comes with no television blaring or smartphone buzzing with notifications every few minutes. Rather than spending thirty minutes checking your smartphone when you awaken, use the time to do something which will contribute to a calmer state of mind such as meditation, enjoying a longer shower or eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast.
Sure, switching off all gadgets and devices in the morning might not help you earn brownie points from your kids if you’re a parent, and at the beginning you might even hate it too. But, by lowering the level of distraction in the morning as well as keeping the noise down, you’ll soon begin to appreciate the calming of early morning chaos and being able to begin your days without being stressed out before your feet even hit your bedroom rug.
Does your boss enjoy spending his entire Sunday morning firing off work-related emails? Sure, if he wants to fill his weekend with work then that’s his choice, but it doesn’t mean that you’re obliged to answer. Unless you work in national security or have lives depending on you there’s no reason why you should need to reply or even check work-related emails until business hours resume as normal. With the digital revolution making it easier than ever for everyone to stay connected all the time, setting boundaries has never been more important. Responding to weekend emails that you’re not being paid to read will give your boss the impression that you’re on call – definitely something you don’t need!
It’s important to make weekends and vacation days a time for true relaxation and disconnect from work rather than just being diluted-down versions of your regular workday. Schedule your out-of-office emails for when you’re not working, and resist the urge to check your email account and respond to any emails until just a few hours before you’re set to return. If you can’t avoid checking emails, inform your colleagues that you’ll only be checking email at certain times during your vacation days and will only reply to urgent ones if absolutely necessary.
Leaving work at the office and switching off your business phone and laptop when you get home can help your mind to refresh and relax. Although at times being connected to your job from home may be unavoidable, it’s important to value your off-time as working too much can leave you feeling stressed and burned out.
Going off the grid might not be a feasible option for some people, but if you can afford to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life for a couple of days technology-free, you should definitely go for it.
Use your tech-free time to do something which will enrich your body and soul and help to restore your happiness and inner peace, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and revitalized. For example, you might consider taking a relaxing spa weekend alone and leaving your smartphone behind, or even spending a couple of days exploring nature through walks or sunbathing on the beach. The peace and tranquillity you’ll get from being alone and not having the pressure of your smartphone there at all times will help you to clear your mind.
Of course if you’re planning to go off the grid it’s important to let somebody know where you’ll be and when to expect you back. Although leaving your smartphone behind is ideal, if you won’t have any other way of contacting family or friends in an emergency, you may need to take it along – just leave it switched off as long as you can!
One of the simplest and easiest ways to start scaling back your technology use on your pathway to becoming a happier person is to take up activities which you can’t use your smartphone or another device when you’re participating. Activities such as hiking, swimming, yoga and meditation are all utterly incompatible with electronic devices, and they can also help towards making you feel better about yourself and happier on their own.
Many pictures, memes and videos on the topic of smartphones stopping us from living in the moment have gone viral online – ironically from the amount of people viewing them on their smartphones.
But, it’s definitely true – people these days tend to do everything from behind the screen of a smartphone whether it be communication or even viewing events that are unfolding right in front of them. Think about it – if you were to see something completely amazing right in front of you, what would be the first thing that you’d do? If you’re like most people on the planet today, it’s be to reach for your smartphone to take a photo or video and upload it to social media.
The truth is that whilst being able to create awesome memories and keep them permanently is a wonderful thing, there needs to be a balance somewhere between capturing the moment and living in it. Limit your ‘capturing the moment’ scenarios to things that really deserve to be captured, and start living in the moment more often – for example by putting your smartphone away and leaving it there when you’re out for dinner with friends.
If your family and close friends seem to be a little distant with you recently or annoyed with your lack of attention, it could be the screen that’s coming between you that’s hugely contributing to the problem. Learning to put your smartphone down and give people your full attention can significantly impact your happiness and well-being.