Happiness Series: Digital Detox!

Technology has fundamentally changed how we live our lives and not entirely for the better. The dangers of texting while driving and cyber bullying become more apparent every day. As a society we have started putting laws and policies in place to protect us from these dangers. What about the more subtle dangers that we don’t think about? Each of us should also consider within our own daily lives, how is technology affecting our happiness?

I had to ask myself a very uncomfortable question recently. “What brings you more happiness, Facebook, Instagram and Game Apps? Or reading Dr. Seuss and dancing to baby shark with your toddler?” The answer is easy, playing with my daughter brings me more happiness than anything else in the world! So, the real question is why do I spend so much time absorbed in my phone instead of doing what makes me happiest? Why can’t I make it through one movie on the couch with my husband without checking my phone?

I am a millennial, but I didn’t grow up in the same environment as most people I know my age. I didn’t grow up with technology in the same way my friends did. We had one TV in the house, and it was a turn dial TV (You might need to Google what that is). We never owned a video game system of any kind. Once I was a teenager, we had one desktop computer with dial up internet that was kept in my Mom’s room and only used for homework. I was basically the last person in my generation to discover social media. But now as an adult I’m just as addicted as everyone else…

I decided to commit to a 48-hour digital detox! The days preceding the weekend long detox I was more anxious than I had expected to be. I am so glad I stuck with my commitment! I learned a lot from this experiment, and I encourage you to participate in a digital detox of your own!

For 48 hours my smartphone became just a phone. I went to the settings and changed it over to do not disturb, with the exception of only phone calls from known contacts. I committed myself to no TV, no computer, no text messages, no emails, no social media and no apps of any kind. My husband thought this was a great idea and decided to participate as well! My #1 tip for anyone doing a digital detox is plan it out! Make sure your bank accounts have enough money, so you don’t need an app to transfer money. Plan activities to make the most of your newfound attention; boredom will tempt you in the direction of digital devices! If you expect calls keep your phone in the room with you but not next to you. Let people know what you are doing so they don’t think you are ignoring them and know to call if they want to talk to you.

One of the biggest take-aways I got from this experiment was how much time I waste on digital distractions. Every weekend I feel like there is never enough time to finish all of the chores that need to be done. With no digital distractions, the household chores were done in record time! It opened my eyes to the fact that the chores don’t take all that long, it’s my distraction and procrastination that drags it out all weekend.

I had so much extra time; I spent a couple hours working on a hobby I really enjoy, that I haven’t touched in over a year! When faced with down time, it is often easier to choose watching TV or scrolling through Pinterest, but is that what will make us happiest? We need to spend more time being creative and less time zoning out! It is too easy to waste hours looking at the seemingly perfect lives of others, feeling bad that we don’t have it that together. I’m not saying social media is bad, there are a lot of upsides! I am saying that we need to make sure we go into it with a healthy mindset and perception of the “reality” we are viewing. We need to seek validation within ourselves, not through likes and shares. Letting strangers online define how we feel about ourselves is dangerous and damaging! Treat social media as what it is, entertainment. Every night after I put my baby to bed, my husband and I watch TV until we feel tired enough to sleep. We enjoy watching shows and movies together! It usually takes twice as long because we pause it to talk to each other often, and I love that about us. During our digital detox we sat on our back porch, each with a book in hand and a nice whiskey, reading in companionable silence. We paused our reading every now and then to discuss something interesting we had read. It was wonderful to spend that peaceful, quite time together and we plan to do a little more of that moving forward.

We spent most of Sunday exploring several local nature parks in our area! My daughter had such an amazing time! When she started talking to the birds, she heard chirping in the trees I thought my heart would burst! There were several moments I wished I had taken pictures of. On the other hand, it was nice to hold her and experience the moment with her rather than from behind a camera. It is vital to put our digital distractions away and be present with the world around us every now and then. We don’t want to lose sight of reality by the whirlpool of virtual reality. On our future weekend adventures, I will take some pictures, but I will be mindful of experiencing the moment firsthand as well. By the end of the day we were determined, as a family to commit to getting out in nature for at least a couple hours every weekend.

On Saturday morning there was a parade in our community, and my friend with her kids were coming to watch it with us. While waiting for her to arrive, I missed the convenience of checking in with a quick text. When my husband ran back to the house to grab sunscreen, I wished I could just text him to ask him to bring one other thing as well. Texting is my main form of communication with family and friends. I think the ease of which we can communicate and stay connected with people we love no matter how much time we have available is valuable. This is one of those technologies that, if used thoughtfully, is a benefit to our lives.

In the end, I have no intention of giving up technology and living off the grid. I am, however going to make a more deliberate effort to look up and be present in my own life. I challenge you to do a digital detox in your own life and let me know what you discover!

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