Our cellphones, connected to one of humankind’s most impressive inventions to date, the internet can be an immense blessing in our lives. It connects us to friends & family across the globe, provides us with access to all the information available to our entire species, and endless entertainment, all in a package that can fit in our pocket.
These devices can be a double-edged sword too though. Endless connectivity with people all around the globe will mean that we may not connect with the people right in front of us. The endless knowledge available on the internet can accidentally lead us astray whether accidentally (ever google some symptoms like a cough and end up being told you have a rare, life-threatening disease?), or intentionally (foreign governments trying to spread distrust and disent). Endless entertainment can provide us with a quick and addictive rush of dopamine, which can encourage us to remove ourselves from our natural environment, our social lives and our sleep cycles, as staying in to play games, watch netflix, & browse pinterest or reddit become the easy choices.
Sometimes, the healthy thing to do is to try to strike a balance. While we might need to be connected for work or school, it is important to get away from our electronics and disconnect for a few days.
Hence, a Digital Detox. Mine lasted about 3 days, or a long weekend. I went to to the family cottage for the weekend, left my laptop behind, and shut off my phone (obviously after posting across all my social media that I was doing so, because it would seem otherwise crazy to go off the grid for 3 days without letting people know).
Sitting at the lake, as soon as my phone turned off, the anxieties about doing so went away. My time was my own, and I haven’t been able to truly say that in years.I was instantly motivated to do things that I always want to want to do, but never have the energy to do after a long day of seeing patients and managing a business. I went running, swimming, read, wrote (including this post, originally on a pad of paper), napped, went hiking, and went to a farmers market.
When the sun went down I enjoyed a fire underneath the stars, no bright blue light in my face to keep me awake, no last minute texts or emails to respond to. When I felt ready I put the fire out, laid down in bed and immediately went to sleep. I woke up on my own terms, not to an alarm, and got out of bed when I felt like it.
It’s an interesting thing, having a cellphone and always being connected is a tool for productivity, but I feel like I accomplished so much without one. It’s easy to rack up several hours of screen time a day, and without a screen, your day becomes hours longer.
It was a fulfilling weekend, but I did my digital detox for more than just to enjoy my weekend. A weekend abiding by natural light cycles is enough to shift the body’s circadian rhythm most of the way back to normal (though it does seem to take up to a full week to fully shift back). Connecting with nature can improve attention span, impulse inhibition, mood, and more.
I did this for me and my mental health, and I did it for everyone I see in a day, patients, friends, colleagues, so that I can be more present in the moment and be my best self.
As an aside, I tried to dictate this post at least 3 times while writing it. Apparently speaking at a piece of paper will not magically make your pen write what you’re saying.