Well, we are moving into fall in Carolina–the weather has gotten a little chilly, and last week it rained so much that we had some road closures and school delays in the Triangle area due to flooded roads. (More rain on top of what we got during hurricane season. The yard is a soggy mess.) But along with the lower temperatures and falling leaves, autumn brings with it a holiday that is different from all the other ones we celebrate.
This week, at least for U.S. readers, is Thanksgiving–a day specifically earmarked for the purpose of spending time with loved ones and being thankful for the blessings, good vibes, and wonderful lives we have. (Of course, the modern holiday may not be so much about that anymore as it is about eating ourselves into a coma and waiting outside in interminable lines to buy more stuff that we don’t really want or need.) But I like the idea of having a day to slow down and just enjoy what we have–family, friends, good food, cozy blankets, warm socks, a dog who thinks she’s part cat (Luna). And part of that slowing down and stopping to smell the turkey involves being present in the moment, and unplugging for a while from the constant barrage of information that we get every day from our phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices.
Benefits of Unplugging
We’ve talked about phone addiction before (Nomophobia, for those who remember). If you’re not sure whether your If you’re not sure whether your obsession with your phone counts as addiction, you can always check these signs. The other half of the addiction, however, is how we might benefit when we cut back on the constant flood of information.
1. Boost your attention span.
How many hours in a week do you spend clicking through e-mails? Scrolling through social media feeds? How long can you really focus and pay attention to the task at hand? We are having more and more trouble concentrating, and it’s starting to affect our kids, too. The media we consume on our devices has to compete with a high volume of other stuff–our consumption is often reduced to three-second videos and headlines. We’re starting to process information differently, and we just can’t focus.
Set aside specific times for tasks like checking e-mails, or put the phone away when you’re dedicated to a specific project. Try putting the phone away for an evening and see how much longer you’re able to focus on that book you’re reading, that game you’re playing with the kids, or the conversation you’re having with your spouse. If you’re not constantly interrupted by your phone, you might surprise yourself.
2. Be more efficient.
No matter how good you may think you are at multitasking, the truth is that it just doesn’t work. Our brains are not programmed to write e-mails, cook dinner, play with the kids, walk, and chew gum at the same time. In fact, a 2013 study shows that people who think they’re amazing multitaskers fail miserably when they’re tested on it. People who multitask less, however, tend to be better at it. There’s something to be said for focusing on one task at a time.
3. Feel more creative.
Being constantly bombarded with blue light messages can stunt your creative juices. If you’re looking for a way to jump start
that creative train and get back to work, you may consider getting away from it all. Taking time away to collect your thoughts and see things in a new light might be just what you need to see that project from a fresh perspective. (We love what a walk outside with Luna does for our fiction story lines!)
4. Remove those unhealthy feelings of jealousy and loneliness.
If you constantly troll social media, looking at the perfect lives of celebrities, “influencers,” and even your own friends and family, you may feel a little sad when you look at your own life. The unwashed dishes in the sink, the almost-vacation at the Motel 6, the kids hitting each other with Nerf balls in the backseat on the way to buy your own groceries instead of having a fabulous live-in chef. You’re not the only one.
There is research showing that people can actually feel worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after spending time checking Facebook. Of course, Facebook can be a great tool, and not every experience with it is negative. But sometimes getting away from your social media, even for a little while, can help us reset our brains and emotions and remember just how good we have it. Even if we’re reconsidering whether the Nerf balls were a good idea.
5. Be less of a “jerk.”
When we’re constantly looking down at our phones, we miss out on the social interactions we could be having right in front of us. These “anti-social” behaviors can make us seem like, well, jerks. Even research has found that cell phone use is linked to more selfish behavior. There’s a weird paradox there that the very tool that is supposed to make us more connected can distance us from one another.
In the end, the best parts of life are still flesh and blood and eye contact. So this Thanksgiving, if you’re visiting family, try putting the phone away for a little while. Make eye contact with the people around you. Make them feel valuable, listened to. Take a walk, if that’s your thing. And take a deep breath. You have a beautiful life, no matter how hectic it gets. Let’s unplug and power down for a while, and be thankful.