The Power of Disconnecting

Disconnecting from digital media – even for a short amount of time – can clear your mind and make you more able to focus on what’s important. It can reduce distractions, stress, and make you a happier person.

Do you ever feel like your life is constantly being interrupted by your cell phone? You sit down to work, and you hear a beep or a notification. You want to ignore and just continue what you were doing, but you can’t. There is an instinctual need inside of you to check your phone, driven by the mystery of not knowing what the alert signifies. Is it an important text message? Something interesting on Facebook? An email from a colleague or friend, perhaps? So you check it out, then get back to whatever you were doing.

Then your phone beeps again.

We have become increasingly accustomed to living in a world of constant distractions. Not only is it counterproductive in the sense that it takes time to check your phone and reply, but it also makes it very difficult to give your full focus to anything. In fact, I would argue that it’s nearly impossible to do anything as well as we can if we are constantly living in a state of distraction. It’s also more difficult to enjoy life, because it makes it much tougher to live in the moment. I remember when I was a child, I was able to immerse myself in all aspects of my life. I was present – physically and mentally – for all the important events of my childhood. Now, no matter what happens, my mind is split.

There are a few exceptions to this. I notice that I do my best thinking in the bath. Part of it is because I am calm and relaxed in the tub. But another huge part is that my phone isn’t with me, and I couldn’t check it if it was. I get half an hour of peace and relaxation, and I feel fabulous afterwards. Another exception is when we were on vacation in Spain and France last fall. Sure, I checked my phone when I was on wifi in the hotel, but it wasn’t a constant thing. I was able to go most of the day simply enjoying what I was doing and who I was with. Also, when I am hiking I don’t check my phone. I have written about the mental and physical health benefits of hiking in the past, and this is just another great reason to hike. Being at peace, out in nature, and free of distractions is an amazing feeling.

Disconnecting in your daily life

Recently, I have decided to take some time each day to disconnect. Now, I can’t live without my cell phone, and I can’t expect anyone else to either, but you can set aside a bit of time to be without your phone, away from your computer, with your TV off. Meditating alone in a quiet room is a great way to disconnect. Also, you can take a bath and leave the phone in the other room, or go for a walk and just leave your phone at home. You can have a no-phones-allowed dinner with your family. You will realize how valuable your time is when you take a moment to appreciate the simple joy of being present. And the longer you do it, the better you will feel. Your mind races less. You will be less preoccupied. You will be less distracted. You will focus more on what’s important and what is in front of you right now.

Disconnecting at work

Disconnecting can help with your work as well. You probably have less control over your environment, but you can still set aside blocks of time where you don’t check texts, alerts, or emails. You will quickly find that you are much more productive and focused as a result. Of course, you can’t go all day like this – functioning in your work environment requires communication, and you can’t cut that off entirely. But having a few blocks of time set aside where you can focus will improve your productivity and make you a better worker. You will be a little less ‘available’ – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You may actually find out that people respect your time more if you are not so willing and anxious to reply to everything in an instant.

You won’t miss anything

Your text messages will be there when you get back. Your alerts will be there. Your emails will be there. The world will not end if you don’t reply to someone immediately. The first few times you disconnect, you might have some anxiety. This will manifest itself in a strong desire to check your phone. This is normal! We use our phones to feel connected, and when we don’t have them, we don’t know what to do. But this is because our brains have been programmed by constantly having our phones there to provide instant gratification. But after you do it a few times it gets so much easier.