If your heart races when you think you’ve lost your smartphone, or you get the anxiety-creep when you wake up on your family vacation worrying about the messages that need attention—it might be time to get real about your need for a digital detox.
I’m not suggesting that you ditch all of your electronics and catch the next flight to Fiji because that is just not realistic. BUT — what if I told you it was possible to step away from the digital tether that fuels neurotic tendencies….and travel…and stay in touch? You might consider it right?
First, let’s look at the mental and physical benefits to stepping away from the keypad every now and then.
- Memory – By relying so much smartphones and IPads to remember things for you, it actually impairs your own natural memory. Putting down the devices makes your brain do the remembering the way it used to.
- Posture – We are a hunched-over society busy sending texts, reading facebook updates and living our lives online. When you do not have a device in your hand, take notice of your body’s posture. A digital detox is a great time to stand up and sit up straight again.
- Focus – Digital distraction robs you of actual focus and attention. Chances are you’ve been on the phone while ordering in a fast food drive-thru or texted during a meeting. Digital multi-tasking has churned out a society of sloppy, unfocused people. That will take a toll. A digital detox is an ideal way to help you re-focus on one thing at a time.
- Obesity – There is a direct correlation between computer use and obesity. The digital lifestyle is a sedentary one that leads to weight-gain and a host of other medical conditions. Time away allows you to get active again.
- Heart rate – You might not even recognize it, but constant interruption of email and texts and other regular updates keeps your body on alert status. The constantly stimulated state produces a higher heart rate and stress level.
- Tension – Consistent use of computers, smartphones, IPads and other devices causes lots of tension throughout the body. Headaches, eye strain and backaches are common. You may not even realize it until you step away.
Best travel bets for a realistic digital detox:
Length of time: Five to seven days is best. It will take a few days just to get used to being somewhat disconnected.
Locations: Some studies on the subject show that vacations in natural settings are the most effective way to restore clam to your mind and body.
- Water- Just looking at water is therapeutic. Lakes and coastlines naturally refresh the mind and allow the body to relax.
- Woods – Hiking through the woods for two to four hours has shown to reduce stress, lower pulse rate and blood pressure as well as decrease anxiety.
- Mountains – Breathing in fresh mountain air cleanses the brain and provides much needed oxygen to the body to reduce stress.
- Desert – Savanna-type landscapes provoke an innate human reaction that results in a feeling of tranquility.
Staying in touch while out of touch:
Start slow – Like anything else, moderation is key, especially if you have never tried a digital detox before. Consider allotting a half hour each day, or a half hour in the morning and in the afternoon to check email and respond to issues that need attention.
Set and out-of-office reply – This lowers your chances of getting bombarded with non-essential email. Most people will simply touch base with you upon your return and respect your time away. This helps filter only the urgent email to your inbox.
Go at the right time– Take vacation at a time that is slow in the office or time of year that allows for an easier get-away.
Stay occupied – Arm yourself with leisure activities like books, games and activities that force you to stay away from your digital devices.
Make it a mission – If you decide that you WANT to get away from your devices for awhile it will be easier to take the plunge.
Shoot for all or nothing – Try to completely unplug for a day or more at a time and see how you react. If the world doesn’t end, try it another day and so on until you feel comfortable stepping away altogether.
Most of us have jobs and life situations that make it nearly impossible to be completely out of touch. Your goal here is to give yourself a break–to enjoy the renewal of travel – to reconnect with loved ones and yourself with the fewest interruptions as possible. Allowing yourself to step away by setting parameters, even if it is only for a small amount of time, will improve your body and your state of mind.