I recently took a trip to Jamaica for a week. It was heaven. The weather was warm and the water was turquoise. It was everything my husband and I needed. Before we left, I decided not to purchase the international plan and limit my cell phone usage. I restricted it to twice a day when I had access to Wi-Fi, primarily to check in back home. During a time when people are addicted to screens, struggle with the fear of missing out (FOMO) and anxiety over keeping up with texts and emails, I knew that this would not be an easy task even on vacation. There are seven lessons that I’ve learned from unplugging for those seven days that I am excited to share with you.
I actually experienced my vacation
As someone that loves to document experiences, being without my phone was an all-new challenge for me. Most of the time, I left it at the hotel so I wasn’t behind the screen taking or editing pictures. I was just living in the moment. It dawned on me that while pictures are great reminders of memories, fully experiencing the events are just as important. I also learned that other people can take pictures too. It isn’t my sole responsibility and that, in itself, was freeing. We ended up with more pictures than I ever thought we would. My husband took some, other guests took some of us and there were professional photographers at the resort that were happily taking pictures hoping they’d take one you liked enough to purchase.
Our connection was stronger
My husband and our vacation had my undivided attention. I wasn’t distracted, or worse, multitasking but was present in every moment and our connections were far stronger. I never realized just how many little moments I miss when I’m scrolling social media or checking an email or text. We made eye contact and fully listened to each other and our relationship, naturally, grew stronger.
Time was my own again
Another lesson I learned from unplugging for seven days was just how much time I waste on my phone. We were so active and felt like we had so much time. We didn’t have any more than we would on a typical day off but I realized that social media is such a time suck! Years ago, my sister-in-law showed me how to check the time you spend on Facebook. I remember thinking that it was interesting but I never looked at how much time I was spending since then. After limiting my time for that week, I am ever conscious of that feature and am definitely using it moving forward.
I slept better
It is common for me to do one final check before I go to bed. Often times, I’m lying there checking emails, responding to any missed texts or checking my feed. In Jamaica, I didn’t do that. I simply went to bed. This led to longer and better sleep where I wasn’t dreaming about something I saw on social media. I also moved my phone away from the nightstand, where I usually keep it. I realized that seeing that blinking light in the middle of the night is what wakes my mind up and then I struggle to fall back asleep. For more scientific explanations on sleeping better without your phone, click here.
There was more room for mindfulness
Being fully present on this trip also increased my ability to be mindful. I paid more attention to how I felt, what I was thinking and, at times, what was missing. So often, I go through the day on autopilot without realizing that my body or my instincts were trying to tell me something or that I’m doing something that has no real purpose. I was very open to this in Jamaica and, even though we were very busy, I was very mindful of everything I did and why. This was a very valuable lesson learned.
There was no stress
I learned that by having two designated times of checking in that I didn’t feel any stress about what I was missing or needed to respond to. My family knew that I’d check in and respond to any issues that arose then. It was also a way of letting them know that I was safe from whatever excursion we took that day. There was absolutely no pressure to respond to emails or texts or keep up with everything that was coming in.
I am more dependent on technology than I would’ve guessed
Going into this I had some anxiety about having limited access to my phone and I knew that it would be a challenge at times. What I didn’t expect was how many benefits I realized from it. I survived and lived to tell about these seven lessons I learned after unplugging for seven days! All joking aside, cell phones are great for communication. I also believe that there are times that I misuse it. When we got back to the United States and I could text, call and freely use my apps, I quickly fell back into those habits of overusing my phone. It’s easy to do and not even realize I’m doing it. I had to mindfully set some limits for myself because, at the heart of it, my quality of life is better when I’m living the life that’s right in front of me instead of living it through a screen. Trust me, yours is too.