The hardest part of taking a break from our personal technology – our gadgets and screens and the social networks that beckon us – is just doing it without all the fears and anxiety that comes with shutting off our smartphones or (gasp!) leaving them behind when we go out. We rationalize that we need this connectivity, that without it, we might miss out on something important or (shock! horror!) be lost or lonely.
Some of us can remember life before mobile phones. Some of us can remember a time when there were actually pay phones in many places that were our only way of getting in touch – to get directions; to say hello to a friend; to say we were going to be running late somewhere – if we had a quarter on us. But most times, we just used a map; met a friend face-to-face or called from our home phone; or arrived late and apologized.
Personally, I am looking for some screen-free and keyboard-free time. If you are interested in joining me on this journey in 2014, here are 10 steps to get you started:
1. Print This List.
How can I start a list of ideas for unplugging if I’m asking you to read this blog post on your computer? Print out this list, then resume reading when you have it in your hand.
2. Turn Off Your Phone (or Computer).
Right now, power off your phone (or computer or whatever electronics you have on around you). Get through reading this page without the compulsion to check a social network or glancing to read a notification or answering a call (unless, of course, you are expecting one so by all means leave the ringer on but turn your phone face/screen down).
3. Step Outside (Or Look Out a Window).
Step away from your devices. Get up, take this list with you, and walk outside. If it is winter, stepping outside at this moment may not be appealing, so instead, find a window, and go to it. Take a moment to look outside, look around you. Your eyes need this break from screen time. Your body needs this break from sitting for long periods of time.
Take 3 deep breaths and let them out slowly. Breathing is essential to us, and yet we take it for granted. Pay attention to your breathing, in and out. Close your eyes if you are so inclined. Don’t worry. This page will still be here when you open them again.
You’re back. Great! Now walk for a few minutes. This might mean walking down the block and back, walking down the hall and back, walking in circles around the room. If there are stairs nearby, walk up and down them. Just walk. Your body will thank you.
Find a piece of paper and a pen. If you printed this page, then you have a piece of paper with you already, so find a pen. Once you do, sit down and write a letter to a friend (on the back of this list will do). It doesn’t have to be long – it could just be a few lines. But think of a friend, and write them a letter.
7. Find an envelope and stamp.
I’m always surprised at how hard it is for me to find an envelope and stamp these days. We’re so overdependent on email that envelopes and stamps seem quaint and also a bit of work. But walk around or ask around and locate an envelope and stamp.
At this point, chances are you may not know the address of your friend. So you probably need your phone. Oh, that smartphone is a computer in our hands. Hold off a moment and read on.
Just smile. Smile at this seemingly silly blog post you’re reading. Smile at yourself for following my instructions. Or smile at yourself for still reading this on your computer or smartphone, silly. Smile at someone nearby or passing by.
There is so much positive power in a smile. And even if you’re feeling anxiety from being away from your computer and smartphone (if you followed Steps 1 & 2), a smile can help.
9. Fold up this page.
Turn on your computer or smartphone to get your friend’s address (or if you have that memorized, good for you – now address the envelope).
Then fold up this page and stick it in the envelope to send to your friend. Remember to mail it!
Even if you didn’t do Steps 1 & 2 yet, go ahead and print this page now. Write a quick note on the back to a friend, put it into an envelope, stick a stamp on the envelope, and mail it.
If you followed the above, you’ve already take care of this step. If you are still reading this on a screen, CLICK THIS LINK to share this post or use one of the buttons at the top of this post to share it. Maybe someone else will follow these steps and get a small and welcome respite from their gadgets and screens.