What happened when I turned off my mobile for a day.

I’ve been trying to be more conscious and mindful of my time and how I spend it. This has caused me to become aware of the scary amount of time I spend ‘on my phone’, how reliant on it I am and how much of a distraction it can be.

My phone is my constant companion as I navigate my day. I use it to check-in with the world, take photos, entertain myself, provide answers and information, and even sometimes communicate!

It’s always sitting next to me, a constant source of distraction if I need it and even if I don’t.  There’s no need to be bored, there’s a wealth of ever changing entertainment at our finger tips whenever we want it.

I use it in any ‘down’ moment. While waiting for something or someone, while commuting and most negatively while doing other things and sometimes even when I’m with other people. I believe that I’m being more productive, using every spare moment to ‘achieve’ something. But often I’m doing two things half as well, taking twice as long and enjoying neither.

I think things will only take a moment but before I know it time has elapsed and I’ve forgotten what I was meant to be doing. Just the other morning I picked up my mobile – before I’d even got out of bed – with the intention of listening to a meditation. On my screen were notifications from Instagram and Facebook and before I knew it 30 minutes had passed and I hadn’t meditated or started my day in the positive way I had intended to!

For me, while my mobile can be useful and convenient at times, overall I knew it was making me stressed and damaging relationships with those closest to me as I was never fully present in the moment. I always had one eye and often one hand on my phone. I was constantly switching between tasks which is exhausting and unproductive.

I did a little investigation into average phone usage and found that research conducted in 2016 showed that we touch our phones on average 2,617 times a day[1]. The ‘heaviest users’ were closer to 6,000 times a day. That included every touch, tap and swipe as monitored by some clever piece of app. That’s a lot of time engaging with an object. Yes, sometimes it brings you closer to others, but I wonder what percentage of those 2,617 touches brought joy to the user?

Becoming aware of my phone usage was the first step to making a change. But I needed something more. My partner and I agreed to switch our mobiles at 8pm every day (unless one of us was out). For a few weeks, we’d have a ritual ‘turning-off’ and both enjoy spending time together without the distractions of our phones. But over the weeks the habit slipped and we needed to take more drastic action.

So, we tried ‘switch-off Sunday’ – a whole day without our phones. The first few hours were hard. I automatically reached for my phone a few times – not to do anything, just because I hadn’t ‘checked it’ for a while! When we went out for brunch the moment I was alone at the table I felt the desire to look at my phone, again for no other reason than to have something to do. But as the day went on I felt free from and fully engaged in the things we were doing – whether that was walking in the park, picking up groceries, having a conversation or watching a movie. I was present in the moment and it made me enjoy it all even more. I thought I would feel detached from the world without my phone but in fact I felt relaxed and even liked being oblivious to what was going on in the outside world.

As someone who is self-employed, starting my own business and often travels with work, going long term without a mobile is not an option and not something I think would make my life better. But being more aware of how I’m using my phone and choosing to switch-off from time to time is liberating and achievable.

Here are eight things I learnt from just one day without my phone:

  1. It’s okay not to know what’s going on in everyone elses’ lives all the time.
  2. I don’t need to be entertained by external stimuli all the time.
  3. Doing one thing at a time achieves a better result than multi-tasking.
  4. Being present in the moment made me happier.
  5. There was nothing I needed to do which couldn’t wait.
  6. It was all still there when I went online the next day and I hadn’t missed anything.
  7. My mobile can be a daily distraction and source of stress if I let it.
  8. But it’s also an amazingly helpful tool.

Want to try and digital detox? Here are three simple ways to apply a digital detox to your life:

  • Be more aware of when you’re using your phone and never use it at the same time as doing something else
  • Turn-off your phone and other digital devices at a designated time in the evening or, if you can’t do that, try turning it off for just one hour a day at a time which suits your schedule
  • Try switching your phone off for a whole day. Choose a day which suits you and if you’re worried let people know you won’t be online that day so they know not to expect a reply!

Why not try adding a digital detox to your health goals for 2017. You may be surprised by how much of a difference it makes.

[1] https://blog.dscout.com/mobile-touches

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