Quality time with friends and family has become quite a luxury these days. We’re all so busy being busy, we aren’t making the time to connect with the people in our lives. And based on this study, quality relationships are the only way to guarantee a long and happy life. Not money, not fame, but quality relationships. If that’s the case, we need to make some serious changes and put our energies back into what matters most. We need to learn how to unplug.
In my last post about intentional living, I explained that quality time is something I focus on in order to feel more connected to my own higher truth. And the best way I have found to form deep connections with the people in my life, and make the most of the time we do have to spend together, is to unplug.
Below are a few ways I try to unplug in order to more fully experience life. And as much as I use these practices to show up unencumbered to my moments with friends and family, I also use them to form a deeper relationship with myself.
How to unplug
Don’t look at your phone while eating. Just don’t do it! Especially if you are eating with other people. That sounds obvious, but I have seen (and been a part of) too many dinner tables where everyone is face down scrolling through their phones whenever there’s a brief moment of silence. Silence makes us uncomfortable, and instead of learning how to cope with that discomfort and come up with more productive ways to fill it, we turn to the easiest fix and check out completely. If we’re all staring at our phones, we don’t have to fill the silence. It’s ruining our ability to connect with other humans and cope with awkwardness. Also, if you ever find yourself eating alone, I suggest putting this same idea to practice. Maybe you’re on a lunch break, or eating dinner alone. Rather than scrolling through your phone to feel less alone, put the phone away and enjoy your own company. Enjoy the food you’re so fortunate to be eating. People watch. Make a new friend!
Next time you’re out with friends, ask everyone to place their phone in the middle of the table. The first person the grab their phone has to pick up the bill.
Ditch The Phone
When you have family and friends over, leave your phone in another room when spending time with them. First of all, not doing this is rude. You’ve invited these people over to spend time with them, but instead you’re too busy scrolling through your phone seeing what everyone else is doing. Why does that matter? All that should matter is what you’re doing, in that moment.Second of all, when we choose our screens over real socialization we are losing our ability to interact with other human beings. Truly, I believe we are losing this basic human instinct. Sitting in front of each other and talking, sharing, commiserating. This is a gift we have and it’s slipping away through our scrolling fingers. So, next time you have company or you’re invited to spend time with someone, ditch the phone.
Have a designated area in your house where everyone can ditch there phones, so no one is tempted.
Delete The Apps
What?! Delete my Facebook?! My Instagram?! I could never! Okay, relax. I’m not asking you to completely delete your accounts. But every now and then it does us some good to remove the apps from our phones. The apps just make it too easy to check out. With one tap of a finger we are transported to an entire other realm outside of reality. It’s screwing with our brains and we’re becoming obsessed with what everyone else is doing. I call it the comparison game, maybe you’re more familiar with the term FOMO (fear of missing out). You don’t have to delete them forever. For example, my business requires me to show up on social media to connect and engage with my audience and clients. However, on the weekends, that is no longer my job. So, I delete the apps off my phone so I don’t have the urge to check them. Try that this weekend. Hold your thumb down on yours apps and let them all shake and shiver in front of you, terrified of being deleted. And then, one my one, tap that tiny black “x” in their top right corners and watch them disappear. They’re still there in your cloud. All you have to do is go to the app store upload them back to your home screen. But for a brief moment you’ll feel the liberation of not being tied to your online persona, and you can just…be.
My fiance and I did this for his kids. We were starting to see the negative effects their screen time was having on their attitudes and behavior. So, we held a technology detox in our home. No video games, no TV, no iPad. And we tried our best not to use our phones around the boys, other than to take important calls. The change was immediate. As if overnight, they were both behaving so much better, treating each other with more compassion and picking up brand new hobbies. The little one built elaborate train tracks and the older one began devouring books. He’s almost done with the entire Harry Potter series and he’s only seven! Family time should be just that…time with the family. During this detox we spent such quality time with the boys and really connected. We played together, learned new things and really got to know each other. Every now and then, I’ll be sick with a cold or my fiance will be working from home and the kids can’t keep themselves busy. So we let them watch a show or play a game. When we take trips, they’re allowed to play on their iPads (for our own sanity). Screen time isn’t all bad, but it’s important to take the time to strike the right balance.
Go Off The Grid
Want to know how to unplug, for real? Go off the grid. My fiance loves to explore the worlds, so we’re traveling every chance we get. And lately, we do our best to find vacations that take us as far off the grid as possible. No cell service? No wifi? Sign us up! We’re both so consumed by technology and social media when we’re working, that when we take a vacation we need to completely unplug. That can mean staying at an eco-village, an intentional living community or an Air B&B that’s just far enough away to drop calls. It just takes a little research, but it’s so worth it. It can be scary at first, feeling so disconnected. We took a trip recently to a treehouse village in the jungle of the Dominican Republic and rented a satellite phone in case we needed to call someone. The phone didn’t even work. But after the first night we totally forgot we even had a phone! That’s the funny thing about disconnecting from technology…it’s the quickest way to reconnect with everything else that matters. Like people and nature and yourself.
Monotasking is literally just paying attention. I remember at my first job, my boss used to hate when I would multitask. Of course, as a millennial right out of college, I was under the impression that was a seriously positive attribute. I’m pretty sure it was even listed on my resume under “skills”. But, as he would explain to me, multitasking is just doing a bunch of different things half-ass. That was a pretty solid lesson to learn early on in my career. Because it’s so true. It’s important to be efficient and productive, but doing multiple things at once just means none of those things are getting the attention they deserve, and therefore you aren’t doing them as well as you could if you were focused. When you work, don’t look at your phone. When you’re on a call, don’t check your email. When you’re writing a blog post, don’t open Facebook. Close your tabs. Focus on one thing at a time and watch as your to-do list dwindles away, line by line.
Sometimes we need to disconnect from this fabricated universe of the Internet and reconnect with the visceral reality existing all around us. So unplug, and dive in.