In 2018, “mindless scrolling” is built into our routines. Standing in line at the grocery store? Perfect, now you have a few extra minutes to check out what’s going on Twitter. Waiting for yoga class to start? Sounds like a great time to switch between news apps, emails, and Facebook. And instead of winding down in bed with a book, why not scroll through Instagram until you fall asleep, your phone tucked in next to you?
Until about a month ago, this was exactly what my own relationship with technology looked like, and it didn’t take a genius to see what a negative impact it was having on my life. I’m a busy person with little time to spare, and instead of guarding my spare moments and filling them with activities that bring me joy—like reading a novel, authentically connecting with my partner, or meditating—I was scrolling, my eyes completely glazed over, my thoughts fluttering from annoyance to frustration to sadness. Why was I doing this to myself?
Desperate for a solution, my mind kept landing on one specific concept: intermittent fasting. For the past year, I’ve been eating in eight- to nine-hour windows, and it’s worked miracles: My blood sugar is more stable, I don’t mindlessly snack, and I sleep better. What if I applied this same concept to technology?
Feeling like I had nothing to lose, I decided to give it a shot. Starting at 8 p.m., I decided, I would turn off my phone and not turn it on again until 9 a.m., which is typically what time I got on the subway in the mornings and had to connect with the rest of the world anyway. Here’s how my tech fast changed everything.
It helped me sleep better.
I’m historically a terrible sleeper, and I struggled with insomnia long before I was addicted to technology. But once I turned my phone off, I had a solid three hours of tech-free time, and I found I was filling that time with things that truly brought me joy: getting deeply immersed in novels, meal-prepping (I find the act of cooking super-relaxing), and doing light at-home yoga. Without the distraction of my phone or computer, I also found I was having more interesting, in-depth conversations with my partner.
By the time I got in bed, I wasn’t worrying about everyone having more fun than me or feeling jealous of their well-decorated apartments. I also wasn’t worrying about my to-do list for the next day. Instead, I was completely present and immersed in the things I love to do. As it turns out, that makes for an excellent night of sleep.
I had more mindful mornings.
If you’ve ever woken up with your heart pounding and immediately reached for your phone to check your email, the news, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the list goes on—congratulations! You’re exactly like every other person living in the digital age, myself included. While I can’t speak for everyone, spending the first few minutes of my day doing a tech check-in seriously raised my cortisol and set the tone for the day. And that tone was a very stressed-out one.
Once I vowed to not turn on my phone until I was officially out the door, it was a game-changer. I was able to spend the 15 minutes I usually spent switching between apps meditating, and I even had time for a cup of coffee and a few minutes of listening to my favorite podcasts (which I’d downloaded the night before) while getting ready. It was a much happier, calmer way to spend my time. It made me more conscious of technology during non-fasting hours.
Of course, swearing off technology completely isn’t really a possibility for me. I work for a digital media company, and the primary way my friends and family communicate with me is through text message. Plus, when I’m in the right head space, Instagram is one of my favorite platforms: I love the feeling of inspiration I get from the bloggers, yogis, and various inspirational women in my feed.
But my tech fast has taken the urgency out of technology in the same way intermittent fasting has made me less interested in snacking 24/7. Instead of reaching for my phone while waiting in line, I’ve been taking out whatever book or magazine I’m reading. And in those precious minutes before my yoga class starts, I simply sneak in a pre-class savasana. Take it from me: Life is a whole lot better when you set a few boundaries.
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