The Luxury of Disconnecting
It starts with the buzz. The vibration in your pocket that means something is happening. You pick up the phone, reply to your text from bae, and get back to what you were doing. Then it happens again. Bzzz. Someone commented in that post you’re tagged in. Bzzz. Your photo has another Like. You try to go back to your task. It’s been eleven minutes and bae hasn’t texted back. Do you feel distracted yet?
Multiply any one of these moments by 150. That’s how many times we check our phones each day – and if you’re always on your phone, that total can go upwards of 900. Anywhere from once every ten minutes to once every six seconds. It can all add up to an astonishing three hours a day of staring at a five-inch screen.
Too much? Enter the digital detox. At its heart, it’s as simple as turning off your devices for a while. Think of it like going on a mental juice cleanse, or as a digital analogue to Marie Kondo’s phenomenally popular “decluttering” movement. Curating your time and experiences as carefully as your belongings is a natural next step for anyone who appreciates minimalism in dress or design – or simply wants to destress. Whether it’s for a day or a week, at home or at a remote spa retreat, taking a break from the distractions of constant communication can be a powerful reminder of what “quality of life” really means.
For Orianna Fielding, author and founder of the Digital Detox Company, a move from London to northern Spain’s rural Costa Brava put her dependence on technology into perspective. “The more I became digitally connected, ironically I began to feel more and more personally disconnected from my surroundings, as my virtual life was not giving me any real nourishment. It provided a lot of noise, but I could no longer find the inherent melody and rhythm of my daily life.”
Think of it like going on a mental juice cleanse.
Fielding continues, “I looked around me, at my friends and colleagues, and realized that we would get together for lunch on a beach or at someone’s house and we would all have our heads buried in our smartphones, oblivious to each other or the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us.” This epiphany led her to start researching digital dependence and culminated in her book UNPLUGGED: How To Live Mindfully In a Digital World. She went on to found the Digital Detox Company, where she leads device-free seminars, courses, and retreats designed to promote mindfulness in a Hampshire, England country house hotel. Her tools can take in anything from yoga to spa treatments and crystal massages. But most important is rediscovering how to be present with yourself, free of distractions.
“Unplugging gives you time to act mindfully and ‘uni-task,’ focusing on one activity at a time,” says Fielding. It’s this consciousness and focus, along with the introspection some time alone can bring, that will help you “retox” with a refreshed point of view.
When you pick your phone back up, the first step is feeling its weight in your hand, the motion of your fingers as you unlock it. Being conscious of these movements will let you catch yourself when you check your phone without thinking. Next, Fielding recommends smart time management. Turn off your notifications, then set aside a specific time each day to catch up on emails and social media. Don’t sleep with your phone next to you, and don’t look at it during meals. Use them to spend quality time with friends you’d otherwise message on Facebook. And stop obsessing over how it’s now been 17 minutes and bae still hasn’t texted back – they will.
”Unplugging gives you time to act mindfully and ‘uni-task,’ focusing on one activity at a time.”
Fielding’s last piece of advice may be the hardest. “Frame a special moment in your mind and keep it as a memory, rather than missing the moment by pointing, shooting, and posting it.” The satisfaction of truly being present to enjoy the coffee, workout, or night out you’d otherwise Instagram will exceed the satisfaction of making sure your followers know about it – and they’ll soon understand that the ultimate lifestyle flex is not flexing at all.
If you don’t have time to go off the grid, take a moment to meditate with the illustrations we commissioned from digital artist Carl Burton – our own digitally-enabled micro-detox. Focus on their soothing, organic movements, clear your mind, and take a few minutes to rediscover what it is you think about when you don’t have to think about anything.