Turn off your phone, tune back into life

February 22, 2013 in Career,Life,Philosophy

One of my goals for 2013 was to take better care of my bodythe 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.

Christine Amorose in the modern section at the Metropolitan

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:

Alarm clock, Voluspa candle and fresh tulips on a nightstand

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.

Tea and magazines

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.

Yoga in the Park in Sacramento, California

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.

Address book and letter writing in the sunshine

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.

Journal and magazines in the sunshine

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.

 What are your best tips for disconnecting?

  • Naomi Todd

    Great ideas! Whilst I love technology and the many advantages it brings, I sometimes feel we’re losing touch of communication skills such as having a conversation without looking at our phones every two minutes. I am certainly guilty of not being able to go without checking social media or my phone regularly but when I have a break from it, I realise I have hardly missed a thing! I quite like going back to the old-school methods such as writing a postcard, it’s a shame I don’t do it more often.

  • I am going to have to try the phone “off” until the daily routine is over. I think it distracts me from all the things I should be doing. I am sure I would work out a lot more in the mornings, if I just did it first thing. I love this idea. Now to get the BF on board. Right!

  • I keep meaning to buy an alarm clock so I’m not constantly using my phone. I’m terrible for checking emails late at night. I’m also trying my best to just do one thing at a time. I know some people are great at mutli-tasking but I end up just running around like a headless chicken and getting nothing done.

    Another thing I’ve started doing is taking proper lunch breaks and going out for some fresh air and a proper meal. It makes the day go so much faster and I’m sure I’m more productive after a lunch time walk!

  • Love this! Not having wi-fi in my Parisian apartment has really helped me keep from “bad” habits such as checking social media before bed and reading email immediately upon waking. Many people I’ve told think of it as an inconvenience, but I really appreciate the sounder habits it’s forced me to create.

  • Man, props to you Danielle. I was definitely one of those people that mildly freaked out when you told me you had no wifi in your place! But after reading Christine’s post, I’m considering unplugging my wifi at night…

  • kissairis

    Really enjoyed these ideas. Also, sunset March 1 to sunset March 2 is National Day of Unplugging: http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/unplug/ Had no idea it existed, but I think I’ll try it out!

  • camorose

    I love to send snail mail! It’s a joy for me to put pen to paper, and it means so much more than just an email or a tweet 🙂

  • camorose

    I wish I could leave my phone off during the day–unfortunately, not quite possible working in social media 🙂

  • camorose

    I (almost) always take a midday break to get outside. I usually bring my own lunch and eat in front of my desk, but I still take a nice walk. Fresh air always clears my head and gets me refocused for the afternoon! Was on hiatus at bit during winter, but it’s definitely coming back into practice now 🙂

  • camorose

    I love that! It’s almost nicer when you can separate your environments–like, this is my place for sleeping/relaxing/eating and I do my work in an office. That’s how it’s supposed to be!

  • camorose

    It’s great!!! 🙂

  • camorose

    Love that! Will definitely do it 🙂

  • Debbie @ European Travelista

    I enjoyed reading this post as I am worried about our society that seems to always be tuned in! I love music too although I refuse to use headphones very often but I love to hear the noise of life!

  • I didn’t realize about my bad habit until I started noticing it in others. I found it rude and annoying to be having drinks with a friend that is constantly checking her phone. That’s when I began my “unplugged days”, and I love them!

    I find it easier to disconnect while traveling. I never have the urge to look out for wifi, for example, ’cause I’m usually either somewhere without reception or basically to tired to be bothered.

    At home, my tip is: don’t have your phone on the table you’re sitting at, ever (unless you’re expecting someone to call in the next 10 minutes). And also, put it away from your bed. I place it in another corner of the room before getting into bed (this also helps me with my super-bad habit of snoozing my alarm for an entire hour!).

    It’s a great (and challenging!) goal to have in 2013 – go girl!

  • I am sooo guilty of checking social networks the second I wake up. It’s an awful habit, and you’ve just inspired me to try sleeping without my phone or ipod within reach of my bed!

  • I was just thinking yesterday about how I want to get an alarm clock so I will stop using my phone! Yours is adorable, where is it from?

    I am also going to christen the bedroom a “tech free” zone. I have definitely had times where I have turned my phone off only to turn it back on five minutes later to Google some burning question that is really irrelevant.

    And I love the idea of a tech free day! What an interesting challenge that would be.

  • shell0belle

    Wow, such simple but great tips! I never realised how much I relied on my phone until I started thinking about it. I end up running late for work daily due to checking Facebook, Instagram and my emails every morning! I like your idea of leaving all that stuff until after you’ve done everything else you need to do – I think I’ll start doing that myself.
    Also, I have a super bad habit of checking my phone every time I get back to my desk at work after leaving it, even for a minute! I know there’s usually no update on there but I just can’t help pressing the home button just to make sure. I do it without even realising now, so I think I might leave my phone in my bag so I can only check it on my breaks.

  • Briel79

    I need to start doing the second one. I am so bad in the mornings and always end up getting to work 1-5 minutes late. So dumb. I already use a regular alarm clock that I have probably had for about 20 years. It’s old and plastic and the white parts are now yellow but it still works! haha

  • LostInCheeseland

    Such good tips – all of which I should be heeding myself! I use my iphone as my alarm, check my email the second I’m able to ply my eyes open and putz around in the morning, often falling behind, because I loafed on the couch with my ipad and cereal bowl. it’s about prioritizing and paring down. i think I need to do one of these retreats!

  • anya

    Hello there,
    some weeks ago I made a similar vow to myself – less multitasking, less technology & more living for the moment and doing one thing at a time. the strange thing is that I REALLY do struggle! but practice & patience are the key, it gets easier within time. one more tip – if you have a spare moment, simply concentrate on your breathe. after that you’ll feel a little more focused & connected to the presence

  • purplekat99

    Ohmigod, I love this post! I totally live like this and wish more people would. Toss in, NOT putting your phone on the table when meeting up with friends for a meal, and you are golden. Like you keep saying, anything can wait. (And if it can’t, there is something wrong with you.)

  • camorose

    I’m trying to cultivate a bit more silence in my life–have really enjoyed getting ready in the morning without any music on!

  • camorose

    Oh my gosh, totally agree! I hate it when people are constantly on their phones at bars or restaurants. Trying to get much better about it, even with my close friends. I’ve started turning off my phone completely at night and have felt so much better for it!

  • camorose

    Try it! It’s honestly made my mornings so much nicer.

  • camorose

    I picked up the alarm clock from A & G Merch in Williamsburg: http://aandgmerch.com/
    I wish I could have my bedroom be a tech-free zone: because of small NYC living spaces, I’m working/sleeping/reading in my room (and in my bed!) most of the time. Looking forward to the day when I can have my bedroom be tech-free!

  • camorose

    Now I won’t turn my phone on until after I’ve showered, gotten dressed, done my hair and my makeup, made my lunch and eaten my breakfast–I just do a quick email/social network check while I have wifi and then I’m out the door! SO much nicer 🙂

  • camorose

    It’s a hard habit to break, but the quality of my mornings are so much nicer now!

  • camorose

    Recognizing it as a bad habit to be broken helps. I find myself wanting to turn my phone on earlier, but then I think–why? I need to get ready and get out the door first. Highly recommend a yoga/meditation retreat though–totally refocused me!

  • camorose

    Great tip! I’ve definitely found that it’s a bad habit–but one that can certainly be broken with a bit of willpower 🙂

  • camorose

    So true! I’m working on it with my close friends–we’re so used to each other always being on the phone all the time, but we really need to work on disconnecting and enjoying each other’s presence.

  • such an inspiring post! putting this last quote as my new fb status 😛 aaaand I’m putting it beside my desk 🙂 … I also wanted to tell you that I admire you! you do sooo many things during just one day – it’s as if in NY a day is more than just 24 hours! so, I guess I should congratulate you on your organization skills 🙂

  • Kara Blythe Abroad

    I absolutely love this! Thank you so so much.

    I used to be better at being disconnected. I deleted my facebook for a 6 month period, relentlessly objected to getting an iPhone until caving last January, and never bothered with twitter/instagram/pinterest/etc.

    Then I decided I wanted to be a travel blogger. My iPhone became my best friend. Engaging in social media became my pastime. Someone asked me about my hobbies were and it took me a minute to remember: travel, writing, reading, and uh… It seems like most of my time is consumed with fiddling with my phone so I’ve had to give up a lot of other things I used to really love. Like yoga!

    This post is exactly what I need. I’ve been thinking about changing my life a lot, and you’ve provided such wonderful insight on how to do so!

    Will be sharing this all over and looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    Thanks again! Buy an alarm clock first thing tomorrow!

  • camorose

    Haha it’s all about prioritizing–and using lots of to-do lists! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • camorose

    So glad that you enjoyed the post! It can be very, very easy to fall into the iPhone trap, especially when traveling and even more so when travel blogging–it’s your whole connection to a life back home! Takes a bit of time and patience, but fully worth it to disconnect and refocus on what’s important 🙂

  • Lesliedob1960

    I do believe I am hearing some wisdom here. De-caffed and unplugged. There is much to be said for quietude. You are getting on track back to being a human being, not a doing. I hope you find that paying attention to your Self’s needs will lessen that anxiety. Or give you some insight in how to lessen that fast track in your brain. If you continue your self-awareness, especially in how all these electronics influence and even control our emotions, you will be ahead of the herd. Good luck.
    An older wiser adult

  • Erica

    I recently realized that I really do concentrate better without headphone (music in the background is fine) and have naturally stopped consuming caffeine and alcohol, if only because I feel so much better without those things. The one thing I don’t think I’ll be able to wean myself off of, no matter how bad they are for you? cupcakes.

  • Oh I am disconnecting more and more and loving it. I’ve shut down instagram as I realized I hated the invasion of it. I have taken twitter off my phone and have tried to get facebook off but I can’t for some reason.

    I like the idea of going back to a normal alarm clock. I’m going to try that one. Once my alarm goes off I have been really committed to not looking at my phone until I have done my 30 min yoga and meditation practice and my two hours of writing. I’ve been doing really well so far. It’s so liberating to enjoy life again

  • I really resonated with this. Being in Korea has changed my connectivity habits for the worst. Everyone here is glued to their phones at all times, and I just happened to pick up on it…and I can’t stop. I love the idea of getting a real alarm clock and just turning your phone off after awhile. I feel like I’d get such a piece of mind!

  • camorose

    Love that human “being” not a “doing” quote–definitely going to keep that in mind next time I decide to give myself time to just BE!

  • camorose

    Oh yes! Getting off sugar would be incredible, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that yet 🙂

  • camorose

    For me, it’s been all about recognizing it as a bad habit. My acupuncturist told me that it really is addicting–we get a dopamine hit when we see a new “notification.” I’m trying to remember that whenever I get the urge to mindlessly check my phone–and get disappointed when nothing new has happened! Totally recommend the old-school alarm thing, it’s great to have my phone turned off at a certain time every night and not turned on until I’m ready for the day.

  • camorose

    It’s so nice to be able to read before bed without getting distracted by my phone–and get ready in the morning without feeling compelled to check things! Highly recommend.

  • Erica

    all things in moderation, right? I’m just… keeping my cupcake consumption at “moderately high.” 🙂

  • Great post, Christine.
    I’ve been trying to become more mindful of my ‘bad’ habits as well. Sleeping with a phone near me is one of my worst – think I’m going to have to try the old school alarm clock idea; but I think realising how connected I am has led me to ‘slowly’ disconnecting.
    Like you I’ve become mindful that just because my phone chimed, doesn’t mean that I have to pick it up.

    I think I’m going to try meditation as well and perhaps ask my acupuncturist what he recommends.

    Thanks for sharing and keep at it!

  • camorose

    My acupuncturist has been amazing at recommending things that have really been working to calm me down and reduce my anxiety. Such great resources!

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