Switch Off To Tune In

Here is an example of my typical working day:

My alarm goes off at 5:45am. My phone informs me of how well I have slept. I quickly check my social media apps and after 5 minutes of mindless scrolling it’s time to get up and go for a run. I get dressed, grab my earphones, turn on my running app (which conveniently connects to my playlist) and head out. Every 6 minutes or so my music is interrupted by a soft American female voice telling me how far I have run, for how long and how fast. I become a little deflated and a tad (ok, a lot) frustrated when I hear that the last kilometre was much slower than the previous two. Pressure is now on to get through this 5K run as quickly as I can. The goal has now become about beating my personal best and is no longer about getting out for a run as something I love to do. After a quick turnaround I am soon in my car preparing for the marathon commute ahead of me. I know the route to work like the back of my hand but I still switch on my navigation app, just to check the traffic and make sure everything is ok on the roads. The radio is on for company and travel updates and I’m off again.

I spend my lunchtime posting pictures of my food and envying the exotic and exciting lives of bloggers on social media. Thinking about dinner, I decide to sign up for a meal delivery box (an offer popped up on my social page while scrolling on my tea break) where all the food and recipes are chosen for me. Tick and tick. As the night creeps in my phone pings to let me know that I need to go to bed soon in order to get my 8 hours sleep. This is just one of the many reminders I got from my phone during the day notifying me about all sorts from the latest sales on my shopping app to prompting me to meditate.

I was constantly being monitored, watched, notified, reminded, enticed and targeted by my phone. Until one day I looked up from my phone and realised how little I was doing for myself. I was just going through the paces. Yes, I was successful with getting things done but something was lacking. I was running on this digital hamster wheel, going around and around, every day, every week. How long had I been doing this for? How had I become so reliant on this piece of technology? I used it for everything: getting directions, looking up places to eat, measuring my sleep, shopping, tracking my daily steps, running, weather updates, music, social media, messaging my family and friends, emailing for work. Ironically, I felt disconnected. I no longer relied on my gut instinct but rather was using external devices to govern and order my life.

I still needed my phone for some things but I needed to find balance. I looked at technology like seasoning for my food. A little salt can really enhance the flavour of a dish and, from what I have heard, when used in careful moderation, can actually be good for you. So why not use technology in the same way? Using it to complement my day to day living but not over indulging. There are many benefits for using technology and social media. We can use them learn and explore. We can be inspired and discover new things. We can connect with family and friends. But it’s just as important to make sure to make some time to learn, discover and connect with own selves too.

I started with running. I stopped going out with my phone because even if I wasn’t using my running app my phone was still tracking me. I also wanted to run without any music so that I could be fully aware of all the senses around me as I ran. Mindfully running. I felt liberated. I rediscovered my love and passion for running. I felt like a child again. There was no pressure to run a certain distance or to run it in a certain time. I suddenly saw and heard so much more. I greeted people whereas before I would have kept my head down and ignored them as I ran past. One day I spotted a heron in the field where I run…. was he/she always there before?

Another day while I was in London I challenged myself to get around by using the public street maps and asked for directions (although in London it’s pot luck if you get a tourist or city dweller!). It was a little slower but so much more satisfying!

At home, my husband and I have extended the “switch off” during mealtimes by turning the T.V off so that we can enjoy our food and have a proper chat without any interruption. I still use my phone for social media, emailing, diary reminders and phoning but there are new boundaries around this too, with limited duration and limited time-zones. This new-found freedom from my phone has led me back on the path to rediscovering my inner voice. It’s easy to lose connection with your gut instinct if your whole life is ruled by external devices. They help us keep all the plates spinning at once and we have become extremely efficient beings in this modern busy life. But at what cost? Are we becoming a species that no longer knows what we truly need or want?

Are we becoming desensitised to our gut instincts?

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed and disconnected, perhaps try dialling down the digital input and give yourself the space to tune in and listen to what your body, your soul, your heart is trying to tell you. Begin with small easy changes such as leaving your phone behind you when you go for an evening walk or switching it onto airplane mode during breakfast.

Not only can this help with strengthening connections with your true inner voice, but by switching off we can also begin to become more mindful. As we become more attuned by listening a little closer, this mindful practice is actually a form of meditation. Smells, sounds, sights, tastes and touch become more heightened. How exciting for our brains to experience all these sensations! Our mind becomes more actively stimulated, endorphins are released, we feel more awake, we feel more present, stronger memories are made and we can learn so much more. From this we feel happier, satisfied, more focused.

So why not give it a go? Make wholehearted, gut-leading choices. Delve deeper into the experience. Awaken your mind. Reaffirm your passions and discover new desires. Try tapping into your true instincts by switching of every now and again.

10 Moments of Mindfulness:

  1. Mindful movement – leave your phone behind you when you go out for a walk or a run. Look and listen to the sights and sounds around you.
  2. Eat with your eyes (and ears!) – turn off the telly, put the phone away and tune into your meal.
  3. Wind down Wednesday – reserve your Wednesday nights for a good book.
  4. Soulful sleeper – once a week (or at least once a fortnight) hold back on setting that alarm.
  5. Don’t be a stranger – look up from your phone ask locals for directions.
  6. Take it a step further – ask locals for recommendations for the best places to eat, drink and see.
  7. Lend me your ears – when meeting up with friends, everyone places their phone in the middle of the table. The next round of drinks or cake is on the first person to reach for their phone!
  8. Digital detox – this one comes from the beautiful Paula Hines (IG – @ucanyoga1) who is a leading advocate for #switchoffsundays
  9. Find your rhythm – stick on your favourite jam, close your eyes and move to the groove (draw the curtains if you’re feeling a little shy!).
  10. Nurture nature – spend some time with a furry friend, stop and listen to a bird song, take a moment to watch a beautiful sunset (resist taking a picture!), linger around the flower market and maybe even bring some of this beauty home as little treat.

Namaste.

Peace, love and light,

Emma Ahern   (@emma_wallace_ahern)

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