experiment: be alone with your thoughts

There aren’t a lot of times during the day when we can easily unplug. It’s to the point where everyone expects everyone else to always be available – just a phone call (or quick text message) away.

Even at work. I’ve seen people use their phones at work all the time for definite non-emergencies.

And not only that, but it’s become a bit of a crutch.

Don’t want to talk to the person on the LRT? Easy – just look at Facebook on your phone.
Don’t know what to say to the person that just got on the elevator with you? Not a problem – pull out your phone and haphazardly scroll through your old text messages.
Find yourself in an awkward silence during dinner? Thumb through your instagram.

There’s a cell phone related solution for every potentially uncomfortable situation.

And we sure take advantage.

But the extension of that is we’ve also starting leaning on our cell phones (and other technology) when we think we have nothing else to do, or when we just aren’t doing anything else with our hands.

It’s like we can’t be alone with our own thoughts. We’ve gotten used to having instant access to some form of entertainment. So much so, that when the entertainment isn’t there for a little while, all of a sudden our heads feel empty and uncomfortable.

Those of you who meditate won’t have this problem. For the rest of you, try something for me. It’ll only take a few minutes.

Sit yourself on the floor in front of a completely blank wall. Leave your phone in the other room, on silent.

And just sit there staring at the wall for 3 minutes, without looking around the room.

(I know – it sounds a little dumb, and you can imagine how funny you would look to someone who didn’t know what was going on. But do it anyway, okay. Right now. I’ll wait.)

—–

A little weird wasn’t it. Did you feel that empty and uncomfortable feeling I was talking about? It’s the same feeling that, were it to happen randomly throughout the day, would have caused you to pull out your phone and look at something, anything.

If you didn’t actually do what I said, at least imagine yourself doing it. Even that feels weird. You can imagine the feeling because, at some point, you’ve felt it too.

I am definitely not exempt from this phone reliance. A few months ago I had a phase where, if I couldn’t fall asleep at night, I would begin doing stuff on my phone, from Candy Crush to Netflix to Facebook, until my eyes felt tired. Half the time I feel asleep with my phone in my hand. Win. It doesn’t sound very glamorous though.

And it all makes me feel a little off because I know, when we are left to our own thoughts, some of the best things can happen. Just like how the tv-less conversations at dinner are the best. That’s when the magic happens.

So near the end of October, I tried this thing.

I plugged my phone in for the night in the living room, instead of beside my bed. (I can do this because my Fitbit vibrates on my wrist at 8:30 every morning as an alarm, so I don’t need my phone alarm.)

I also, for the first time since the feature was added, started using Do Not Disturb.

(On an unrelated note, try typing the word ‘disturb’ on your computer three times as fast as you can. It’s almost impossible to get right. Always takes me a few tries! If you can do it, please share your magic powers with me.)

The Do Not Disturb is activated from 11:30pm – 9:15am every single day.

Guys – it’s awesome.

Turns out I don’t really need my phone to make myself fall asleep at night. In the beginning, I would hop into bed (because that’s what people do) and stare at the ceiling. The empty uncomfortable feeling would be there and I had to resist getting up to grab my phone and check something.

Then all of a sudden, my Fitbit would be vibrating on my wrist. Morning time.

Now, that empty uncomfortable feeling isn’t even there. And it feels great.

On top of that, before, I would always check my phone first thing in the morning. Emails. Texts. Blog posts. News. Everything. While in bed. Now, obviously, I can’t do that anymore. So I have two choices – go back to sleep or get up.

So I just get up.

I’m still working on not going to my phone first thing and taking a look. You know, just in case something super important happened. But I’ve been getting better.

—–

Basically, it’s awesome.

So if you can, try it. Just for three nights (the first one is going to feel weird so you need the other two to really understand). And let me know how it goes.

Oh, and if you didn’t sit yourself in front of a blank wall for a few minutes when I told you to, go do it right now. Seriously, it’s not going to hurt anything.