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How Taking A Break From My Phone Allowed Me To Take Control Of My Life

Photo by Kim S. Ly on Unsplash

Several months ago I started to spiral into the no-mans-land of news, social media and wasted time and energy. Without me even noticing, I would lose hours of time. I began noticing that I was anxious and felt I needed to keep checking the news for more news. Yes, I’m a news junkie.

In a way, you can’t blame me for acting like this. We live in a socially and politically charged environment. It seems that every few minutes there’s some ‘breaking news’ of the latest tabloid quality topic. It hops you up and leaves you feeling on edge, only to have yet another hot button issue arise minutes later.

It was these factors, along with the massive waste of time that made me take a break from my phone.

My phone may be smart but it’s only loaded with what helps me to function for my day and do my work. I don’t load up on social media apps because they’re storage and data hogs. I consider it a form of technological minimalism. My biggest vice is Chrome. From that little app, I can travel the world…and lose myself and time to boot.

Breaking The Habit

My decision to take a break was an easy one. Actually, I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms, although I did notice I kept glancing longingly at my phone every so often. My day usually starts with my coffee and, you guessed it, reading the news! I knew that while I slept something happened, and I was rarely wrong. I hate how people stay up all night doing things we’ll all be mad about when we wake up, lol.

My first day without a news fix was enjoyable. I noticed I was pretty calm. A bit confused about what to do with my spare time but actually beginning to get into the moment. I’m a big fan of mindfulness. It just doesn’t work when you’ve got your head in a phone.

I began to think. I mean really think, which was fun. The day was mine to do anything I wanted. Before this break, I’d find I was running behind on my schedule because I’d lost time. What I thought was a half-hour reading was really an hour-and-a-half. Because of this break, I discovered so much spare time that I started to plan things to do with it.

Time Was On My Side

I replaced pointless Facebook and Twitter time with starting a journal. It wasn’t really about writing about this experience, but rather a new positive habit I wanted to start. I would reserve my emails for later in the day when I could take the time to read and deal with each item right then and there. This eliminated the inbox clutter issue and enabled me to keep my information organized in folders, calendars, and to-do lists.

I couldn’t go on a total news fast since my husband was quick to click on the tv for his fix each evening. The funny thing is that after a time this news intrusion began to annoy me. My peaceful day was being invaded by the senseless chatter of tabloid trash. My addiction was broken!

My phone sat in the corner of my table looking lonely and unloved. It didn’t need charging very often and on occasion, I’d forget to reboot it for a day or two. I’ve never really been a slave to my phone, dragging it all around in my hand. It’s a tool, and to me, a lazy person’s internet when you don’t want to get the laptop out. It’s also a distraction though. We all use them for passing time. It’s our own private world we build with our choices of apps. I realized that my physical world beat the cyber world bigly.

A Brave New World

Within a month of my phone break, I’d established a solid pattern of journaling. I finally worked on the rebranding of our business, which I had been loathing to do. My mind was clearing and my focus and creativity were returning. I felt energized and lighter. Each morning I actually woke up refreshed and happy for another day.

I’m sure a good part of my happiness came from my no-news lifestyle, but I still attribute this change to the fact I just broke the phone cycle in my daily routine. In fact, my whole life started to change from doing this. My daily routine wasn’t routine anymore. I’d get up early to read, write or even run errands so I could have an afternoon to myself. I got so good at using this extra time that I had too much time to fill, and so I slipped.

Spiraling Out Of Control

I fell off the wagon. The weather was so hot and humid that you just didn’t want to move. No extra physical exertion was needed or wanted. So I tried to make myself comfortable indoors and pass some time. I didn’t have any books I wanted to read and t.v. bores me to tears, so the phone got my attention.

It started innocently enough. I just looked at my Facebook for a while…still boring. Then Twitter, where I decided to unfollow news groups, then I searched for new people to follow, then I looked at their news, then my local news. You get it. Next thing you know, I’m getting excited again and liking it.

Next to go was the daily journaling. It was so bad that I missed an entire month and I didn’t care. I started finding reasons to read stuff on my phone. I was too lazy to get the laptop out, so I filled my phone with Feedly and Pocket to enable my reading habit. The last straw came when I reinstalled Instagram.

I was on a downward spiral. I had regressed to the level I had started at and felt horrible. All my progress was lost, or so it seemed. I missed my better self. The person who felt good about facing another day and having time to really live my life in the present.

A Fork In The Road

All was not lost since I knew my way back to that wonderful world I created. It just took focus and starting over and so I did. I realized from this situation just how addictive our technology is. How something as simple as a phone can change your entire life and world…good or bad.

I’ve taken a new position with my phone relationship. Yes, it is a relationship. This little device is part of your daily life 24–7–365. You scream and cry when it breaks or dies. You drag it all around with you like a child, never leaving it unattended. You buy stuff for it and give it your full attention, even though it’s an inanimate object.

I’m relegating the importance of my phone back to its original purpose…to be a tool. Nothing more. I’ve found that being actually present in real time [the fact that we even have this phrase should tell you something] is far better than zoning out in a false world I’ve created. I like taking walks outside and seeing nature. I like meeting people and smiling and talking to them. I like the peace and quiet that has come into my life. I like feeling productive and positive with the ability to set and attain goals successfully. I like talking to my husband instead of looking away from him into my phone. This list goes on and on.

I’m so glad that I did this. Even when I slipped it showed me how important this change has been. I didn’t get mad about losing ground, in fact, it helped me realize how serious this situation is. I was at a fork in the road. To choose technology meant I would get lost in some false world. To break free from its grip meant living in the moment; enjoying and actually experiencing life as it really is. I choose life.

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Reawakening is letting go of unnecessary things while reclaiming lost passions and creativity: life, lessons, and learning.