“Are you too attached to your phone? I am the first to admit that I am,” writes Andi Lew in the introduction to her book (and e-book) Wellness Loading: Disconnect to Reconnect. It’s a common sentiment and an all-too-easy-to-ignore factor in a society that encourages us to be constantly connected to our devices. But as Lew also reflects, everyone needs a digital detox because we miss out on so much – moments, people, relationships – when we have our heads down, scrolling. In this exclusive extract, she tells us how to go about a digital detox.
6 steps to a digital detox
We might know we need a break from tech, but unless we set intentions about what we want to replace that act with, we will probably just lie on the couch complaining about how we can’t look at our phones, or looking at the clock and wishing away the time until we can look at our technology again. Using the time and space by ‘adding’ to our lives with something more meaningful and purposeful is important. If we do this, we will feel happier and our soul will be nourished, thereby removing any feelings of loss we may have had. We are now ‘adding to’ – as opposed to ‘missing out’ – when you ‘turn off tech’. So how can we actually text or post less.
1. Keep a hand written diary
Our lives are filled with SMSs, online posts and even blog posts on all manner of social media sites and apps about how we feel. It all goes up instantly and is there permanently for the whole world to see. Do you ever stop and think, ‘Would I still write this if it were on pen and paper?’ Do you reflect on whether your posts are just a rant, venting your feelings without true reflection? How productive are your posts to you or others? If the post was directed at someone, perhaps it didn’t have the same heart or loving intention that it could if you saw that person face to face. Granted it’s not always possible due to the tyranny of distance but if that person was nearby, wouldn’t it have been better to create a real-life connection?
Let’s say we wrote these posts, our feelings, down in a book so that we could read it back to ourselves. We take the time to reflect and make changes before we decide to publish it. We’d find our thoughts would change, as they do, constantly. How we feel about something now will change in minutes, hours or days. Ask yourself if that post could have had more purpose or been more meaningful if you had taken the time to inwardly reflect before you jumped in with both feet.
To digitally detox, I’d recommend you ‘wellness load’ by changing every second social media post you feel like writing online to being one in a diary or journal. Or make it a chat with someone face to face or over the phone. If you feel like you have nobody to talk to and tend to reach for your device for connection, know there are communities of people out there like you. Support groups, clubs and even toll-free support lines are all out there, waiting to help you in whatever way they can.
You may find that after you have written something down in a diary, you can often feel like you have already vented and don’t need to publish it to the world. Chatting in person is a wonderful way to connect, but when we journal, we get connected with the most important person in the world – ourselves.
2. Identify habits and find balance
In this age of fast living, our balance is out of whack. But why is it so important to create a more balanced state of being? There’s so much more to us than just biology and physiology; achieving wellness must incorporate the mind, too. You only have to look at the works of well-known authors such as Deepak Chopra. His early books spoke of his philosophy that illness can be a result of our neurology and that we can literally think ourselves into ill health. Chopra, an endocrinologist, stepped onto icy ground within his profession when he postulated this theory. But he persevered. He said: “The mind and emotions directly affect gene activity, and since the mind is the source of a person’s lifestyle and behaviour, it directs one’s biological transformations. Self-awareness holds the key to this process of self-transformation. Consciousness is invisibly reaching into the biochemistry of every moment of life. In your body, as in every cell, regulation is holistic, self-generated, self-organising, and self-directed in concert with consciousness.”
So here is a way to create more balance in your life and nourish your mind. Choose a time in your day and set out a schedule of when you will use technology and when you will do things to slow you down and connect. Each person will have a different time of day where that will work for them. Each person will have a different schedule too, some may be weekly or monthly. Work with your lifestyle, job and responsibilities. Be flexible and kind to yourself.
If your job means being on a device, you may like to set aside a time of the week where it is not. Your boss may be able to help you with this too as you find other ways to connect with clients, or yourself. The key is balance. Connect with you.
- What do you do when you’re bored?
- Do you reach for that handy device?
- When it lights up, do you find your connection?
3. Stop looking for the light and become it instead
We scroll through our technological devices for ‘light bulb’ moments, but they are not always there. Some of them come to us when the universe decides, not necessarily when we are pushing for it. Sometimes we have to trust we have done our best for that day and put our pretty little heads to rest. Let the light find you. ‘Do’ you instead. Turn off the tech and go and work on you.
Here’s how: Take slightly less time taking photos or selfies of yourself and expand your knowledge or service in something. This may include spending that time with a charity, offering to do something for a neighbour or a company. Broaden your skill set, or broaden your knowledge of who you are. If you are lost and do not know where to begin, then good. It is only when we are lost that we will truly find ourselves.
Stillness is a wonderful way to find yourself. Some people will do this in meditation, yoga or prayer. You will find your way as long as you wander where the wi-fi is weak. Go and explore.
If what I’ve said is too ‘next level’ for you, I’m then going to give you some tips to help make the ‘wellness loading’ easier. You can be just as present and still by being with nature, your pets or even children. When we are with a baby or child, we are attentive to their needs.
We’re forced to ‘be in the moment’. I know being with an infant may be exhausting at times, but there’s so much joy in so many moments too. Spending quality time with your children or even a friend’s – sans your devices – is a wonderful way to wellness load.
For some, I do understand that it can be a real challenge to sit still. So besides connecting with food, nature and community, the next tip is another way you can reconnect with yourself…
4. Create connectedness through practising gratitude daily
In a world where we feel we never have enough, I reflect now on how to practise the art of gratitude. First, create quiet. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes a day. Your act of wellness loading does not have to be for a whole hour. Start with whatever you can do, but make it focused, concentrated and at a committed time.
Practise being grateful for what you have and you will attract more. You may even recognise that you are already abundant and have a shift in perception. It may bring about a sense of peace that you never knew was possible. This is true wellness. Then, and only then, if you are meant to have more, will you be presented with it.
Try this set of thoughts and actions specifically:
Remove thoughts of the past and future.
Be in the now.
Focus on your breath.
When your ‘in’ breath is the same as your ‘out’ breath, you will be more balanced.
Do this at least once a day. It may only be for a few minutes and you may decide to extend that period of time the better you get at it. It’s like building up a skill or increasing your fitness. Take your time to build it up.
5. Learn to switch off
I have known many successful entrepreneurs who have difficulty even switching off for a few minutes. You may decide that being out in nature is going to be better for you to be able to practise the art of breathing and meditation. If this suits you better, go for it.
Other ways of switching off may be with an activity. You don’t always need to be still. Some claim that whilst they are doing tai chi, martial arts, rock climbing, skipping, mountain trekking, walking along the beach, swimming or surfing that they have felt at one with nature and rejuvenated.
There is one thing all of these activities have in common: the breath and being in the moment. When you swim, do tai chi or skip, you create a rhythm and pattern of breathing. When you are performing a martial arts manoeuvre or surfing, you need to be in that moment so you are ready to roll with whatever comes at you; it could be another movement of attack you need to defend, or the intense focus on the roll of the waves. Which wave will you surf? When will you decide to paddle or stand? And if it doesn’t go the way you had planned, how do you ‘go with the flow’ instead of resisting the ride of life?
Get creative with ways in which you can reconnect when you disconnect. It doesn’t have to be one set way of meditation. Allow the form of meditation that is right for you to express itself. There is a myriad of things you can do when you look for them. Set intentions to find what’s right for you and the universe will conspire to help you find it.6
6. Find for your soul purpose
When we have the courage to admit what we really love and pursue that, this is when we are truly at our happiest. Our souls sing when we talk about our passions. But have you ever been told you could never make a living doing something you love? What limiting self-belief systems do you have? Who told you the lie?
Step up and have the courage to now admit what you truly yearn to do. Courage comes from the French word le coeur, which means heart. To have courage is to have heart. And the heart is never wrong. When you find the courage to admit what you love and do it, this is when you will feel a sense of peace and calm. You are what I term as ‘being on path’ and you’ll actually find that you won’t need to check your device so often.
Andi Lew is a certified food, lifestyle and wellness coach, television presenter and author of six health titles including the bestsellers, Eat Fat Be Thin and Eat Fat Be Lean, which created a ‘fat food movement’. See Andi Lew for more information.