I sit here having turned my computer, phone and in general all technology on after 10 days.... and guess what? The world hasn't ended.
Spending my holiday period at a meditation retreat was a very conscious decision after a year of franticness. An incredible experience.... but that is another story to the one I discuss here now.
I have known for some time how attached I am to technology, but I am not sure I appreciated quite how it added to my stress levels, with the constant checking of emails, phone messages, internet surfing and social media.
Please don't get me wrong, I think smart phones and the Internet are amazing communication tools, wonderful sources of knowledge and I am grateful for them. I love that on social media I can see significant events that happen in my friends lives, see their children grow, and even just to know what they are doing from day to day - it makes me feel connected to the other side of the world. I love that I can access my email while out and about so I am not chained to a desk. I love that I can download my favourite TV programs and films without heading to a DVD shop. And I love that I have access to so much knowledge and learning at the touch of a button.
However it has become out of control. One morning I sat there and my phone was ringing, my Skype was ringing, imessages were coming through, someone messaged me something relating to work on Facebook, and my emails were coming through at a rate of knots. I am not over exaggerating here - the amount of dinging and ringing made me end up with my head in my hands just wanting to escape.
I know this is the extreme, but how many of us these days just sit still for a while and see what is going on in our mind, rather than constantly distracting ourselves on our smart phones, or constantly looking outside of ourselves for something else to entertain us?
As I wait to travel home literally everyone I can see has a smartphone in their hand, except Nanna in the corner knitting god bless her. How truly wonderful though that she is doing something where she can actually allow her mind to think. Seriously our brains and mind are working overtime and never getting a time to rest, or even process a lot of our thoughts - it is just go, go, go.
Why do we now feel a need to respond to everything within such short time frames, sometimes minutes or even seconds? I am not going to say some things are not urgent, there are always going to be things come up that need immediate attention, however if you really look at it, I would say most communication could probably wait a little while if need be.
The incessant keeping up is stressful, and is draining of our energy and life force.
Research has proven that mental breaks actually increases productivity, replenishes attention and encourages creativity. So how do we get away from the constant buzzing in an increasingly frantic world? There is almost nothing that is sacred anymore when it comes to technology and I truly believe boundaries need to be set in our lives. Certainly in mine.
My intention going forward is to set some limits and very consciously follow through on these. Here are some of things I am going to put into practice:
- A time limit per day on social media.
- Eat mindfully and not have email, social media, downloaded programs going at the same time.
- An email / Internet shut off time at night. This includes not responding to emails or being on the computer just before bed, as it overstimulates the mind when it needs to settle prior to sleep.
- Computer out of the bedroom - yes I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and check emails - craziness!
- Turn phone on to flight mode late at night and during important periods when I need to concentrate during the day - the vibration when just on silent is still distracting. This is especially important if using the phone as an alarm.
- Not checking emails until after breakfast. This is one thing I already practice, but need to do more diligently.
- Meditate or just sit mindfully for a while, rather than Internet surf which often is just a distraction or procrastination.
- Read a book that is educational rather than constantly viewing TV/Internet. It is important to get away from our screens as much as possible.
- Really consider what is urgent and what is not. Take a few deep breaths before immediately responding to emails. Can it wait until the morning when back at the work desk?
- The occasional technology free day where I just switch everything off.
It is going to be different for everyone depending on your habits. And hopefully yours have not become as crazy as mine did. However if any of you see yourself in any of the above (and I suspect there is a few who might) I really do encourage you to look at the boundaries you have around these tools of communication.
The beauty of having experienced a week without technology has really shown me just what is possible. These tools are an incredible gift, but use them wisely.