Preparing for the National Day of Unplugging: No Time Like the Present

-TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY TUPAC POINTU- A person poses using a smartphone to hire a chauffered car on Februay 1, 2013 in Paris
-TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY TUPAC POINTU- A person poses using a smartphone to hire a chauffered car on Februay 1, 2013 in Paris. Despite a higher rate than taxi, chauffered car services become more and more popular. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE VERDY (Photo credit should read PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Day of Unplugging is just around the corner -- March 1. What's amazing about this movement is it predates Facebook having started in 2002! I learned about it a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. Once I started to unplug, I honestly haven't been able to stop. I now embed unplugging into my daily life and we unplug as a family at least weekly. It's just part of our family culture.

This isn't just about time away from screens and allowing my kids to maximize their true developmental potential. I truly find that I feel better when I have regular time unplugged just allowing myself to be in the moment. And, I can see a huge difference in my family when they allow themselves time to explore the world without plugs, too. They are all happier, more productive and more interactive socially - not just within our family but with friends and the greater world.

The National Day of Unplugging may not be for two more weeks but there's no time like the present to get a bit of practice under your belt and reap the benefits sooner than later. And, what better day to start your dip into unplugged life than Valentine's Day. Let's be honest, unless we're in a long distance relationship where Skype is the best we can pull off, being truly in the moment is so much sweeter than capturing snipits between each other's moments of checking this, that and the other digital site.

If you're new to unplugging, I've pulled together 15 ways to help you get acclimated to a new way of thinking about how you spend your time, alone and with others. These ideas will help you build momentum to March 1, a full day of unplugged life, if you choose the challenge. If you're already an unplugged convert, add these to the mix.

I'll be the first to admit, being away from technology can take some getting used to. It becomes much easier with practice and time. If you feel lost on any given day, create as much space as you can between you and you're carry and go technologies. Trust me! The less you can see and grab your phone, computer, iPad, game system, or whatever else you typically carry, the easier it is to learn to go without.

Ready to give this a whirl?

Dr. Gwenn's daily lead-up to National Day of Unplugging:

1 Valentine's Day: Enjoy a completely unplugged meal with the important person or people in your life.

2 Go for an unplugged walk -- leaving the cell phones at home or in the car. You can go on your walk by yourself, with a friend or with family. This is a fantastic unplugged activity anytime, any day. In fact, if the weather is bad, hit your local mall. Most malls have early opening times so walkers can walk. Its a great time to be unplugged. They pipe in the music. You won't have the distractions of your phone or computer and you can just walk and avoid the icky weather.

3 Read a book or magazine with pages. I know --old school. But refreshing once in a while to get away from screens or plugs. And, it avoids the temptation to check email and social media sites like Facebook. Indulge yourself with something you've been meaning to read and set aside some time each day over the next 2 weeks. Even 20-30 minutes a day of "real reading" can truly free the mind.

4 Turn on the tunes (Ok, this may be "plugged" but does create an atmosphere for unplugged life) -- and just close your eyes and let your mind wander and relax, or do something unplugged while enjoying the music. Perhaps you've been meaning to try a new recipe or paint a room in your house.

5 Family Game Night: Pull out a game, a real game with a board or a puzzle, sit around the table and enjoy the fun.

6 Take a bubble bath complete with candles and music. Again, cell phone can't be in sight or you'll be "that person" who can't be anywhere relaxing without his or her phone. This is your time to chill. The phone kills the mood.

7 Want an unplugged challenge? Run your usual errands but leave the cell phone at home. This can take getting used to but is so liberating. You just wander through your usual stores, doing your usual thing but no beeping, tweeting, texting. Yes, there will be messages on your phone when you get back... but the world will not have stopped spinning. Once upon a time this is how we all lived. We can exist like this and teach those in our lives to exist like this -- at least once in a while.

8 Plan lunch with a friend and use the cell phone game to resist peering at them. The game is simple. Stack them face down on the table, first one that looks, pays the bill.

9 Go to a local coffee shop and actually have coffee doing something unplugged: read, write some real cards, meet a friend and talk (if you do this, use the phone stacking game in #8).

10 Grab a real camera, one not in a cell phone or tablet and explore somewhere interesting snapping frequently. You'd be surprised how liberating viewing the world through the lens of a camera - any camera - is.

11 Make a ritual to have hot chocolate with your kids after school and chat about the day - sans any technology! After a moment of awkwardness, they'll love having you to themselves to chat with. Just let them take the lead and be open to where the conversation goes.

12 Spend an hour with a hobby you "never have time for," or try a new one. I recently learned Ukulele and its one of the best unplugged moments of my day!

13 Take in a concert or show. Some of my favorite venues are the local ones and many are at restaurants. You can grab a loved one, eat and enjoy some live music or a show after. Without the distraction of the plug, the experience is so incredible.

14 Visit a museum in your area. Perhaps there's an exhibit you've wanted to see or a museum you never get to.

15 Find a lecture or talk on something new and different. So many museums, centers and adult ed areas have experts giving talks on all sorts of topics -- it can be fun to just go to one once in a while and expand our circle of ideas.

If you think of other ways to unplug, I'd love to hear from you. Tweet me at @drgwenn.

And, let me know how unplugged day went for you.

Now, power down and enjoy giving these unplugged tidbits a try.