What exactly do I mean by “unplugging” and why should you care?
According to Sabbath Manifesto, the organization that created the National Day of Unplugging (sundown March 6 through sunrise March 7), the concept of unplugging from technology every once in a while was developed in the same spirit as the Slow Food and Slow Living movement by a group of creatives who “felt a collective need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living. The idea is to take time off, deadlines and paperwork be damned.”
Hey, even if you like your life fast-paced, wired and jet-fueled (and sometimes I do!), it’s still good, sound self-care to take some time off from the gadgets every once in a while. Here’s why:
- Taking a Break EMF Exposure: Taking time off from the devices on a regular basis eases your exposure to deadly EMF’s or “dirty electricity.” Electro-pollution is real and can come from any electrical device, especially cell phones. Numerous studies have connected cell phone use (when the cell is placed within close range to the ear) with brain tumors. In addition, EMF radiation can impede inter-cell communication, can alter cell growth and can cause inflammation, insomnia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, neurological changes (such as mood swings and depression) and even cancer.
- Taking a Break from Gadget Multi-Tasking: Multi-tasking can happen even when you are not wired, but when you are connected to multiple gadgets, your attention is more likely to be pulled in multiple directions. So what is the problem with multi-tasking? First of all, human brains aren’t hard-wired for it and most of us are not doing it anyways. What we are doing instead is completing one small task after another in rapid succession, which stresses out our grey matter big time. Studies have shown that what we would consider “multitasking” results in lower IQ as well as a rise in cortisol levels.
- Broadening Your Perspective and De-stressing Your Mind: Unplugging for even a few hours and consciously doing something else, especially connecting to the earth through grounding, taking a walk (without the IPOD!) or eating a meal without interruptions can lower your stress levels, broaden your perspective, help you see the larger view, and maybe even let you daydream a little. As opposed to focusing on tiny tasks, letting your mind wander by daydreaming can actually boost cognition.
- Connecting Face to Face: During your unplugged moments, hours or days, make it a point to make eye contact with and engage with others around you in real-time. We are social beings and we all need the energy exchange of face-to-face communication every once in a while, even if it is just the sharing of a smile.
- Moment by Moment Unplugging: You can make a practice of unplugging moment by moment by observing your thoughts throughout the day, especially those pesky ones that creep in regards to social media, texting and email. You know the ones I’m talking about…they start with a slight panic in your belly and end with you scrolling down your Facebook news feed or checking your text messages sporadically throughout the day. Whenever the urge arises to check Facebook, Twitter, email or text, ask yourself why. Why do I want to check my texts right now? What do I hope to find on my email that would be so important? Is it worth my time right now to see what is going on on Facebook? Is what I am doing at this moment worth a post? You may still decide to type, but if you do so after asking yourself these questions, it will be the result of a conscious decision on your part and not a knee-jerk reaction to an unconscious impulse. You are in control of how you spend your time throughout the day when it come so social media, no one else. The sense of empowerment that can come from this one practice can literally change your life by freeing up your mind and your time.
- Daily Unplugging: Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, has a great suggestion when it comes to one of the biggest distractions—email inboxes. He mentions that modern workers and business owners waste a significant amount of productivity time for the rest of the day when they decide to check email first thing in the morning. This is because the messages they receive often spin them off into directions that weren’t on their agenda planners originally. I don’t know about you, but between roughly 8 and noon is precious time for me because it is the time when I do my most productive creative work. It is when I get all my blog posts written, when I work on my novel and when I do my most productive brain storming. I know that I am not alone.
Ferrris suggests writing a very polite form note to attach to the bottom of your email messages letting everyone know about your email schedule. Then stick to it. As hard as it may be, he suggests not even opening that email inbox until at the earliest 11 am and give yourself a set amount of time to check and response, usually two times a day. I started doing this about three months ago and have been surprised at how little time it has taken for people to get used to it. If you would like to see an example of my form letter, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Weekly Unplugging: Take the recommendations of the Sabbath Manifesto to heart and give yourself an “unplugged day” every week. This may sound drastic, but let’s face it, even before the internet, people have been taking a day of rest. Remember the good-old Christian bible verse from Exodus 34:21?
“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”
Modern translation: even if you have a presentation for work to produce, a load of emails to get to, a list of people to
call, a room full of laundry to wash or a country to run, you still gotta rest one day a week. God seems pretty specific on this one, and not just the Christian God either. In Buddhism, a day of rest is called Uposatha. A day of rest is also recognized in many Native American traditions as well as in Islam.
Being somewhat of a traditionalist, I like to take Sundays off as my weekly “unplugged day” and I look forward to it throughout the week like a kid looks forward to a trip to Disneyland. It is my time to be in nature, do some (book!) reading, go on an Artist Date or to a church, temple or Buddhist monastery, meditate, cook a meal or just hang out with those I care about for some real, live, face-to-face interaction.
How will you practice unplugging this week to help your body, mind and spirit? Be sure to write down your ideas in the Comments section below!