My family didn't add texting to our phone plan until I was a junior in college. I knew texting existed, but I didn't think I needed it. We all basically lived together, so I usually knew where they were. And in the off chance I didn't, I could call them. But I never left a voicemail, of course, because even then no one listened to voicemail.
Though it hasn't been THAT long since I first started texting, I am now completely addicted to it. If I couldn't text, how would I communicate with anyone?!? The same could (unfortunately) be said for any variety of technologies — GPS, Facebook, Uber — while I didn't have them growing up, now I can't imagine life without them.
Here's the thing: Technology is amazing, but not being connected to technology can be even better. I know, I know. This is a lesson some of us learn the hard way after overdosing on digital information.
“The first step is about putting down the phone and taking a moment to just be you,” says Levi Felix, co-founder of the mindfulness-based retreat experience Digital Detox, which helps people “disconnect to reconnect.”
But fear not — you don't have to actually go somewhere to enjoy the benefits of a tech hiatus. You just have to be willing to stash your devices in favor of some good old-fashioned living.
Here are five things that are possible when you're on a Digital Detox.
1. You'll sleep more soundly.
How many times have you spent an entire day asking yourself why you're so tired? You might have spent a quiet night at home watching TV and assorted cat videos, yet it feels like you did shots and rode a mechanical bull.
The Washington Post recently reported that the blue light emitted by digital devices interrupts our sleep by blocking the release of melatonin, a hormone that reduces alertness at night. Felix takes the no-screen approach seriously.
“When you remove phones and digital screens from your environment, you will definitely see a change in sleep patterns and mood,” he says. “Removing unwanted blue light, sound and stimulation helps your brain clear out much of the mental noise that exhausts you and keeps you from getting deep rest.”
2. Your friendships will be stronger.
Think of all the disjointed conversations you've had because you and your friends were distracted by your phones. It gets to the point that you don't even remember what you were talking about. “As you take time to step away from your phone, you will start seeing others more deeply and have the chance to identify and grow closer to new friends,” Felix says.
Studies conducted by Kovert, a company that specializes in studying the effects of technology, support Felix's conclusion. Researchers there staged an experiment in which 35 CEOs and entrepreneurs traveled to the Moroccan desert to see how they'd adjust to life sans phones, and the results were nuts. These high-powered people felt more in touch not only with themselves, but also with each other, successfully forging new friendships and connections that lasted long after the trip.
3. You'll feel more creative.
When's the last time you racked your own brain instead of simply consulting Google? We're all guilty of this. I personally do it all the time. (Like, ALL the time.) As a huge movie fan, I constantly rely on search engines to help identify what actor was in what movie.
But maybe, just maybe, if I let myself think instead of immediately looking for the answer, I'd come to it myself. Or perhaps I'd think of something more unique and interesting. “Just because all the answers are already out there, it doesn't mean we need to reach for them,” says Felix. “Sometimes we can simply inquire within — OR NOT — and that is totally okay. We don't need to know everything, all the time.”
Multiple studies have shown that gray matter in the brain — a substance that's been shown to aid in muscle control, sensory perception, decision making, memory, hearing, emotions, speech and self-control — can be easily damaged by too much screen time.
Limiting our reliance on technology helps us rebuild our own faculties and tap into mental muscles that we haven't previously flexed.
4. You'll live by your own schedule.
Consider how you spend your free time on the average day. When someone texts you or posts something on your wall, you're always connected, so your immediate reaction is to look and respond. Right? You know you do. It's like bugs attracted to light.
But by immediately responding to (or even just checking) every little notification, email, text or tweet, you are allowing others to set your agenda and direct your attention, whether randomly or purposefully. Instead, why not focus only on what you need to do — or maybe even what you WANT to do?
To help yourself stay focused, try the ABC technique. “A” stands for awareness: Pause for a moment and recognize how technology is distracting you. “B” stands for breathing deeply and reflecting on your options. “C” is for choosing mindfully to avoid the distraction and deal with it on your own terms and timeline.
5. You won't suffer from FOMO anymore.
We ALL suffer from FOMO. Even Felix. “The FEAR-OF-MISSING-OUT is a big deal,” he says. “However, when we detach ourselves from our screens, an entire new world opens up.”
But there are ways to combat it, including the healing art of “forest therapy,” which Shinrin Yoku popularized in Japan in the 1980s. According to Yoku's philosophy, people who visit natural areas and walk in a relaxed way enjoy calming and restorative benefits that help them become more present, focused and less anxious.
So consider ditching the phone and charger and taking a walk outside. Is your ex engaged? Is your “frenemy” on an exotic trip in Bali? Who cares? You'll be too busy enjoying your newfound YOU time.
FOMO will eventually become a thing of the past. In fact, you may get so addicted to the feeling that you end up LOVING the idea of missing out.
Exploring the world was easy, working with Millennials is hard! Joel McHale stars in The Great Indoors, premiering on CBS Thursday, October 27, at 8:30/7:30c AFTER THE BIG BANG THEORY.
Want to take your own Digital Detox for a chance to win a trip to Camp Grounded? Visit bit.ly/TGIDigitalDetox for details.