• Pam Clark

Choosing a scene over a screen

Hi folks, I hope this finds you well. 

I had myself a mini-digital detox last week. It should’ve been the school half term, and whilst we weren’t camped in beautiful Welsh countryside enjoying Big Retreat Wales it felt like a good time to down tools and take a break.

Like many of you in these topsy turvy times I find myself balancing, to varying degrees of success, work, schooling, house-admin with a desire to stay connected with the “real” world. Our days are full so my intentions of lifting the phone for a much needed catch up are soon replaced with a swipe of my phone onto social media, whatsapp or a quick text.

As a society our daily chats with colleagues at the coffee machine or with the local shop assistant have been replaced with swift, fear fuelled semi-clinical functional exchanges – the gentle ebb and flow of social interaction feels like it has much more of a jaggedy edge in recent weeks. I was mindful that if I wanted to really enjoy my stay-cation* then taking a proper step back from the screen would be a useful endeavour (*apologies for using this incredibly naff term)

By pure coincidence I happened to have started reading Nick Spalding’s latest book “Logging off” a light and entertaining read of one man’s experience with digital addiction and his many adventures once he steps back from the screen tapping -  so what did I realise on my own mini-version?

1. I pick my phone up numerous times throughout the day. It may be for a specific task but in truth I was often was looking for a momentary distraction, or felt a bit tired, lonely or fancied a nose at the outside world – frequently I didn’t actual connect with the task I intended. Having one less icon (Facebook in my case) limited the time on my phone as I could nip on and off again more efficiently.

2. When I shared a social media post this would lead to a greater number of check-in’s afterwards to see how it had been received – and this would occupy my thoughts far more too. If I wasn’t posting I didn’t need to do the follow up  - more time for me – hurray!

3. Letting the world in comes at a price. Headlines are written to entice you in – and are often alarmist or sensationalist for that very reason. That quick scan-read or comment can stay with us for a good while afterwards. This is grand when it’s a happy vibe (skipping through meadows) but if it’s a medical update, expression of political frustration or an outright attack – that can cause a spike in our stress hormones that can stay with us for many hours.

4. I had experiences that will remain in my head; but not on my camera roll. I’m not the best at taking photos but I do often reach for my camera to capture a moment that I’ll send to family or friends in Scotland, or plonk onto social media. This past week found myself just staying where I was – enjoying the view from my bike, chatting to the kids a bit longer, being a bit more still.

It felt good.

5. Zoom-doom: This has been a great way to connect with clients and friends but Zoom fatigue is now a recognised phenomenon. Online connection requires more concentration to pick up on those non-verbal cues, especially if the connection isn’t tip top, plus it’s easier to slot in more calls and not move, take a break and stretch our weary bods. A zoom-free week was a welcome addition.

I'm using my own experiences but this is a universal phenomenon; one study found that we now look at our smartphones an average of 52 times a day, often more when on holiday. Of course these behaviours are giving us something; technology activates the same regions of the brain and is fuelled by the same basic human needs as drugs and alcohol, with similar withdrawal symptoms too. We know that excess tech has negative implications on our mood, gut, sleep, libido, weight and general well-being.

But, in contrast, staying abreast of world events, growing our interests and genuinely connecting with people we love and admire can have a positive impact on our well-being.

But what does this all mean for us in the modern world and what can we do about it?

Here are a few options to consider:

  • Schedule your check-in’s: I’m back on FB, as it has its merits – but I now check it three times a day only, I do the same with my email and phone notifications.

  • Take a break - regularly. Not moving for hours is inflammatory it itself - now more than ever there is merit to reducing inflammation. I've installed a mini-trampet in my office and set a timer to have a quick bounce with number 2 offspring every 40mins - it's surprisingly refreshing!

  • Choose your tech landscape: Could you remove apps or notifications on your devices and allow for tech-free zones or times in your home? I pop my phone onto airplane mode as I sleep and much to their abject horror our kids aren't allowed their phones in their bedrooms at night (#worstparentsever).

  • Be selective: Free speech is a valuable commodity but we can limit our exposure to materials or people who bring more jangle than joy. FB now offer a “take a break” option from some of our contacts, a more temporary alternative to “unfollowing” or unfriending.

  • Enjoy the now: Noticing the weight of the kettle in your hand, properly listening to the kiddy-chatter, feeling the souls of our feet in our shoes all help to bring us back to the moment we’re in and there is an abundance of research to support the long term health benefits of these mindful behaviours.

  • Switch off the camera: Might opting for a phone-call enable us to walk as we talk and really concentrate on the voice at the end of the call?

  • Real flesh over filtered photo: Following your local guidance, meeting for a socially distanced walk could be a great way to mix things up and combine exercise with connection - often hearing someone else's narrative can offer perspective on our own circumstances.

The reality is there is no right or wrong - just what feels good for you. I know I still have much work to do but, as I say to my clients, it's about progress to perfection - whatever you do - do it with a healthy click of self-love and compasion.

If you feel ready to take action on your health and well-being then please do reach out and book a complementary consultation with Pam.

Sending you love and light until next time,

Pam x

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