Unplugging 101: Everything you need to know about mindfully being present (it's easier than you think)

At this very moment, I’m sitting at my computer, smart phone by my side not only giving me access to an overwhelming amount of information, automation and a plethora of social networks outside my walls but also gives me control to the background noise streaming from the speaker on my desk. While my type A personality sees the abundance of opportunities available utilizing our advanced technology for its profound effects on productivity, the hovering temptation to indulge the escapism endlessly scrolling photos of beautiful destinations, inspirational quotes and attractive humans. Constantly finding myself gripped by internal conflict and hypocrisy as the minimalist in me still feels guilty using an app rather than walking across the room to turn on the lamp. Between discarding that overwhelming sense of FOMO caused by social media while attempting to elaborate on mindfulness and the act of Unplugging it all leads me to wonder, has anyone else experienced this same inner struggle, toeing the line of duality that keeps us from really pulling the plug? We hope to start an exploration into digital detoxification with Unplugging 101: Everything you need to know about mindfully being present.

Unplugging 101 diverse people all on their devices

Ayo Technology

The fascinating and accelerated evolution of technology has given us round the clock access to connect, learn and achieve more in a shorter amount of time. With an innate sense of drive for innovation and improvement, we continue to both consume and advance these functionalities at quicker and quicker rates. But from a scientific standpoint, humans are not physiologically built for this type of lifestyle. In fact, studies show the negative effects of screen time on sleep, eye strain and other disastrous effects on our mental health. It can also lead to profound deterioration of our verbal communication and social skills. One example can be observed in children who at very early developmental stages are generally known to imitate their caretaker’s habits and surroundings. The endless scrolling during down time or checking our phones when there’s a break in conversation is noticeably resulting in the trickle-down effect of seeking stimulation in the form of screen time.

This increasingly available access to information doesn’t necessarily make our lives easier. In a sense, it has collectively blurred all of our personal boundary lines. Between smartphones and other wearable devices, we are essentially available at all hours of the day. For some professions, that could intrude on previously reserved personal time like nights and weekends. We can’t help but see it eventually mirroring the demanding lifestyle many entrepreneurs and business owners encounter where standard business hours do not exist. As normal operations and the flow of inboxes resume plus the added layer of working from home, “me time” becomes more and more of a fleeting luxury. Solitude is easily overlooked but it is that quiet reflection that grounds us. It is becoming more obvious that a concerted effort is needed to capture that stillness. Beyond just putting your phone away or shutting down devices, being mindfully present involves all of the senses, not the present or the past but what is happening at this very moment. We think that one way to draw that line, is to master the art of unplugging.

Unplugging 101 woman journaling

Make a choice to disconnect

Studies prove an increase in stress occurs when one feels the pressure to reply immediately or multitask. With all the greatness of technology, don’t forget that ultimately you are in control. One way to reduce the temptation is to assess the urgency of certain commitments before automatically responding. Carve out your own cell-free or digital timeout that works for your schedule. More and more devices even embed software functionalities that can assist with scheduling your unplugged session. Both Apple and Android users have a focus mode that turns off notifications for a predetermined length of time. This not only helps with productivity, but also can help to give yourself a digital break to reconnect with yourself or others.  Minimizing distractions allows for a meaningful interaction with friends during dinner or an outing with family.

Schedules differ in so many ways depending on lifestyles. A generally useful tactic could be gradually easing into or out of your digital day. Mornings might work for some but not others. If it is an option, consider setting a specific time frame to practice a mindful activity, same goes if you are a night owl looking to shut down before bed.

Focus mode engaged…now what?

Clearing your head can mean different things to different people. There’s a long list of ideas but what is it that will fulfill your needs and wants at the moment. Take a mental assessment. If you find that your thoughts are uncontrollably bouncing or you feel overstimulated, a common coping mechanism recommended to curb anxious moments involves attention to your 5 senses. In your current setting, notice 5 things that you can see, 4 things you can touch around you, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Continue the cycle as many times as needed to connect yourself with your present environment. You should feel more grounded with a calmer state of mind focused on what is happening now rather than this morning, last night or what could happen next week.

Other solo mindful activities can include:

Journaling – clear out those intrusive thoughts or write down a few things you are thankful for. Expressing gratitude has been shown to elevate mood and self-esteem.

Meditation – sit comfortably, even for 5-10 minutes and observe your thoughts as if you’re sitting on a park bench watching ducks meandering around a pond. No need to engage, just watch where they go and what they do. Check out our coverage of mindfulness meditation practices in our Self Care Strategies blog. Maybe another layer of development you decide to journal those thoughts and reflect on them later. How’s that for feeding two birds with one scone?

Breathwork – follow a pattern or don’t, your sole objective is to breathe. Feel the rise and fall of your belly or direct it towards your chest. Notice the pause between inhales and exhales, what happens in that moment?  We dive deeper into Breathwork here  if you are looking for some other methods.

Break a sweat – use movement to release trapped energy, take a walk or a jog, whatever fitness modality suits your goals. You can dance if you want to….

Restorative movement – intentionally gentle movements like yoga, stretching, rolling out muscles, something slower paced like Tai Chi meant to physically rehab your body and mind.

Unplugging 101 walking in nature

Get out

Go for a walk. Observe what you see, hear, smell, taste or feel. Either cyclically or maybe concentrate on one sense per block. Need a change of scenery but can’t hop on a flight? Try a nature walk. Exercise your memory and remember your path to find your way back, tech free.

Book a spa treatment. Many facilities have expanded their offerings beyond the classic massage and facial to include body scrubs, brushing and wraps. More and more group sensory experiences based on ancient bathing practices have cropped up which not only benefit the skin but double as muscle recovery and mental relaxation. For example, contrast therapy involves submerging yourself in warm, soothing salt baths followed by steam rooms or saunas and completed with a cold plunge. Studies show that the dramatic change in temperatures not only exercises the brain’s flight or flight mode, responsible for emotional regulation, but also aides in repairing muscles to relieve soreness and tenderness.

On the contrary, sensory deprivation or floatation therapy sets the ultimate stage for a mental reset. Completely secluded, no priorities or social cues to absorb, deflect or process. Your body effortlessly floats in a pool of salt water at the same temperature of your skin, without any detectable movement, sound or light. (While some enjoy it light and soundless, that detail is generally customizable to your comfort level.) The effect is a private oasis for your thoughts to wander and find resolution. Read the full story about how Unplugged was born out of the love for this experience.

Rather not venture out?

Bring the outdoors in. Because of the color palates and textures, seeing natural elements in the home have been known to have health benefits including lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure levels. Even if you’re a self-professed brown thumb, consider some low maintenance plants such as the snake plant which are actually known to thrive on neglect.

Throw a bathroom takeover. Set aside the time and plan out your activities for a home spa day. Start with a hot bath with any one of our soaks. Or practice a facial steam with hot towels drenched in Unplugged King Hemp Soak to open up your pores and sinuses. Load on your favorite hair, face or other masks. Throw those iconic cucumber slices on your eye sockets, kick your feet up, set the background sounds and chill. You may already know this but we are big fans of set and setting and we even have a Soak Vibes Playlist on Spotify. And for a deeper dive into the home spa day, peep our forthcoming post on how to hack your self-care Sundays.

Make something. Paint, color, draw or build something with your hands. Rather than journaling, write a creative or fictional story. Have fun with hands-on projects that don’t require you to be plugged in.  If a majority of your time is spent on logical, factual and objective tasks, being creative in any way may feel like a break or a release. The right brain needs some love too.

Unplugging 101 create a human connection

Human connection

Spend some quality time with a loved one or even a pet. Sometimes an informal chat or venting session is enough to raise your energy level. Or maybe a deeper conversation is what you crave. Set an intention for the interaction. Open mind and open heart to empathize but set boundaries for yourself too. Not comfortable opening up, asking questions helps to progress conversations. Think about questions to ask prior to meeting. Try to resist the urge to check your phone. If it works for you, set it to silent or leave it out of sight. It may help to provide a transparent disclaimer that you are going phone free for a bit, to avoid throwing anyone off guard from customary behaviors. And as a bonus, keep each other accountable if one starts a phone-yawn chain reaction. Reflect on the interaction, did it leave you more or less fulfilled?

We hope that our ideas, tips and tricks help you unplug and redirect that power to recharge your soul. We would love to hear your experiences and suggestions about Unplugging 101: Everything you need to know about mindfully being present. Drop us a line or leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

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