No makeup, just happiness: that is how I feel when enjoying deep unplugged time with my favorite people. (Like during our Spring Break trip to West Texas, pictured above.)
I was reminded again with my children home for a long weekend that my best days– my easiest, happiest, and most fulfilled days –are usually the ones I spend away from the computer.
However, like most of you, screens are a big part of my life. And certainly they are far from all bad. In fact they are a vital part of my livelihood and the relationships which support it.
Screens and the devices they connect us with are simply tools.
Yet we can ping from random thought to random thought with our minds on hyperdrive. And that is just inside our one head.
If there is no core of peace within — or if we don’t know how to return there — then the screens can become a portal to a black hole: a reflexive habit which fuels the attachments and aversions of our ego.
But even that practice isn’t a cure-all.
I don’t know of a magic bullet for handling the stress which comes with digital overload but in today’s post I share two concrete practices which I have tested in my own life and which bring relief. I hope you will try them out!
Schedule a regular digital detox. You can define the terms. I usually make Sundays my unplugged day. I opt out of email and social media — both sharing and reading what others post. I often avoid the Internet entirely and lose my phone on purpose.
I need Sundays to reacquaint myself with the material world: with the scones I seem to never want to stop making. The beauty of the bird song or sacred chant. And the opportunity for a deeper than usual conversation with my husband or children. (Interestingly this doesn’t always happen. But I have discovered it is really important for there to be regular space for it in our family rhythm– and sometimes, as needed, one of us reaches out.)
In addition to the weekly detox I find one annual detox of a week or longer to be particularly restorative. I took practically the whole month of August off social media while we were in New Mexico. It was utterly delicious.
And I flirt with a daily unplugged time as well. Usually the hour around dinner I take my phone off the counter and put it in a drawer in my kitchen. Which I shut.
This simple action reminds me of my power in the relationship.
The second practice is taking a mindful pause before sharing.
So often the moment starts to become the thing you share on social media before you have fully let yourself enjoy it. Play around with this. The next time you feel the urge to share see if you can let yourself have the moment first… without the fear that you will lose it or need to preserve it in some way.
Then after the moment is fully enjoyed… see if you want to share it.
I think this makes the things you share ultimately more powerful. People can feel when sharing comes from a compulsive place. Likewise they can feel when it comes from a space of freedom or generosity.
What about you? What helps you hold your relationships to screens in a life-giving way? xo
For more on this topic check out Unplugged: how to live mindfully in a digital world. by Orianna Fielding Banks (2014).
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life and leadership coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a weekly e-newsletter on real-world mindfulness practices. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and conscious approaches to leadership and parenting. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three young children and remember to water their garden boxes. Courtney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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