Breaking free from the Internet can work wonders on your well-being. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/Voyage Vixens)
By Lindsay Taub
The above image used to give me anxiety. I took the photo right before I was boarding a yacht in San Cristobal, Ecuador, thus beginning a seven-day cruise of the Galapagos Islands where there would be — gasp! — no Wi-Fi or cell service.
“There’s nothing out there,” the customer service agent for my phone company told me when I called before my trip to get an international data plan. “It’s literally like going back in time.”
And it was.
While existing without the Internet for the first couple of days was really, really difficult, the end result was truly magical. All the cruise passengers talked to each other. We looked at each other. We gave one another focused time, without distraction, without multitasking, without half-listening. It wasn’t important to Instagram our meals, nor tell Facebook how our day was, because we were just in the moment, living it. We laughed. We looked up. We looked around. We took it all in.
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The author didn’t even Instagram this sunset until she got home! (Photo: Lindsay Taub/Voyage Vixens)
Of course, this is not a huge surprise at this point. These days, the benefits of digital detoxes are pretty well-known; there are even entire digital detox camps that monetize on the feeling of calm that they can generate.
But here’s the thing: Anyone can detox for a week or so. You simply don’t use your phone, and you will probably feel better, as I did. But what about when you get back? Then what? How do you keep the serenity-now feeling going then, when you don’t have the built-in excuse of no Wi-Fi?
I was determined to answer that question after my Galapagos experience, because when I got home, I honestly felt like a changed woman. There was a calm and peace brewing inside me, and it stemmed from not needing to know everything that was going on ever. I was determined to keep the benefits of my digital detox alive.
For the first few days, it was easy. After interacting with so many animals and so few humans on my detox, I didn’t have any desire whatsoever to deal with the insanity of Los Angeles, where I live. I was a hermit for a couple of days. But eventually, I had to get back out there. And I decided to make a few simple changes to keep my Galapagos calmness going in my usual fast-paced life. And guess what? They worked. These changes have had an enormous impact on my peace of mind. Try them yourself — you’ll see.
1. Don’t keep your phone next to your bed. It really doesn’t need to be there. If you use the phone for an alarm, as I do, change your charger to another outlet and leave the phone across the room from you. This is for two reasons. One, so you don’t check your emails or social media feeds right before bed (allowing much better sleep!), and two, so you don’t check the phone first thing in the morning, which allows for a much more peaceful start to the day. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call in the middle of the night, you can get out of bed to answer it. But pro tip: Change your phone settings so that only people on your emergency list will wake up your phone.
2. Do something with your hands every day. While in Ecuador, I visited the home of Solbeso distiller Fernando Crespo. All over the front and back yard, there are orchids growing on trees. His wife planted them. I’d never seen flowers growing on trees like this; it was so beautiful and unique. I later learned there’s a term for these beauties: epiphytes. I’m already an orchid lover (I’ve got lots in my L.A. backyard that I’m nursing back to flowering), so I decided to follow Mrs. Crespo’s lead, and I planted a few of them on my trees the day I got home from the trip. I’m not sure if it will work in the hot and not-so-humid Southern California climate, but we’ll see.
Lindsay’s beautiful labor of love. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/Voyage Vixens)
Regardless, I tend to my vegetable and herb garden every day, and it’s like meditation for me. Doing something that requires your handiwork helps keep the digital detox alive, because any time spent planting, painting, playing an instrument, peeling a vegetable, or whatever it may be, is time not spent on your phone or computer.
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3. Plan focused time disconnected. I’m easily distracted, and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably not disciplined enough to turn off your phone and leave it alone while you focus on a task or work. So here’s a trick: I recently discovered that there are apps you can install on your phone, like one called Moment, that will put it to sleep for the amount of time you choose. You can’t wake it up once it’s set, unless you completely shut it down and restart the phone. No dings, no bells, no rings, no vibration. Silence is indeed golden.
4. Limit your news. I am the first to say that I’m a news junkie. I find breaking news exhilarating and always have, since my childhood days spent in the newsroom with my journalist mother. It’s in my blood. But the news is 99 percent negative, and gut-wrenchingly terrible. There’s a reason I left hard news years ago and decided to write about more fluffy topics, like food and travel. It’s less depressing. Less heavy. I used to watch CNN every day. I read the newspaper every morning. I checked multiple news sources on the Internet before I got out of bed, throughout my day, and before I went to bed.
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But not anymore. Now, it’s once a day, an hour max. That’s all. It’s really OK not to know every detail about everything that’s happening. I’d rather risk being a bit less informed about every terrorist threat and disaster around the world and feel a bit more at peace in my own world. That is not to say it’s not important to care and be informed; it’s just that I don’t need to digest and consume news as if I’m preparing for a dissertation on it.
Limiting your news intake — within reason—can help you find peace of mind. (Photo: Thinkstock)
5. Leave your phone at home, or just put it away. I struggled with this one at first. What if someone needs me right now? Well, the reality is that most of the time, they don’t. It can wait a few minutes, an hour, a day. You know that feeling when you’re driving and you hear an email or text come through? Your heart rate goes up, you feel pressure to answer right away, especially if you know the person on the other end will see if and when the message was read. I’ve even pulled over and parked the car just to reply to a text right away. No more! I’m done with that. Let that one go. It’s sooo not necessary.
The bottom line with all of this is simple. Give yourself permission not to be reachable at all times, so that you can just be, and breathe. You’ll be recharged and better prepared to focus on another person or task as a result. And so I’ll close with this: You know that expression, “There’s no Wi-Fi out here, but we promise you’ll find a better connection?” That’s the truth. But you don’t need to be in a no-Wi-Fi zone to reap its game-changing benefits.
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