Mindful Benefits Of A Digital Detox

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It is called a web for a reason and without some mindful awareness of its entrapment it is not just our time that gets tangled up but also our minds.

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a link to a great piece in the New York Times. I jumped across to the lengthy article and had a read. Once I’d finished I returned to Facebook, pausing to read some things in more depth, skimming over others, and leaving comments here and there.

Sound familiar? I am sure this is a typical snapshot of all of our social media interactions.  We flit seamlessly from one thing to another. This is true of most of our online activity. Social media aside, web-surfing lures us from one interesting site to another and I even find just answering emails takes me into the maze. It is called a web for a reason and without some mindful awareness of its entrapment it is not just our time that gets tangled up but also our minds. A single interaction can agitate the mind enough to cause an entire avalanche. You find yourself snowed under with streams of open tabs to come back to and a mind that has travelled far and wide and has lost track of where it was.

The risk here is that our minds are becoming conditioned to being constantly stimulated and eternally engaged. Our minds are presented with fewer and fewer inbuilt opportunities to sit still and be quiet. The previously uninhabited spaces in our lives are now filled in, filled up and filled out. The mobile nature of the devices we carry make sure of that. The quiet little windows of time that spontaneously presented themselves – standing in line, sitting in the waiting room, stopped at the lights, waiting at school pick-up time, are fast becoming non-existent. These little gaps left time for us to ponder, daydream, reflect, notice and people watch. These are not activities that we schedule into our day and so by filling this time we go without them. These incidental activities, shall we call them, reward us without warning or fanfare. They provide mental relaxation, some down-time for the mind,  and when they are absent from our lives our mental-hygiene suffers and can leave us feeling constantly distracted and overwhelmed.

Our minds are moving from one thing to another in such quick succession that we don’t have time to digest the information let alone process our emotional responses to it.

Knowing when it’s time for a digital detox.

Our need to constantly ‘check in’ agitates the mind. We struggle to rest in stillness as there is always a task at hand (or more literally in hand). Our minds begin to scan the device-driven to-do list (emails, social media updates, follow-up phone calls etc.) for anything that can occupy our time. Eventually it becomes an unconscious time filler that we reach for in our spare moments. As soon as it becomes an unconscious habit it sits very close to an addiction pattern. This is perhaps a good indication that it is time to switch off and break the cycle.

I took the opportunity over the weekend to turn off all devices and experience life without distraction for a couple of days. I was starting to feel wired and the monkey mind had become a hyped-up beast that was difficult to settle, even during meditation. In the absence of any undue stress or tension I could feel the restlessness building from technology constantly tugging at my skirt tails. I felt that it was time to switch off in order to restore balance and create more space and time. My instinct was to go back to the simplicity I once knew before devices were the norm.

Unplugging was a hugely rewarding way to take a breather. Almost immediately there was a sense of calm that came with feeling there was more time and space for things, not to mention the relief of not being constantly interrupted by a smartphone. Each time the temptation arose to check a device or look something up (like where to eat in a new part of town we were visiting) I refocused my attention on how calm and quiet my mind felt, and how grateful I was to recalibrate in this way.

Taking a little (or a lot) of time away from devices helps to raise awareness around the behaviours that agitate our mind. This experience made me aware of small ways that I can adjust my day-to-day use of technology so as to minimize some of its effects on my mental wellbeing and I have been implementing them ever since.

I highly recommend that you try it for yourself. Once you resist the initial temptation to reach for a device you will be well on your way to discovering a whole new (old) world that leaves you feeling renewed, relaxed and recharged and very much more connected to yourself and the world around you.

Let me know how you go.

Perhaps you have already done a digital detox. What did you discover?
Leave a comment below.

May your week be a centred one.

xM

 

How to have an honest chat with yourself

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Still your body

Settle your thoughts

Focus your attention on the clean, white page before you that will soon hold all of your answers.

Wait,

I feel you scuttling away

To get some tea, to tidy up , to quickly attend to another matter.

We circle, but rarely land.

It’s time now, to come home.

The answers you are seeking are right before you.

They are hiding in the empty lines, buried under the surface of that crisp, white page.

Until you mark them with your thoughts, your own truth will remain untold.

Stay seated right where you are, in your own dilemma,

For without this commitment you will continue facing a crisp white page that has much potential,

But no answers.

 
 

my holiday crush

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 308I am a city girl who has a very solid relationship with the hustle and vibe of city life, but I do have a quiet crush. I try to resist acting on my heart’s wondering affections, but as often as I can I just acquiesce. I have a longstanding and not-so-secret crush on a little town that pulls at my heart in ways unrivalled by any others.

Every so often I have a yearning and, as a family we are off, northbound, to a place that my soul recognises as home. A place where one feels safe, embraced and unguarded.

Upon arrival the quiet stillness washes over me and into me and I am reminded that I am in the presence of my mentor, my teacher, my shining light.

This small town wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s unashamed vulnerability and rawness is on public display for all to see -hand-drawn shop signs and unbrushed hair are all part of its honesty.  This little town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is not known for its Opera House or even a Big Banana. Intimate, open conversations with strangers are, in my eyes, its main tourist attraction.

Whilst I love my life in the big city this is my place of refuge and respite. This is my go-to place when I need to recharge, heal and renew. It is like returning to the family home when the outside world feels hostile and demanding – mum’s cooking and your childhood bedroom provide a familiar comfort, and there is no self-consciousness required.

I am inspired by its humanity. Its causes and community values are paraded through its small streets and humble homes. There is unwritten local lore here, but even as a visitor I am amongst my tribe, and I get it.

I love it, and here are some of the things that make my heart smile and my soul sing….
  • I love when you go to the local store looking for Aloe Vera to treat sunburn but they have run out, someone suggests you walk down to the community garden and pick some fresh.
  • I love that you can only borrow 5 items from the local library to leave enough on the shelves for everyone.
  • I love the menu at the local pool – Miso soup with gluten free toast, or a dandelion tea with soy.
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Menu at the local pool.

  • I love that the large-chain supermarket (hidden away in the back street) has a ‘trade-in’ system set up for the latest set of cards they are giving away to kids, as part of a reward scheme. Bring in your ‘doubles’ and trade them in for cards you still ‘need’.
  • I love that the guy in front of me at the local store asks Sharon, on the checkout, how her birthday party went. (It was a blast!)
  • I love that the pierced, tattooed doctor at the local hospital (it’s a long story) refers to his patients as ‘brother’ (and ‘ sister’ presumably).
  • I love that the community takes it upon themselves to erect their own street signs.
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Dear trucks and tradies, please slow down. Kids, pets and wildlife at play.

  • I love that the lovely man who has lost one eye stops to help me as I precariously juggle arms full of shopping, all whilst sharing stories of the flood on his property and his family Xmas.
  • I love that the pool at the house we are staying at has a little makeshift ramp so the frogs can get out after a swim.
  • I love that the woman at the local herbal shop that I go to get some ‘Itchy Scratchy cream’ for a mysterious rash that one of my children has developed in the heat reminds me to check her gut-health. A woman of my own heart.
  • I love that my kids aren’t the odd-ones-out when snacking on fresh fruit and nuts when out.
  • I love that even the street art has soul.
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Enbrace the power of our consciousness.

How can I be a better human.

How can I be a better human.

  • I love that the local gym offers their community free access to their filtered water (so when a bandicoot dies in one’s water tank one does not need to drink it!!).
  • I love that this same local gym just makes up the Xmas timetable from one day to the next. It keeps one’s yoga practice flexible and prevents attachment.
  • I love that the lifeguard at the pool knows everyone by name.
  • I love that pronouncability is not THE major consideration when naming ones cafe.

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  • I love being surrounded by rainbow colours everywhere you look. It lifts the spirit.

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  • I love that as you drive into town at night you are greeted by a small, heart-shaped refector attached to the tree on the side of the road.

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For now I say goodbye to Mullumbimby, but I know I will be back soon.