When your mobile phone makes an appearance everywhere, from your desk to the dinner table, and you feel twitchy without it, that’s a pretty big red flag that you have a problem.
But you’re not alone. A third of us admit to feeling stressed without our mobiles, which we apparently now check, on average, once every 12 minutes. Gulp. That level of plugging in can be physically taxing too, with medical experts now recognising ‘tech neck’ as a bona-fide condition. But the biggest impact is definitely still on our mental well-being, with social media overuse linked to ever-rising levels of loneliness. Our gadgets can add a lot to our lives though (helping us not get lost for one thing), which is why a short break can do wonders for your health, happiness and efficiency levels. Here’s how to switch off...
Keeping tabs on your steps or heart rate can help boost your performance, but the strategies below can allow you to home in on how you’re moving, what muscles you’re using, and how you actually feel-—which can ensure proper form and reduce the risk of injury, says Joel Martin, an assistant professor of body movement at George Mason University in the US.
TAKE THE TALK TEST
Throughout the warm-up, you should be able to speak in full sentences. When you ratchet your workout up to medium, talking will be difficult. During hard intervals, you should be able to say a word or two (or a few ‘erghs’), says Janet Hamilton, Founder of Running Strong. No heart-rate monitors necessary.
WEAN YOURSELF OFF THE WATCH
A few times a week, before an easy run, start your watch, but don’t look at it. Set out with the goal of hitting a certain pace, but only check your time once you’ve finished. Note when you were a little fast or slow, then think back to those parts of your route. After a few runs, you’ll have a good sense of pacing.
GRAB AN EYEFUL
Instead of stalking other cyclists on a fitness app when you ride, watch your breath in the cold air or study the way the light reflects off buildings. Both can bring about awe, a happiness-inducing feeling you experience when you’re engrossed in a moment, says Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychological science at the University Of California, Berkeley, America. Happy days.
UNLEASH AT THE OFFICE
Without computers, few of us couldn’t even do our jobs, but relying on them non-stop can lead to scattered thoughts, stunted productivity, and keep you from building relationships that could fuel your success. Here’s how to ease up on machine time…
Try brainstorming with colleagues in person, rather than by e-mail. Exercise (read: walking to a workmate’s desk) improves neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself), making you more likely to come up with strong ideas, says Jamie Krenn, adjunct assistant professor of psychology and education at Columbia University.
DIAL IN Can’t meet your team face to face? Pick up the phone and use it to make an actual call (yes, be brave). Hearing someone’s voice creates an emotional bond, which can get lost over e-mail, and fosters better connections overall.
CREATE QUIET Ping! Check
inbox. Ping! Check your phone. Ping! Alerts sap productivity as they make you constantly switch gears, says Nancy Colier, author of The Power Of
Off. Switch them to silent and log out of your inbox if you need to focus. Try Boomerang For Gmail—it lets you choose when you receive e-mails.
APPRECIATE THE QUIET
We’re so conditioned to look for more—be it Likes, posts or entertainment—that we’ve started to believe we need these things to be happy, says Nancy. Have some ‘me time’ instead.
PLAN A DATE ...with yourself. Grab a coffee, go for a walk or ask yourself, ‘What’s working for me? What can I learn from today?’ This will lead to greater fulfilment, and help you understand why you’re always turning to your phone in the first place.
BE STILL Lie or sit down and take five deep belly breaths. This practice builds a deep peace that helps us weather life’s struggles, says Nancy.
SAY THANKS Gratitude improves well-being, but posting about how #Blessed you are may (okay, will) elicit eye rolls. Try keeping a diary to record what you’re thankful for instead. If it’s a friend—perhaps they stuck with you during a difficult time—tell them face to face.
No matter how Instagrammable the restaurant, becoming hell-bent on capturing every experience takes you away from the moment, while Liking posts in your feeds can drain your energy for IRL interactions. Looking for ways to get close to your loved ones? Try the following:
Slow your story roll. Posting online during an event can lead you to form shaky memories of it. Snap a pic to share later, then soak in the sounds and smells of the moment—details that help us to store memories (which won’t disappear if you lose your phone. Again).
Open your ears, close your mouth. “We don’t know how to listen because we’re so busy entertaining and distracting ourselves,” says Nancy. Ask a friend to tell you about their day. Listening reignites connection, leading to meaningful conversations.
Use social media as a starting point. Commented on a friend’s engagement pic with a few hearts? Arrange to meet up to gush about it. They’ll appreciate you making time for them and you’ll feel happier, too, says Tchiki Davis, a technology expert at Berkeley Well-Being Institute, US.
Download the detox
Well, they do say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Need some help unplugging? These apps are all free.
This limits how many times you can use your phone. You’ll be notified when you go over (or are about to).
First, figure out which ‘persona’ you are. Then get a personalised plan that’ll help you cut your screen time.
Lock yourself out of your phone or set goals to ‘unplug’ from your devices for certain times. Silence is golden.