Technology and social media have dramatically improved our lives in a number of ways. They’ve made it easier to connect with friends and family, stay up on what’s going on in the world and, well, book a high-demand workout class at the drop of a hat. But with the wonderful perks of being “plugged in” come some inevitable downsides.
“Online connectedness is designed to be addictive, and there are a lot of interesting studies coming out that show the correlation between social media and a negative impact on our attention span and even weight gain,” explains Jenny Giblin, a clinically trained therapist and health and wellness expert. “It can impact our memory, mood, energy levels and our ability to feel like we are truly living in the present moment, and all of those factors result in a negative impact our relationships.”
There’s no better time of year to unplug than the holidays when friends and family will likely surround you at parties or dinners. To help you make the most of these moments, here are expert-approved strategies for tuning out technology.
1. Skip the morning scroll for affirmations
Instead of checking your phone first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, Giblin suggests trying this instead: When you first wake up, take a moment to think about everything you are grateful for. It could be as small as your warm bed or just anything you can think of! “Instead of stressing about everything on your to-do list or scrolling online, this will give you a new, fresh, positive start to your day, until you get to the point where you feel like you have no more bad days. And then before you go to bed, think about the best thing that happened that day,” she says. “This will literally make your mind turn off whatever it is thinking about and make you focus on the good things that happened.”
2. Set the intention for a holiday social media detox
Giblin suggests taking the time to set new rules for yourself about going online and do your best to stick to them. For example, you can set a time limit on scrolling and keep it to under 10 minutes in the morning or the evening, or both—just not all day every day. “You can also choose to share online without scrolling or delete the apps from your phone so that you’re not tempted to check them out of habit,” she says. “You can also try putting your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb when you do not need to be on it. If you have an iPhone, you can make an exception for your favorite people.”
3. Enforce ‘no-phone zones’
Whether you designate these zones to the dinner table or the entire living room, carving out time to sit down and respond to friends and family in person, not via your smartphone, goes a long way. This also applies to email. “Put on an autoresponder and check it once or twice a day instead of all day long,” suggests Giblin. “We expect everything to be handled immediately, but sometimes we just need to decide that we are in control of the day. You can do whatever feels right for you, but trust that setting the intention is the first step toward making a positive shift.”
4. Try to be fully engaged in whatever it is that you are doing
Wherever you are, be all there. Giblin explains that if you’re at the gym, focus on your workout. If you’re taking a hot yoga class, leave your phone until the class has finished. If you’re running holiday errands, take a moment to look around at things you love about the season. You get the idea. “It is so easy to get sucked into the distractions of social media that we do not even realize we are picking up the stress of others when we could be happy in the present moment feeling grateful for whatever it is that we have, instead,” she says.
5. Notice how centered and grounded you feel after a workout
“Compare that to how you feel when you spend the day reacting to texts, emails and social media requests,” says Aimee Bernstein, a psychotherapist, executive coach and mindfulness-in-action teacher and author of Stress Less Achieve More. “Are you still centered and grounded? If not, then learn what good enough means.” You don’t have to respond immediately to every text or email, and not everything you write has to be perfect. Instead, she recommends honoring your well-being, unplug and spend time relaxing and recharging. You’re worth it!
“Meditation is one of the easiest and best ways to unplug and feel good in your mind and body and in the moment,” Giblin explains. It’s also a great way to shut your mind off for a few moments or for an entire hour, similarly to what we turn to technology for in this day and age. For the holiday season, Giblin recommends what she calls the snow meditation: Turn off your phone, close your eyes and just breathe. “As you inhale, feel your stomach expand and as you exhale feel it fall back down,” she explains. “You can meditate to one song or set a timer, but as you breathe begin to visualize yourself in the snow, as it gently falls around you, enjoying your holidays and living the life you want to live.”