It's been a while . . . how are you?
I'm back from my digital detox and what a difference a few weeks can make!
After the first month of the detox I was starting to arrive into the head space I was hoping for ~ new patterns to my day, a clearer mind and a healthier balance between my work and personal life. It's so easy to let work take over and consume every moment in the pursuit of perfection.
So in the name of exploration, for the last month, I decided to immerse myself fully into the whole experience and cut off completely ~ including here in the blog ~ to see if there were more shifts to experience, and to reflect upon the time more deeply for a larger chunk of time.
Doing a weekly round-up was great for the first month, and if I'm being totally open, the knowledge that I would be logging in here once a week to (sort-of) hang out with you made me feel like I was keeping a toe in the warm, familiar digital pool.
So I decided to take the second half fully away and on reflection, I can see all the small differences that were adding up became even more noticeable when looking back at the last month as a whole, rather than the day-to-day reflections I was giving on a weekly update. So sorry for the silence, but it worked out well!
Things I was looking for . . .
I was hoping to gain insight into how different areas of my life altered when not tapping into the online world ~ not just from a social media perspective, but email subscriptions, streaming movies & TV, shopping online, booking tickets to events, relying on Siri and Google to answer any questions I had rather than working them out for myself, or I hate to say it, thinking deeply on a subject instead of finding someone else's answers in a published article.
Each day I made a note on a scale from 1 ~ 10 on factors such as
- overall mood // feeling
- how I slept
- daily fatigue levels
- the rush factor in my day
- connection with friends & family
- the quality of meditation
- inner peacefulness // balance
- creativity // inspiration
- anxiety levels
- a sense of wellbeing
- feelings of validation
What I found . . .
Now being a complicated human (who isn't?) these ratings fluctuated from day to day and looking back over the last two months, the quality of my wellbeing clearly rose as a whole.
It would be hard to convey these without writing an epic mega-post but to summarise;
- Overall mood // feeling ~ this lifted steadily. Factors such as stress did bear an influence but I found it much more easy to bounce back when something big was going on. I like to think of my happiness levels at a resting level of 7 and I'd say like most people, there are good days and not so good, but without the added busy mind, I feel more enriched and spent much more time doing things to add value to my days than moving through them unconsciously, devices in hand.
- How I slept ~ what a great thing to have recorded! It's rare for me to have problems sleeping but I am conscious of the power of good sleep rather than light.
I use a Moov to monitor daily activity and sleep, and although I tend to have undisturbed sleep, it can be light in quality. Ideal nights sleep for me is 7 - 8 hours but I can sleep much longer if I'm really tired. The Moov monitors light sleep and restorative sleep (where all the mind & body magic happens) and optimum levels of restorative sleep should be between 30% and 50% per night.
Before the detox (with phone charging next to my bed), I was averaging at 32% restorative sleep. By the end of the two months (no phones or devices in the bedroom), I am now averaging 43% per night. This can also come down to other factors such as more time spent doing regular exercise too. More on that in a moment . . .
- Daily fatigue levels ~ I believe in line with the better quality sleep this was positively impacted too. The afternoon nap feeling dwindled down and my morning ritual became easier by the day to become established as my new 'normal'.
- The rush factor in my day ~ now this definitely dropped! I estimate wastage of up to 3 hours a day doing non-essential online 'stuff'. I'm not talking about proper online interactions, but scrolling, browsing online stores, Googling, reading unnecessary emails. It all adds up and I am thrilled to say two areas of my life that I felt were seriously lacking was gym time (mostly compromised as it was the easiest thing to remove from my to-do list) and time spent reading or creating.
I have been able to establish a great swimming routine once more. I find this to be a highlight of my day and am so happy I've been able to build it back in. I've always been a water lover so it's not just exercise, but also a time for head-space.
I love to draw and this is something I had stopped completely, and reading time was at an all-time minimum. My continued development as a coach is high on my list of priorities and I'm so glad to say this is now back at a priority level, along with my sketchbook.
- Connection with friends and family ~ honestly, this was mixed. My online friendships and connections dipped, purely because of our regular means of communication disappearing, but my 'real-life' friendships became even better. Some online connections who are also real-life connections developed beautifully too. I'm putting this down to the smartphone absence when we were together and not relying on catching up via an online platform to speak - we actually needed to get together or talk on the phone.
Time spent on the phone, at parties, festivals, dinners out and trips increased and the feeling of being really present was a feeling I can't quite put into words, other than to say 'I had a fantastic summer!'
- The quality of meditation // inner peacefulness & balance ~ I'm wrapping these two up because it felt like they went hand in hand. I had some coaching while I was away and although I had been someone who enjoys a daily meditation practice, I feel like I'd gotten into a place of going through the motions to tick it off my daily routine.
This experience helped me allocate time better and in turn, I was able to use meditation and mindfulness in new ways. I experienced a lot less chaos in my mind and as a result, stress levels decreased and my feelings of balance and peacefulness started to blossom.
Perfectionism has been rearing its ugly head a lot less and I find I'm not needing to keep that part of me in check so closely. It's still there and I have learned to embrace it, but it's not such a big factor anymore.
- Memory ~ oh memory! All I can say is this . . . I LOVE BEING ABLE TO REMEMBER MY OWN THOUGHTS! An overall improvement from a 3 or 4 out of 10 to a 9! I can't tell you what a striking difference this has had! I'm not talking about the monumental stuff, but short-term things like appointment times, fleeting thoughts that run through our minds, not losing track of a conversation mid-flow or forgetting what I was about to do because another browser window took my interest.
I feel like I'm back inside my own head and this has also had a positive impact on my productivity and focus.
- Creativity // inspiration // productivity ~ as I mentioned in the daily rush experiences, having more time enabled space for creativity and inspiration. I have loved the feeling of being excited to create on a work and hobby level and the beauty of all this is the more you create, the more creativity flows. A very welcomed plus side to ditching the digital.
I am very conscious to not let this slip back and the upshot of more creative expression has meant a huge upturn in productivity too. My client work has felt even more creative and from a behind-the-scenes perspective, I have made strides in areas that I was procrastinating on.
- Anxiety levels // sense of wellbeing ~ this surprised me because as a whole, I'm not someone who suffers from anxiety in the traditional context, but I could sense at times of stress that feelings of anxiety could rise to a point where I was having to give thought to them.
I was taking a few minutes here and there to have a conversation with myself to find the root of the unrest and often it was coming down to having such a full and busy mind.
For me, this was motivation to keep them in check and I'm happy to say they are now lovely and low ~ just as I like it. I am sure at times of general life chaos they will surface, but as my overall wellbeing has improved, they can be kept in check and reasoned through without thinking the worst could happen. As one of life's eternal optimists, I'm not comfortable being in the space of preparing for the worst.
- Feeling of validation ~ now this was very interesting. Those of you who know me on social media know how active I was before this time away. Daily Periscope broadcasts, updates on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. All ways in which I realised I was showing the very best version of my life and work. Interactions I have with people make me very happy!
I'm a sunshine kinda girl so some of the energy I get comes from external sources and my connection with people. Working for myself means a lot of this comes from social media unless I'm face to face with people. I'm a highly intuitive person so when people feel things, I am affected by that, positively and negatively.
Removing this window to the world was a bigger deal than I thought. My validation didn't dip as such, but it certainly came in different ways. The red dot of interaction on my apps wasn't there but I learned to appreciate myself and see how others appreciate me in a real-life way and so the validation changed shape and it actually felt much more real. I could talk about this on such a deep level but for the sake of keeping this post a summary, I'll stop here, for now.
How life is looking . . .
I've been back in the digital world for 7 days now and am trying not to have a polarised view on it. There have been moments where I rolled my eyes and thought "that's exactly why I started this", coupled with moments of laughing until my face hurt. You only need to search the hashtag #askmattgoss to see why social media can be so wickedly hilarious . . .
I have come to realise just how important our digital connection is, but am also aware now of how much I let in. A recent study shows that compared to 20 years ago, we now take on the equivalent of 117 newspapers worth of extra information a day. That's on top of all the usual stuff - can you imagine the strain that must put on ourselves? No wonder as a race we're coping with more stress-related dis-ease than ever before.
I've realised that I can disconnect from the noise if I choose to, but equally, I don't want to lose my sense of community in the digital arena by becoming out of touch. I have some great friends and professional connections who I enjoy interacting with and missed them very much while I was gone.
This experience hasn't just changed my approach to the digital world, I have been moving through my days in a much more conscious state. Less auto-pilot, more presence. I'm taking enough time to sit with my thoughts and ideas instead of rushing them through my mind and now have a deeper understanding of my own preference levels between how much I let people into my life and opening up too much. It's no problem with friends and people I trust, but on certain platforms, everything is public and how much of myself do I really want to share with strangers while trying to balance being an active part of the community?
My shopping habits have changed for the better ~ instead of trawling for hours online fooling myself that I'm saving time and money I am enjoying the experience of going shopping again. Not only does it take me out of my own space, but I'm excited by the thought of what I'll find instead of being on autopilot buying the same things over again online.
I'm not sure if it's the combination of personal service along with time spent with a friend, or the sense of satisfaction at finding something I love because I'm there in the moment ~ whatever it is, I love it!
I've been more open to opportunity that comes my way, I'm in my stretch zone in terms of how I'm marketing my business and my diary has never looked so organised (thank you Bullet Journal. You've been a revelation!) Armed with my Moleskine and having more structured working hours feels like I'm in control of my diary rather than the other way round.
Another plus has been consciously choosing to take a single-task approach to everything I do. Traditionally I would have many windows and apps open at one time, skipping between items on my to-do list, all in the name of staying caught up, but I am now fully converted to a one thing at a time approach (and yes, this includes FaceTiming while wondering how I managed to ruin another perfectly good dinner. Sigh).
There was a recent study which showed how the brain can't function at its highest level if we are effectively portioning out different parts of it to different tasks. One thing at a time can allow the brain to function at its best on each item before moving onto the next. Full attention really is the key to achieving great results and saving time.
So in conclusion, I feel much more 'me'. Like I'm inside my own head again and not playing catch-up with an always busy world. I'm off the hamster wheel of information overload and being more respectful of my time.
It's not to say I am turning my back on a digital life, I appreciate it is essential in our modern world, but I am being more careful about what I choose to let in. Unsubscribing to email lists, watching less TV, being more mindful of what I invite into my feeds on social media. I will enjoy my experience rather than feel absorbed into it.
I was talking with a friend about the last two months and I said it felt like a bubble bath for my brain. It felt silly at the time, but the more I think about it, it's true. Some time to wash away the excesses, restore my mind and go forward with a bright and clean perspective.
I may make getting fully life connected a regular part of my year . . .