Tips for Unplugging for a Happier and Healthier Holiday Season
By: Guest Blogger Danielle Pastula
Even if you’re someone who loves the holiday season, there’s usually a touch of stress that comes along with all the joyous decor and catchy Christmas music. You’re wondering when you’ll find the time to shop and wrap gifts, you’re worried about whose holiday party you’re going to go to, you’re wondering how many times you’re going to have to bite your tongue with your annoying relative.
See? Lots of extra stressors take over this last part of the year.
However, one thing that might be causing you additional stress is that umbilical-like, life-or-death connection you have with your smartphone. And that’s not just at holiday time, that’s all year round.
And since the holidays and New Years are coming up, we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about how we can unplug for a happier and less-stressed holiday season. We also bet that if you follow our tips, you’ll also want to continue these practices long after the twinkly lights come down.
First, let’s talk about the thing I know you’re thinking, “Nice idea, but I can’t “unplug,” my job depends on me being reachable,” or “I’m not that bad with my phone, I could probably be on Facebook less, but whatever, it’s not causing any problems.”
Now, I’m going to address these claims in the nicest way I can:
1.) I manage social media accounts for a living and yet I’ve still managed to find ways to unplug in order to avoid becoming a smartphone zombie. If I can do it, you can do it too, the world will not crumble if you don’t have your phone on you 24/7. Don’t believe me? Try the tips below for just one week and it’ll become apparent that you can get away with being less connected than you think.
2.) If you think you’re not that bad with your phone, answer this for me; when you realize you don’t have your phone on you, does immediate panic set in? Do you ever feel like your phone vibrated, but when you go to check it you haven’t received any updates? (That’s called phantom vibration syndrome and yes, it’s an actual thing.) When you go to a restaurant do you automatically put your phone on the tabletop? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have a problem, don’t worry, you’re not alone, however you are in denial, so keep reading.
Next, let’s look at and mull over several solid reasons why you should put in the effort to unplug:
According to a combination of four studies looking at the effects of heavy computer and cell phone use on the sleep quality, stress levels, and general mental health of young adults, which was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, it was found that:
- Heavy cell phone use showed an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase in depressive symptoms in both men and women.
- Those constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues.
- Men who use computers intensively were more likely to develop sleeping problems.
- Regular, late night computer use was associated with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women.
- A combination of both heavy computer use and heavy mobile use makes the associations even stronger.
[Reference: Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-volpi-md-pc-facs/technology-depression_b_1723625.html]
All those things are pretty bad for our overall health, and the worst part is, the research that’s out there isn’t slanted, meaning no one’s hiding the “good” or “healthy” benefits of increased mobile phone and computer usage from you. There just simply aren’t any benefits.
Some might argue that this surge in technology is wonderful and allows us to connect with more people than we ever thought imaginable, which is true to a degree, but it’s actually developed a whole new wave of social anxiety and a disconcerting level of disconnect among the people who should matter most to us: our parents, partners, children and even ourselves as we play the comparison game on social media.
Okay, enough of being a Digital Debbie Downer. If you’re feeling less than enamored with your phone or tablet right about now, here’s some tips for unplugging that WILL help you cut that technology dependency:
Use a Real Alarm Clock
Little inconvenient? Sure, but having a real alarm clock can make a huge difference in your phone usage at both the beginning and end of your day, which are two of the most crucial time periods as it relates to your health.
When you use a real alarm clock, you nix the chance that when you go to turn off your alarm in the morning you’ll instinctively start checking emails and scrolling through social media. These first few minutes are a time for you to gently wake up, set intentions for the day, enjoy the quiet, and focus solely on you.
On the flip side, when you use a real alarm clock, it gives you the opportunity to settle in for the night.
Put your phone in another room, put it in your bedside drawer, it doesn’t matter, you just don’t need it. Having your phone out of sight also means no sleep interruptions with notifications or messages.
Put Your Phone Out of Reach
When your phone is sitting on your desk or on the dining table you’re much more likely to reach for it to kill time, take a 5-minute break, or fill some awkward lag in conversation. I don’t need a statistic to prove this, we all agree this is true, yes?
Wonderful. So since we all agree, it makes sense that if you don’t keep your phone constantly within sight you will eventually feel less compelled to reach for it out of habit.
Also, when you purposely put your phone away it creates the inverse action of you only going to retrieve your phone when you have a specific intention for using it.
For example, my phone is across the room from me, out of reach, and it’s behind my back. So if I want my phone, I have to physically turn around, stand up and walk to even touch it or look at the screen. Therefore, the next time I plan on using my phone is when I go to work out during my lunch break at 1 p.m. I have a specific intention of what I’ll be doing the next time I look at my phone.
Delete Apps You Spend Too Much Time On
Nobody actually needs Facebook on their phone. Think about it, if you’re constantly compelled to create statuses, post pictures, or mindlessly scroll through your newsfeed, deleting the app from your phone makes it harder for Facebook to distract you.
If you have to physically go to your laptop to use the desktop version of Facebook, you’re addiction to that mindless scrolling becomes less and less.
Of course, I’m not so naive to know that you can’t go re-download an app as quickly as you deleted it, but give it a try and notice how often you go to check a specific app before realizing you deleted it. Being aware of that “checking in” sensation will show you just how much time gets eaten up with “harmless” browsing.
Set a Curfew
Get all “parents-of-an-rebellious-teen” on yourself and set a curfew. No phone usage after [enter at least an hour before you go to bed here].
Done and done.
I know you’re probably feeling a little bit of a technology hangover at this point, but don’t look at it as a painful ripping-off-the-bandaid thing and look at unplugging as a permission slip for being in control of how you spend your time and giving yourself more freedom to do all the things you actually care about, especially this holiday season.
Go all out for a White Elephant gift exchange with your closest friends, come up with a new holiday tradition with your partner, go take a Christmas tour of the White House, go ice skating at the National Gallery of Art ice rink and leave your phones at home or zipped away in your coat pocket. If you really want pictures, invest in an Instax camera, not kidding, they’re awesome.
But most of all, soak in those moments with friends, family and people who might become great friends in the next year. Life is too short to let the magic of the people, places and things around you become a blur because you’re too busy looking at your phone.