Let’s Talk About Disconnecting

We’ve never been as connected to the entire world as we are right now. It is immensely easy to instantly connect with loved ones with the swipe or tap of our thumbs. We have unlimited access to breaking news, scientific articles, the cutest pet videos known to man, and almost anything else you can imagine.

Why is it then that we live in a world where so many people feel alone? When is the last time we gave our brains a break from information long enough to dream? What can we do about it?

We have been conditioned (and continue to condition future generations) to be attached to our devices at all times. We have an app for just about any need or want we can think of. There is even an app that helps you track how much time you spend away from your phone, called Moment. Our attachment phenomenon is so rampant that scientists have begun to study the negative psychological effects of too much screen time.

How have we gotten to be so addicted to our devices?

Other than the fact that we rely on our devices for a plethora of uses in our daily life, each notification we get results in a release of dopamine in our brains, which conditions us to want more notifications. Our brains end up so addicted to the dopamine-releasing notifications that we even experience “ghost notifications”. These are when we think we feel a buzz or hear a ding when we haven’t actually received a notification. The result is we end up being notification-addicted junkies, itching for the next “fix”. Our own brains become our “drug dealer” making it exponentially harder to disconnect.

I’ll find myself walking and realize I have unknowingly placed my hand in my pocket, barely touching my phone. We have all become Frodo and our phones have become the One Ring to rule us all; while we disappear from the world and people around us. We think of ourselves as being more connected but, in reality, we’re starving for real connection. We sleep with our devices, they go to the bathroom with us, they work as our babysitters to distract small children and what we’re really doing is building a wall between us and the world we live in. We’ve got to disconnect from our phones so we can reconnect with everything else in our lives.

When’s the last time you found yourself daydreaming? Do you even have time to do that? It may seem like a silly question, but it’s an important one to consider. How often do we give ourselves time to disconnect from the constant onslaught of information? When does our brain have time to come up with its own information? Our brains need to daydream. We need that ability to dream so we can set goals for ourselves to achieve those dreams. Our dreams give us purpose and purpose allows us all to find more happiness.

There’s a growing industry that is making a killing providing the service of disconnection but what can we do ourselves?

Go for a walk, a bike ride, a jog.
Don’t just do these, though. Put your phone on airplane mode or leave it at home, entirely. If you’re like most people, your phone has become this mp3-camera-computer, Frankenstein’s monster. If you need it, take it; simply turn notifications off. Other than when I’m running, I actually prefer not to listen to music. I find myself walking or biking around and just taking in the sights and sounds around me. This is a useful form of meditation that I find easier than sitting meditation and allows you to connect with the world around you. Imagine yourself as a walking boom mic.

Go Camping
This is one way people are monetizing getting people away from their phones. If you can, get out far enough where you don’t have service. If not, be mindful of your device usage or use airplane mode. I think it’s the minimalist nature of camping that gives of us a sense of freedom. We get to escape our homes and all of our things that can easily cause stress. We pack only what you need forget about the rest.

Work on a puzzle, build something, create
It may sound like you need to go back to kindergarten, but maybe there is something about our youth we took for granted. Kids have an awesome imagination and I think it has something to do with the time they’re provided to dream. Not only will doing these tasks give us multiple dopamine boosts from the tiny goals we achieve while doing them, but our brain is given the opportunity to wander, freely. I find that even while I’m working on something that seems to have my full attention, my mind wanders. I constantly find myself writing reminders for later while I’m actively working on something unrelated.

Leave your phone behind
THIS IS HUGE…and scary. How many of those texts absolutely need a response 30 seconds after they’re received? How many Facebook notifications can’t wait? How many tweets are of the utmost importance? Unless you’re in the habit of receiving life or death situation texts on a regular basis, the rest can wait.

As ironic as I understand this entire sentiment is, knowing that many of you are probably reading this on your smartphone, I challenge you to find some time to disconnect. The fact that we are so connected truly is incredible, but if that constant connection keeps us from being able to dream and reflect and love ourselves, we need to find some time to cut it out of our lives.

A version of this post was previously published on gofindyourhappy.net and is republished here with permission from the author.

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