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Disconnect to reconnect: Is this possible?

Disconnect to reconnect

Disconnect to reconnect

If I say to you: “Why don’t you…”, your age and where you were brought up will probably dictate your answer. Those of you in my (undefined!!) age bracket who lived in the UK as kids will likely reply immediately….

…just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead!”

“Why don’t you…” was on television during the school holidays when I was a child. It’s aim was to encourage children to get outside and do something fun, creative, physical, bonkers – you name it, but anything other than sitting in front of a screen. Now that was 4 decades ago (OK, given it away there) but my, how much we need that advice today.

There is a growing voice on – ironically – social media, the radio, and in print that is talking about the need we modern livers have to disconnect from our 24 hour technology and release and restore our brains. I have spoken about this often, and am increasingly aware of the challenges and temptations to engage in all-things-screen as I watch my children grow up. Technology is not going to go away, and there are some great devices, gadgets, games, apps, out there that have transformed how we live.

But as I say to my children, we choose to control technology, not have it control us. We need to learn to disconnect to reconnect.

As we meander through the implications and challenges of living in a society where burnout is becoming increasingly common, this need to disconnect is crucial. I know of 20-somethings who recognise that they are addicted to their smart phones. I heard of a primary school age child who refused a school residential trip because he could not be away from his games consoles and phone. I know the impact on my brain in the deepest recesses of the night when I can’t sleep and can’t switch off and my head is in a vice and the electronic noise is crushing.

So – how do we learn to disconnect to reconnect?

  • who is in charge – you or your phone? What messages are you giving to those around you about how important they are versus who is texting or messaging you? Consider what is most important to you now – and what you are setting up for the future. Create boundaries around technology use when with family and friends.
  • it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to an original task after an interruption. So imagine at work, constantly having emails ping whilst you are trying to focus on some significant project or task. Research published in The New York Times in 2013 suggested that allowing ourselves to be constantly interrupted by texts or social media – trying to do two things at once – is actually robbing us of brain power. So switch off distractions. Focus on the task at hand, and then once completed, stop. Resist the temptation to revisit it endlessly and fret. Accept when you have done enough and let it go.
  • put time limits on use of social media
  • work out what the life-giving, refreshing alternatives for you are to constantly being plugged in. The more you know yourself, the more you can be in control of choices. A good book, a talk with a friend, exercise or a walk, a hot bath, listening to music, a social activity, craft or hobby. Whatever it is, what restores and refreshes your weary, over-connected brain and allows you to switch off? Unless you have a viable, attractive alternative lined up, it is all too easy in our brain-weary state to feel we have to be available constantly, push ourselves too hard, not let work go, trawl mindlessly through pages of internet.

So this week, I encourage us to look long and hard at when we are connected electronically, to what and – crucially – why.

And what are we disconnected from as a consequence.

What is most important to us? How can we disconnect to the technological world and reconnect to the actual world?

 

 

 

 

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