How to Unplug in a Connected World

How to Unplug in a Connected World

Did you feel that buzz in your pocket or on your wrist? Did you just take a quick look at your smartphone notifications? Did you just lose 30 minutes to checking social media? How often do you check your email inbox? Unfortunately, more and more of us are always on and connected. We rely on our smartphones, tablets, and computer for work, entertainment, and communication to the point where many of us feel lost without these hyper-connected devices.
We want to challenge you to unplug a little each day. We know, this is a scary proposition, but imagine if you could just walk away from the buzzing, the beeping, the alerts, the notifications, the push messaging – for just one solid hour a day. Now imagine if you could extend this to your weekend and then even push it further and take a real vacation where you’re not checking your work email or constantly updating your social media status. We feel lighter just thinking about unplugging. In fact, many of us in the AHCC Research Association office have started to practice this very habit and have learned some tips and tricks that make it possible to unplug and disconnect. Yes, at first it was challenging and even stressful, but quickly, this new disconnected state became the norm and we forgot about selfies, status updates, and alerts.

The Reasons to Unplug

You might be wondering why you should care about unplugging. Quite simply, your health depends on it. This constant connectedness is making small but cumulative dents in your mental, physical, and emotional health. The connectedness that so many of us live in has resulted in a dependency on smart devices, replacing human connection and hampering our abilities to relax and unwind. Consider these statistics and then think about your smartphone and smart device habits:
  • 84% of smartphone users cannot last an entire day without their smartphone. Pew Research Center
  • Some smartphone, smartwatch, and tablet users check these devices every 6.5 minutes. Daily Mail
  • 88% of U.S. consumers are checking their smartphone or tablet while watching television. Business Insider
What is very telling about these numbers is that they are old… yes, old – from studies and research done in 2011 – 2013. We chose these numbers to get you thinking about how much your daily habits have changed in the past four to six years. Many of us trick ourselves into believing that we must always be connected to work, friends, and family. When really all this information overload does is create stress – stress over fear of missing out (FOMO), stress over work deadlines, stress over what someone posted on social media, stress over not having the latest digital gadget or device, and so on. You know what this stress does, it hampers your immune system. Cumulative negative stress is a huge drain on your immune system, making it work on overdrive to keep you healthy and well. Stress-related disease and illness is on the rise, often only being diagnosed when it’s too late.

How to Unplug and Feel Good About It

We don’t want to add to your stress by getting you thinking too much about your digital habits. Rather, we want you to consider making some small subtle changes (ones that we have done) and see how you feel. You don’t have to commit to these 100%, but at least give them a chance for a day, a weekend, or during your next vacation. Tell us about your experiences unplugging on our Facebook page (yes, we get the irony) so others can learn from your experience.
  1. Go silent. Switch your smartphone to silent mode. This way you won’t get beeped at whenever there is an update or notification.
  2. Drop notifications. Turn off all notifications and push messages. Not knowing what is going on is okay and feels pretty good.
  3. Leave your smartphone alone. When you go out to eat, are sitting in a coffee shop, or at the park with your kids – leave your smartphone alone. Leave it in the car, in your pocket, or even at home. Pay attention to the people you’re with and what you’re doing instead of your smartphone.
  4. Buy an alarm clock. So many people use their smartphone as their alarm clock. This results in checking email first thing in the morning or being woken up to a flashing screen packed with social media and other app notifications. Buy a real alarm clock and leave your smartphone charging in another room.
  1. Delete, delete, delete. Remove the apps that you can’t seem to ignore. Yes, this is a hard one, but after a few days you won’t be worrying about status updates or the latest celebrity gossip.
  2. Buy a camera. Many of us use our smartphones as our camera. Of course, it’s convenient, but imagine if you just packed your camera for a day at the beach or local fair. You could focus better on the people you’re with and take just as many photos.
  3. Turn it off. When you get on a plane, train, or the car for a long trip – turn off your phone. Tuck your smartphone safely into your bag and place it in the overhead compartment, now instead focus on that book you haven’t had time to read or simply chill out and let your brain go quiet.
  4. Escape. Go on a vacation (even for the weekend) to a place where reliable Internet is hard to find. In no time, you’ll forget about the Internet and instead find yourself truly relaxing and enjoying your vacation.
We urge you to try one, three, or all of these small unplugging steps. You’ll stress less, worry less, be more present, and sleep better. These are health benefits we can all use more of. The trade-offs for unplugging can’t be beat: better attention levels, being more involved in the lives of your family and friends, improved immunity, better mental and emotional health, and a real feeling of freedom. Not knowing what is going on at all times really can be good for you. You can’t worry about what you don’t know. Focus on your day, your family, your friends, and what you can really control – this doesn’t require a beeping, buzzing smartphone. And yes, we understand that it’s not possible to give up your smartphone or other digital devices. So many of us rely on these devices for work, but be aware of how these devices have managed to creep into your daily life.

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