Most people know that the purpose of disconnecting is to rejuvenate yourself. Spend a quiet afternoon alone, sans technology, and you’ll notice that you suddenly have more energy. Even though we know this is true on a fundamental level, and we understand that it’s important, we’re not great at putting this into practice.
As humans, we naturally function in a way where we focus, get unfocused, and then refocus. There’s a innate rhythm of connecting and disconnecting, then connecting with something else. Over and over again. But in today’s world, that middle part, where you disconnect, often gets skipped. Instead, it’s replaced with checking email, reading texts, scrolling through social media, and streaming our favorite TV shows. When we have a good rhythm of focusing and then refocusing, then we are in a healthy place.
When we connect with anyone or anything either by communicating with someone else, engaging with them emotionally, or interacting with technology in some way, our natural next response should be to disconnect from it. This provides an end to each little segment of our day. But when we move onto the next form of connection immediately, we don’t get the opportunity to disconnect, or pause to reset. If we don’t make that separation, then we are constantly overloaded. Our brains are always on the go, and this takes a toll on us.
4 Smart Ways to Disconnect
A lot of people get discouraged thinking that the only way to disconnect is to do a digital detox. While that’s not necessarily a bad idea, you don’t have to give “disconnecting” so much power. There’s no need to give up your phone for an entire week—unless you want to, of course. Small moments of disconnection, here and there, can actually make a big difference. Here are a few ways to incorporate them into your daily life.
1. Schedule time for disconnection.
For example, if you’re on your computer doing work, really work for an hour and focus fully on the task at hand. Don’t check your text messages, don’t read your emails—just do your work. Then, when the hour is up, take a few minutes to not do anything. Go make yourself a cup of coffee. Walk around the block. Sit quietly in your chair. Just take a few moments for yourself.
When you come home from work at the end of the day, spend a few minutes sitting quietly alone before you tell your partner about your day, or call up your mom to check in. Just let yourself be alone—disconnected—for a short period of time. These breaks allow you to avoid carrying over stress from one part of your life—work, for example—into other parts, like your home life. By taking a few moments to just separate different parts of your life from each other, you can keep things from feeling too overwhelming,
Related: See how this Buddhist meditation teacher fared at ditching social media for a week.
2. Keep sleep sacred.
Nature has created a sort of forced disconnection through sleep. That’s when we recharge and our minds are able to properly disconnect. But for those who are thinking a million miles a minute all day long, high quality sleep is out of reach. Allow yourself to fully disconnect from everything else when you’re sleeping. Not only will this improve the quality of each day, but it also works wonders for lowering stress.
3. Remind yourself that you’re in control.
It’s important to be conscious of how much you’re connecting. When there’s a thought, scenario, person, or emotion that you’re having trouble putting aside, take notice. Being aware of the fact that you’re spending too much time connected to an emotion, person, or task helps you know that you need to change it. And then you can make that shift.
Consciously, disconnect from any anxiety, stress, or fear you feel, and it will allow you to realize that you’re in control. And if you’re in control, then those emotions have less power. Every time you tell your mind you’re in control, you remember who the real master is: Yourself. It means you have the power.
4. Work on being present.
This works simply because being present requires you to disconnect. If you don’t disconnect, all the different parts of your life will bleed into each other. When you’re in the office, you’re thinking about an argument you had at home. When you’re at the gym, you’re thinking about how stressed you are at work. When you’re home, you’re thinking about what you need to do at work the next day. Sound familiar?
You need to learn to separate these different parts of your day enough so that you can focus on them individually, and the best way to do that is by disconnecting. You have enough control over your mind-body organism to actually tell it to disconnect.
It could be as simple say saying, “Okay, for the next 20 minutes, I’m not going to connect with anything or anyone. Just be silent and be here with myself for a little bit.” It may not feel natural to implement these strategies, at first, but it is absolutely natural to connect and then disconnect. Allow that disconnect to happen, and you’ll find you that you have more energy to connect, whether it’s with yourself and your emotions, other people, technology, or your work.