STILLNESS IS MEDICINE: DIGITAL DETOX

I believe there is medicine in stillness. For many of us, having a digital detox means turning our phone screen side down at dinner, or at best on night mode whilst we sleep. For many, our mobile phone is our wake up call first thing, and the last thing we see before we go to bed.  I truly believe taking a break from digital devices is a natural and powerful healer, not to mention great for your mental wellbeing. Here’s why...

According to research by telecoms regulator Ofcom last year, half of Brits feel “lost” when they don’t have access to the internet.  The Telegraph recently revealed that the average person checks their phone 200 times a day - that's once every six and a half minutes. My God. For anyone of my age, approaching mid 30’s, you’ll remember the time before mobile phones. How far we've come digitally, but oh my on the flip-side, how dependent we have become.

Of course, there’s no dispute that the world wide web has fundamentally made many aspects of our lives easier, but what are we missing in return? Again, nearly half of us in the Ofcom survey admitted to neglecting other areas of life, including missed sleep and neglected housework. As with anything in life, it seems that you can have too much of a good thing. 

I used to listen to music at every opportunity, even walking to the shop over the road. It was only a few years ago when a teacher asked me, ‘what are you afraid of?’. It took some time to understand what he meant but of course, by not bombarding my senses, I was forced to connect to myself, listen to my own thoughts and hear my emotions. At first it felt strange but in time I realised I was able to connect deeper to my feelings and in turn, work through them far quicker when needed. My intuition was re-born. I found medicine in silence.

Our breath is the part of the body we are most connected to - it keeps us alive - but yet is often the biggest thing we take for granted. Can you imagine thinking as a young child, I’ll have to remind myself and re-learn how to breathe when I’m older? You see my point here…

To find stillness and just sit alone with the breath can seem like a strange idea, but this tool can reap benefits for the mind and body.  Very often we fuel ourselves with noise, images and conversation to keep ourselves busy, because sometimes being alone and looking internally can feel too alienating. It enhances vulnerability and let’s face it, that can be tough. But connecting to this vulnerability and understanding it, can be the first hurdle in finding the connection to our deeper sense of self.

The concept of taking a digital detox is fairly new, but statistics have shown that it’s becoming increasingly important to take a break from the variety of devices we use throughout the day.  Being constantly on call and contactable in both our social and working lives, essentially means we rarely take a break from the continuous mental ‘to-do’ lists. We never really kit-kat style, take a break. Please note I am not an advocate for kit Kats at break time - ROOTED recommended snacks are over here.

Mental health experts are starting to understand the cultural shift and ‘internet addiction’ coined ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’, or IAD, which can lead to the same troubling effects as substance abuse or gambling, leading to addiction, stress and anxiety.  You can check out your measure here.

Taking a digital detox in whatever form feels right for you personally can allow our over-stimulated brains a good and likely much needed rest, bringing our attention to our internal dialogue. By letting go of constant distractions, even for short periods of time, we can find moments of peace in our otherwise, very hectic world.  From this we can understand our emotions more, our decisions, even down to our food choices (for more on this get in touch about a consultation with me). 

Last but not least there’s the issue of the LED light that emits from our phones sending signals to the brain that regardless of the time of day, it’s 12 noon and you should be wide awake. This can massively disrupt our natural production of melatonin -  the hormone in our body that controls our sleep cycle.  If sleep is your concern, leave that phone alone an hour or so before bed and out of the room overnight. When it comes to your sleeping environment, make sure it is quiet and ventilated, as well as dark. This will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to restore blood pressure and energy.  Your sleep will improve and in turn, you’ll find you have more energy as you wake and a kinder outlook on life without the stress of a screen on waking.

Here’s my 5 ways to start and stick to a digital detox. Try one or try them all.

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1. Make your own rules (and stick to them)

If you really are concerned about your use of screens, write a list of how you want to feel about digital devices and break down how you can get there. I can’t sit here expecting you to never check a work email outside of work hours, but what I can do is ask you to redefine your ‘non-negotiables’. For example breakfast - can you wait to check anything online until you reach the office, giving you the best part of two hours each morning for a digital detox. If that’s manageable, then stick to it. If you want to feel less anxious about the online world, work out what makes you feel anxious about it and work from there. 9/10 it’s following people who quite frankly make you feel s**t about your life. My advice, DELETE. Unfollow and let it go.

2. Find true connections

We are more connected than ever before but listen up - I hate to break it you but connectivity isn’t someone commenting on your Instagram picture, it’s much deeper than that. As often as possible, take time to focus solely on what you are doing - a conversation with your friend or a chapter of your book. The world won’t fall apart by you not checking your phone!

3. Stay in date night, with yourself

I talk a lot about this. Get into the habit of turning off all gadgets and wifi in the house an hour before sleeping, or you can even go as far as turning if off all night, once a week. Instead, take a warm bath with Epsom salts (repairing and restorative for the body) before bed so you feel clean and recharged. The bath is physically, but also mentally, cleaning away the day and preparing you for a stress-free night. Don’t look at screens and try to be silent as much as possible. Equally, maintaining a clean space, can amount to a clean mind.

4. Make the most of your commute

Our morning commute can be the perfect time to fit in our digital detox time. If you normally spend your time on your phone or tablet, reduce it. What would happen if you didn't have any stimulation and you could actually sense what is going on around you? If this feels too much, shut the blinkers and try meditation - the perfect opportunity to re-connect to yourself in that magical 20 minutes on the tube, bus, or train. If meditation is new to you, simply shut your eyes and use the word ‘OM’ on your inhale or exhale breath (or both if you need to). Keep coming back to this word over and over, and if thoughts come into your mind, inhale to recognise them and exhale to release them.

5. A walk in the park

Aim to have one hour a week where you walk or sit silently in nature. Fellow London dwellers, a small park or green space will do here. Utilise your senses - feel the grass, smell it, breathe the air in, see the colours and listen to the birds. As we peel back the layers of stagnant digital energy, our senses begin to find new life. They become heightened from within, from nature. How can you see differently? Is there something new to be seen? I’ll leave you with that one. Enjoy!