The difference between my kids’ childhoods and my own is striking, which has presented us with new challenges for self-care. If you’re around my age (I was born in 1983) or older, you’ll probably remember many of the same things that I do from my childhood:
The dial tone of a phone (we finally ditched our landline altogether in 2012). A corded phone. “Be kind, rewind.” The phone book, made out of paper. Non-instant access to information. Using a paper map to navigate to new places. Dropping a roll of film off to get developed, with plans to pick it up a week later. Record players, walkmans and discmans. And – a world without internet.
You see – we’re the last generation to have started out in the pre-internet world. My kids were born into a digital world, and will never know otherwise. It’s kinda nuts when you think about it.
This modern, digital world that we live in has definite perks. Buying things from your living room and having them delivered to your front door while you’re still in your pajamas? Yes, please. And whoever invented the google maps GPS system has my undying love and affection for life. (#directionallychallenged)
But the downfalls – oh, there are many – are apparent as well. Our screen-driven world has literally changed our brain wiring.
I recently read an interesting New York Times article talking about this issue that said: “Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.”
Sounds crazy at first, until you start noticing it in your own life.
Having first encountered this conversation several years ago, I have been practicing four small disciplines that have been key in my self-care, especially as it relates to our digital world.
4 Ways to Practice Self-Care In a Digital World
Schedule unscheduled time
About once a week or so, I schedule a morning or afternoon of “Nothing”. It’s a time in my calendar when I don’t pre-schedule anything. It’s also a time when I don’t allow myself to work or zone out on the computer or phone, but instead sit and let my mind rest for a bit, then do whatever comes to mind that I feel like doing (non-tech-related).
Take a bath, maybe. Scrub the bathroom? Maybe. (Sometimes a good cleaning session is good for the soul.) The only rule is that it cannot feel frantic, and it mustn’t be pre-planned.
Practice the art of silence
This has been an enlightening experiment for me over the last few months. My tendency with “gap times” (ie. driving anything longer than 5 minutes, sitting and waiting for an appointment, etc.) is to compulsively seek to fill that gap.
I pull out my phone for the usual routine – check social media, mess around, generally contributing nothing, learning nothing, and doing nothing but pass the time so that my brain doesn’t have to feel a moment of boredom.
Instead, lately, I’ve been intentionally leaning in to the silence of driving somewhere and not listening to a podcast or the radio, or cooking without netflix in the background or music playing.
When I let the roar of quiet settle over me, my mind takes a bit of an exhale, then starts jabbering on and on – relieved that I finally let it get a word in edgewise. My mind wanders and processes, and it feels proper – like something every mind should experience daily. I’ve been doing my best thinking here lately.
Time surrounded by nature
When I need an actual physical break from tech, and my brain needs a hard reset in order to feel refreshed, I go to nature. There’s just something about the big open sky, the trees, the sound of the wind and water, and the beauty of it all that refreshes my soul, and fills me up. There’s a really great place on the river near my house, and it’s totally therapeutic to me, every time I visit.
Reading paper books
I think the kindle is the coolest invention. Seriously. Unfortunately, however, I just can’t bring myself to fall in love with it. I’m pretty much at my max with screen time. I even ended up with a prescription for glasses for computer eye strain at my last visit to the optometrist!
So what I crave is good old ink and paper books. It feels so nostalgic and comforting to me to hold a book in my hands, losing myself in the pages.
I’m a faithful patron of my local library (and a consistent donor via overdue fine payments, ahem) and love getting a real book out so that I can unplug and focus on a different medium.
One of my favourite quotes of all time is one from Anne Lamott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a minute, including you.”
How do you practice self-care in a digitally-obsessed world?
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