How to Disconnect

The Internet has absorbed the task of organizing work and social relationships and commitments. However, sometimes your online life can feel like it’s taking over your waking life. If you want to disconnect from devices, messaging and social media, you can use these tools and strategies to feel more directly connected to the world.

Designing Your Home Environment
Move your computers into a dedicated “computer room” or office. Your bedroom and another room or nook should be devoid of all electronics.

Move your chargers into the computer room. When a device needs to be charged, leave it in a room. The sounds and vibrations from a charging device can interrupt an otherwise calm experience.

Make your bedroom off-limits to electronics. Don’t bring your phone, tablet or TV inside. Blue light has been shown to interrupt sleeping habits. Most people don’t get enough sleep anyway.

Turn off your alarm on the weekends. Waking up on your own several days each week may help you feel more satisfied. If you don’t get enough sleep, fill 1 hour of time you would normally spend on the Internet with sleep. People who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day have less stress and are healthier. Lack of sleep can actually reduce the function of your immune system and increase anxiety.

Download an online timer that alerts you after 30 to 60 minutes of Internet use. You may be overusing the electronics because time passes so quickly when you are absorbing information.

Planning Non-Digital Activities
Take a bath. Pour a coffee or glass of wine and read in the bath. Dim the lights and light a candle to relax and enjoy homemade hot tub.

Invite friends over, with a phone call, not Facebook or text. Have an outdoor barbecue.

Go on a hike in the forest. Getting out in nature has actually been shown to improve problem-solving skills and calm the brain. Pack your smart phone deep in your backpack (for safety) and don’t touch it during the hike.

Join a sports league, scrabble club or other group activity.

Create a “fortress of solitude.” Choose 1 day per week when you plan to disconnect. Tell work, family and friends that you will not have your phone. Make a nice meal, read a book or do a craft.

Start an off-the-grid group. During an hour every week, arrange to meet without cell phones or computers. Having companionship in your quest to disconnect will make it easier.

Take an inventory of your hobbies. If you can’t name 2 or more hobbies that you enjoy inside and outside of the house, then the Internet may have replaced your healthy outlets for creativity and stress relief. Start a craft or take a class.

Plan a vacation for at least 2 weeks of the year. Prepare for the vacation well in advance, so that someone will take on problems that occur when you are away. Return the favor when they go on vacation. [1]

Reducing Electronic Addiction
Treat electronics and the Internet like an addiction. When someone likes your post on Facebook, it releases endorphins, much like alcohol or food. If you use the Internet more than 30 hours per week, you may consider talking to an addiction counselor. [2]
People who use the Internet for their social interaction for more than 30 hours per week are at higher risk for suicide if they cut off their Internet use. It is especially bad for people who are forced to stop using the Internet. [3]

Choose 1 night per week when you are “off-call” for work. If you work more than 40 hours per week, suggest that your entire team has an off-call night when they don’t check emails or take work calls. [4]

Ask family members to join your goal to disconnect. Don’t force them. By forcing teenagers to quit using electronics, you will encourage defiance, so just get out of the house and ask your kids to put their phones away when they are outside of the house. [5]

Find a place, such as a beach or state park that doesn’t have cell phone reception. Go there a few hours a week and enjoy forced disconnectivity. [6]

Use your email vacation reply at night. Set it every night before you leave the office, so there isn’t a pressure to get back on your phone to answer personal or professional emails.
Pick 1 or 2 nights each when you attend to person emails.

Sources and Citations
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