Turn off your phone, tune back into life
One of my goals for 2013 was to take better care of my body—the yoga and meditation retreat in the Berkshires was a wonderful start! To help eliminate my chronic back issues, I’ve started seeing an acupuncturist and herbalist. She strongly recommended a greens-based multivitamin, a more varied diet, and that I quit drinking coffee (or at the very least, get from three cups to one a day) and replace its dehydrating effects with plenty of water and herbal tea. Even though it’s made me much crankier and more tired in the morning (I finally believe that caffeine addiction is real), my back feels so much better already.
Just as important in my quest for a healthier body are the mental changes. I’m a fairly high-stress person and I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed in a certain way. I’m working on “cultivating flexibility” in my life and reducing my anxiety, particularly when it comes to comparing myself to others. One of the main way that I’ve been tackling these mental changes has been by disconnecting: figuring out ways to reduce the importance of technology in my everyday life. Here are a few of the little changes that I’ve been making that have had big payoffs:
Stop using your phone as an alarm. One of my worst habits was sleeping with my phone next to my bed and using it as my alarm clock. It meant that I would respond to text messages late into the night, immediately Google any question that popped into my head while trying to fall asleep, check my social networks and email as soon as I switched off my alarm in the morning. To combat that unhealthy connection, I bought an old-school alarm clock: it’s super cute, even if the noise is just awful! However, not needing my phone next to me when I go to sleep has been incredibly rejuvenating.
Shower, eat, get ready before checking your email or texts in the morning. Because I’m now turning my phone off before I go to sleep, it’s no longer second nature to scroll through Instagram or Facebook after clicking off my alarm. Instead, I’m actively avoiding checking my phone or my computer until after I’ve taken a shower, eaten breakfast, made my lunch, picked out my outfit, put on my makeup and packed my bag. News flash: nothing happens in that hour that is so important that it can’t be addressed later in the morning.
Meditate. Right now, I’m committed to 10 minutes a day–whether that’s first thing in the morning, before going out for drinks or right before I go to sleep. Essentially, it’s about setting aside 10 minutes a day for me: realizing that my work commitments, my social media networks, my text messages can all wait while I focus on my mental well-being. Although it might seem a bit contrary to the whole idea of “disconnecting,” the Insight iPhone app has worked wonders in my personal meditation practice. It’s essentially a timer with bowls instead of bells, but you can set intervals and track your practice. As much as I enjoyed the time set aside for meditation at the end of a yoga class, I found that I usually used it to run through my to-do list for the rest of the day. Now that I’m controlling the meditation, I’m much more focused on making the most of it.
Take out your headphones. One of my guiltiest pleasures is having music playing constantly: I listen to my iPod on the subway and my walk to work and then have Spotify running all day at my desk. As much as I love discovering new artists and listening to my favorites as I work, walk, wait–it’s literally just more noise in my life. I’m limiting the background noise when I’m reading or writing, as well as listening to the often unexpected, always entertaining sounds of the city instead of always having the same playlists on repeat.
Do one thing at a time. One of the things I noticed most at the retreat was how refreshing it felt to JUST read: I wasn’t constantly checking my phone in the middle of a chapter or in between articles. The nature of today’s media landscape is that we’re expected to be multitasking, checking updates, seeing the latest news 24/7. One of my main strengths in my job is my ability to “balance competing priorities.” But in my personal life, I found that I was never fully enjoying what was at hand because I was always doing so many things at once. Now, I’m starting to read after my phone has been turned off for the night, not take my phone with me when I run errands, take time out of my day to write letters instead of emails. Again: nothing earth-shattering has happened during those disconnected moments.
Realize it’s just a habit. One of my favorite quotes: “Your beliefs become your thoughts/ Your thoughts become your words/ Your words become your actions/ Your actions become your habits/ Your habits become your values/ Your values become your destiny.” Even if I haven’t completely been able to give up checking my phone unnecessarily–i.e. the minute I get out of the subway–I’m starting to recognize that it’s simply a bad habit. When I get the urge to check my phone, I’m trying to assess that urge: do I really need to? How long has it been since I last checked? At the very least, I’m trying to be aware of my habits and be more mindful in each action.
For the rest of the year, I’m going to explore disconnecting more: choosing a phone-free day, going technology-free on weekend trips, limiting how many times a day I check my email.