6 Smart Ways to Unplug Without Shutting Down

If you’re reading this (and I so hope you are!), you will be experiencing the modern marvel of unplugging without shutting down.

This summer I’ve moved beyond the normal staycation and done something I’ve been thinking about doing for years: planned a real live vacation.

One where the language is foreign, the terrain unfamiliar, and the urge to be a tourist is stronger than the one where I merely flop on a beach in a rejuvenating coma. While it will be easy enough to find free Wifi, I already know I’d much rather be connected to the people I’m traveling with (our BBFs and my family) than anyone else.

Ditching the digital, however, may not be that simple, as for many of us staying connected isn’t a casual thing — it’s an actual addiction. From the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Baylor University professor James Roberts found that the average college student uses his/her cellphone nine hours a day and experiences classic symptoms of addiction including (in addition to excessive use) the loss of interest in other activities and painful withdrawal — from mild agitation when an iPhone is out of reach to full-on panic when a battery dies.

Riddle me this: is that JUST college students, or is it ALL of us?

Put your B.S. degree on hold here, and please be honest about your smartphone addiction.

And I’ll tell you the truth, too: While I would like a digital detox and could probably use a virtual Silkwood Scrub, the realities of my traveling companions (teens) and my own life as a blogger, is that it’s unlikely that we’ll fully unplug from the “grid.”

Before you say spoken like a true addict, let me just say that I live my life where anything in moderation goes, so this feels comfortable and realistic to me.

That said, I’m putting a few strategies in place to ensure that the balance is tipped in favor of our tuning in more (to each other) and turn on (our devices) less. I hope you’ll join me whether you’re on vacation in the next few weeks or not:

1) Fly through vacation on airplane mode: This just means that you’re not connected to Wifi. I’d like to thank my age-related memory loss for keeping me safe from manically flipping my phone out of airplane mode when I’m in Wifi-equipped cafes and other hot spots. I’m pretty sure I’ll keep thinking my dang phone doesn’t work and will forget to check my settings.

2) Bring a camera: OMG you guys, remember cameras? Those cute little contraptions that take pictures and then you can get them printed out or just even download them onto your computer later, once you’ve returned home. Reflecting on your journey and sharing the best of times with the whole damn world if you want is then much more appropriate and also much less distracting.

(NOTE: Airplane mode does allow picture taking. Then again, snapping pics with your smartphone is just another gateway drug — you start off taking a cute pic of your kids in front of some fabulous attraction or another, and before you know it you’re running full-stop in a cold sweat to the nearest Wifi to huff filters and shoot those images up on Facebook. My bitches, please — CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF!)

3) Embrace the pause: This is mindfulness-speak for stopping for one dang second before before taking an action. Zen Habits guru Leo Babauta says, “Addictions are something we often do automatically, without thinking. Start to break this chain of trigger-habit auto-response by wedging a small pause in between them. When you get the urge to check something you’re addicted to, notice this urge, and pause for just one second. During this pause, simply ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this, and why?” You can then go on to do it, no matter what the answer, but the important thing is having at least the briefest pause.” Amen to the Zen!

4) Tell your work peeps that you’re not actually working — for real this time: This includes YOURSELF, people! The smartphone addiction for us “grown-ups” dovetails nicely with our other addiction: workaholicism. It’s so damn easy to respond to emails, check out reports, and generally be available 24/7 that we’ve lost the ability to take a proper siesta. When you make a statement that you’re not available to work, you’re letting people know that you’re not drinking the Kool-Aid anymore. And doesn’t a nice fruity vacation drink sound much better, anyway?

5) Don’t have FOMO – Be the stuff that fuels the FOMO: FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is much of what drives our addiction to Facebook and other social channels. Keep in mind that being off the grid is something we all secretly — or even overtly — desire, and there is nothing to fear but fear itself. In other words, you’re not missing anything at all when you’re present in your own life. So admire the view from your own damn feet and forget about what beauty lies beyond (or between) someone else’s toes.

6) Do what comes naturally – it’s the ultimate reboot: Vacations are all about rest and relaxation, and guess what? These two things are EXACTLY what you need to reset your own operating system. Researchers at University of California, San Francisco found that down time allows the brain to process what it’s taking in and convert it to long-term memory. University of Michigan researchers found that people have much better retention after a walk in nature vs. through an urban environment, which supports the idea that the constant barrage of information takes a toll on our ability to learn. Things like sleep, laughter, sex (!), and making face-to-face contact with others all also have loads of research supporting their positive benefits.

So if you see me shutting down my devices — don’t panic! Like pre-writing this here post, I’ve planned ahead to stay connected even when I’m technically logged off. I’m just giving the old motherboard a break, and I hope you’ll  join me trading in some RAM for REM and enjoy some much-deserved downtime!