Let’s Unplug!

Creative ways to disconnect

Let’s Unplug!

Keeping up with a constant influx of texts, tweets, emails, and notifications can be exhausting. Luckily, making time to unplug can help us recharge and reconnect.

There’s nothing quite like the sounds of summer—the splash of the lake, the juicy crunch of watermelon, and the sizzling of shish kabobs on the grill. And there’s nothing that can interrupt this carefree melody quite like the buzz of a cellphone. Before the summer once again becomes a distant memory, we’ve got some creative ways to unplug.

Tech-free time

According to Tracey Delfs, a mindfulness teacher and coach, “with 1,440 minutes given to us each day, we need to be mindful about how we are using each of these precious moments.” Although many people underestimate the amount of time they spend plugged in, average cellphone users fill between 2.42 and 5 hours per day on their devices.

Although limiting tech-time overall is important, Delfs stresses that mealtime and bedtime should always be “no-technology zones.” To help keep everyone in the family accountable, try creating a “digital drop-box” where everyone can dump their devices before meals and bedtime.

Here are some other ways to enjoy these moments unplugged.

Mealtime

Going solo: Although it’s tempting to answer emails over lunch, eating mindfully leads to longer feelings of fullness. Head outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature as a side to your hummus sandwich.

For couples: A recent study found that many partners believe technology interferes with their quality time together—including at mealtime. Leave your devices at home and pack a picnic or try out a new restaurant, focusing on conversation without distraction.

For families: Numerous studies have confirmed what parents know intuitively: (unplugged) family meals are important for kids’ health and development. To help kids feel more invested in family meals, involve them in meal planning and preparation. Visit a farmers’ market or plant a garden together to teach kids about supporting local communities and the way food grows.

Bedtime

Going solo: To help you settle into slumber, power down at least a half-hour before bedtime, and try reading, journalling, or meditating to unwind.

For couples: Rather than side-by-side texting before turning out the lights, try out therapeutic massage. One study found that married couples who engaged in “warm touch” massage for a month showed decreases in stress hormone levels and increases in oxytocin (the hormone known to facilitate bonding).

For families: Grab some marshmallows and sleeping bags and go on a family camp-out—whether out in the wilderness or in your own backyard. Without the glow of a digital device, see how many constellations you can spot together before snoozing under the stars.

Leisure time

Wi-Fi isn’t required to enjoy many leisure-time activities.

Going solo: Be a tourist in your own city—check out that museum you’ve only ever walked by or take that trail walk you’ve been meaning to do. You’ll be surprised what you can discover in your own backyard!

For couples: Try a tandem bike ride to challenge your balance and improve your teamwork.

For families: Use whatever items you have on hand—hula hoops, ropes, and water balloons, to name a few—and build a backyard obstacle course. Grab a stopwatch and time the kids—and the adults, too!

Take a digital detox

Digital-free getaways are increasingly being offered across the globe, where guests are encouraged (or even required) to put aside their electronic devices. Tech-weary Canadians can book into one of the following options.

Camp Reset

There’s no “work talk” allowed at this camp located just outside Toronto. Campers take a total break from technology to connect to their inner kid through “playshops,” “recess,” and “sleepovers” (campreset.com).

Echo Valley Ranch

Hidden away in the Cariboo Mountains of BC, this lodge offers a “digital detox” package where guests forfeit cell service in favour of fresh meals, yoga, and mountain air (evranch.com).

HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel

With no electricity, showers, or indoor toilets, this off-the-grid hostel is about as unplugged as you can get. Located in Alberta’s beautiful Banff National Park, guests can delight in nature’s playground—and unwind in the hostel’s sauna at the end of the day (hihostels.ca/en/destinations/alberta/hi-mosquito-creek).

Ailments of a digital era

Unplugging may be the best prevention for the following conditions:

“Nomophobia” = no-mobile phobia

“Textiety” = the anxiety of feeling pressured to respond immediately to text messages

“Phantom Cell Syndrome” = the false sensation of receiving a text or phone call; also known as “phantom ringing,” “phantom vibrations,” or “FauxCellArm.” Between 27 and 89 percent of cellphone users report these experiences.

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