If any doubt remains in your mind that we are, in fact, a society addicted our smartphones, stop what you’re doing and simply take a look around. There's a pretty good chance that the majority of the people around you staring down at their palms, scrolling Twitter feeds or engrossed in texting conversations -- headphones optional. And when you think of the last time you were in the same position, it may be just a few seconds ago.
From strolling down city streets to catching up with friends over the dinner table, we miss out on some of life’s simple joys when our gaze (and our attention) is perpetually turned south to the glowing screen in our hands. We pretend to be still paying attention, still engaging in the conversation, still staying in touch with our surroundings -- but the truth is we don’t multitask the way we think we do. Rather, we just switch our attention from one thing to another very quickly. This constant starting and stopping can actually decrease our productivity by up to 40 percent and increase our stress levels.
What would happen if one day, instead of succumbing to this sensory overload by default, we chose to unplug for several brief moments during the day? If we cut the cord tethering our hands to our smartphones and looked up, what would we see?
Here are 18 things you miss by constantly starting down at your smartphone.
What silence sounds like.
Relish in the lack of notifications at your fingertips by stopping and listening to the sounds of your natural environment. The only chirping and buzzing you'll hear will come from the birds, the bees and the sounds of the city -- and it could be pretty blissful.
Just how good that morning coffee really tastes.
You might be surprised how much more your taste buds react to that first sip of Joe as you head off to the office when you're fully focused on the taste rather than checking your emails simultaneously. A deep inhale of the aroma alone could be enough to help you really wake up and smell the coffee.
The smile of the happiest dog out for a walk.
Who would want to miss a face like that?
Your own thoughts, right now, in the present moment.
When you stop answering emails, texting your best friend and seeing how many likes your latest status received on Facebook, you'll find yourself alone with your own thoughts. Take this time to let your thoughts wander and pay attention to the activity of your own mind, without judging or controlling. Practicing a little mindfulness (phone-free!) each day can help keep you calm, centered and connected to yourself and others.
The “don’t walk” pedestrian sign.
Walking while texting could have consequences far more severe than tripping on the sidewalk. A recent Ohio State University study revealed that pedestrian cell phone-related injuries have more than doubled since 2005. And it comes as no surprise that adults under 30 are at the highest risk of walking into traffic due to the ever-present distraction. Accidents caused by texting and walking now outnumber those from texting and driving.
A glance and smile from a cute stranger.
From the supermarket produce aisle to the line at the café, there are countless opportunities to meet new people -- but we have to be looking up in order to notice and take advantage of them.
The joy of a nice meal.
Instead of consuming your food through an Instagram filter, keep your smartphone away from the table. Without that distraction, you'll be able to appreciate the venue's aesthetic, your meal's mouthwatering aroma, and how your food actually tastes. Savoring the moment will likely prove a whole lot more satisfying than reliving the experience through social media.
The hopelessly-in-love couple in the park.
Whether you find it adorable or mildly nauseating, people-watching is far more entertaining than staring at your news feed before new updates roll in. Spend your lunch break sitting on a park bench, and observe life unfolding in real time.
The punch line of a hilarious joke.
It's never as funny the second time around, and no one wants to repeat it for you.
The ever-changing beauty of the seasons.
If there was ever a time to appreciate Mother Nature, it's when the chill of Winter is fading into the beautiful blooms and glowing greenery of Spring. Stop and smell the roses.
The company of loved ones.
Whether you're on vacation, spending a sunny Saturday afternoon outside or simply watching television at home together, leave your phone out of the mix. Even if you're not engaged in a deep conversation, signaling that you're available and approachable is likely to inspire more memorable moments than when you're zoning out with a game of Candy Crush.
An unexpectedly talented street performer.
The next time you hear music blasting in the train terminal, on the beach boardwalk or beneath the park bridge, look to see where it’s coming from and enjoy the spontaneity of the show -- and maybe even have a good laugh!
The pure joy of small children.
Take a pause to watch children playing, listen to their laughter and appreciate how their creative, uninhibited minds work. Who knows, maybe you'll be tempted to make time for a little more play in your own life.
The latest installation of graffiti art on your block.
Street art can be a rich source of everyday inspiration, so make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate it. It could inspire a creative idea, spark an emotional reaction or simply make your walk that much more interesting. Plus, the daily transformations will never cease to amaze you.
The closed door in front of you.
Someone telling you that they care.
It's likely that you've been caught staring at your phone while someone is speaking to you at some point or another. Guilty as charged. But next time, consider the importance of what they might be telling you, how much you actually want to hear it, and how badly they want to be heard. That unread text message can wait.
The story your child has been dying to share with you all day long.
Be just as diligent about scheduling in downtime as you are with prioritizing work time. It may be challenging to unplug, even if just for a few hours at the end of the day, but your loved ones (especially your kids) will appreciate your undivided attention when they're telling you about their day.
The beauty of natural light -- not what’s emitted from your smartphone.
A whole new world exists beyond that little screen. It's about time you look up and experience all that it has to offer.