Text, tweet, sleep, repeat. Text, tweet, sleep, repeat.
This mantra was so ingrained in my brain that I didn't even notice it was there. I was living a life in my screen and barely noticed what was around me. And if I ever did sneak a look away from the screen, the outside world was a blur. I needed something to yank me out of this virtual whirl and ground me in reality.
When my boyfriend and his friends invited me to go camping for a long weekend, I thought this was exactly what I needed. And the best part? There was absolutely no cell service.
Here's how detoxing from my phone for 48 hours helped me reset my well-being and develop a healthier relationship with my phone.
1. It completely changed my sleep routine.
I realized my bedtime routine is usually centered around one thing: my phone. Right before I go to sleep, I browse through my Facebook news feed (who got engaged now?) and check my email (how dare I miss an unread email before bed).
When I wake up in the middle of the night? Same thing. And when my alarm goes off in the morning, I kind of have to check if I've received any messages because my alarm is on my phone.
The problem with this is every night I feel in a constant state of anxiety, wondering and waiting for the next notification to pop up on my phone.
That weekend camping without my phone, I felt free. I fell asleep to the sound of crickets. And I woke up to the rain pattering against the tent, feeling completely restful and at peace.
2. It made me live in the present.
When I have my phone, I am obsessively checking the time and thinking of future plans. My mentality is: Who's going to text me now? What will we do next?
Without my phone, I truly savored what I was doing in the moment. Sitting by the river. Riding a tractor. Singing over the fire. There was no need to rush through any of it.
There was no set agenda or schedule. When did we eat? When we were hungry. When did we sleep? When we got tired. I listened to what my body wanted instead of what my phone was telling me to do.
3. I had more quality interactions with other people.
You know that moment when you're hanging out with a group of people and no one has anything to say? The typical response: Everyone immediately pulls out their phones.
So what did we do without this crutch to avoid awkward silences? We actually talked to eachother. Sure, there were some lulls in the conversation. But instead of burying our faces in our screens, we looked one another in the eye, had a moment of pure human connection and then continued talking. And you know what? People actually listened -- without any notifications from their phones fighting for their attention.
So, now what?
Now that I'm back in the real world, I haven't completely disregarded my phone. I'm grateful to be able to keep in touch with long-distance family and friends. And I do love the rapidly changing, exciting world of social media and ability to stay updated on my friends' lives -- even when we are thousands of miles apart.
But I do try to have a healthier relationship with my phone. I keep it away from my bed so I get a better night's sleep. I try to put it away when I'm hanging out with friends. And I make a point to pause, look up from the screen, take in my surroundings and breathe. I never again want to get so caught up in this virtual reality that I forget the physical world right behind me.
My new mantra: Sure I can text. Sure I can tweet. But don't forget to pause, look up and breathe.