The Unplug and Recharge Challenge: Breaking Our Always-Connected Addiction
Hello, our names are Ellen and Arianna, and we are PDA-aholics. No, were not addicted to public displays of affection (as nice as they may be). Were addicted to our personal digital assistantsour iPhones and BlackBerrys, and all the other digital devices we cant live without (iPods and laptops and Kindles, etc.). Thankfully, were both on the road to recovery.
Ellens story: I first realized I had a serious problem during a family vacation in Key West last February. At breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, even at the pool, I was never untethered. I was even on it during our Everglades tour, as my husband, my kids, and I stood a few feet away from about 20 alligatorsat least I think they were alligators. What's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, anyway? Hey, let me Google that for us right now! My husband told me that he was going to throw it (and my laptop!) into the swamp. Or me.
Between my BlackBerry, my laptop, my iPod and oh, yeah, the TV too, I literally dont have a single “unplugged” moment all day. And boy do I feel wiredand not in a good way!
Ariannas story: My “aha moment” also came on vacation. It happened a few years ago, as I stepped off a tender to board a friend's boat anchored off the coast of Cannes. My BlackBerry was tucked into my shoulder bag. A shoulder bag with a small snap. A small snap that came open. A soft splash drew my attention. And I watched my BlackBerry sink into the sea. The finality was absolute. It wasn't as if I'd misplaced it and, after tacking up fliers and putting out a household-wide APB (All Pursue BlackBerry), would eventually track it down. Sure I had closure, but closure of the worst kind.
The only good to come from the loss was that it finally brought me face-to-face with my addictionthe reality brought home by the response of my friends, who all suddenly started treating me as if I'd suffered a major loss. And that's when it hit me: If my friends assumed that losing a small electronic device would devastate me, I must really have it bad. So I cut back from having three PDAs to two (you gotta start somewhere) and began dedicating myself to the idea that the best way to reconnect with myself is to regularly disconnect from our always-on world.
We realize that this is a widespread malady. Consider these stats:
- In 2009, the average American watched more than 151 hours of TV a monthan all-time high
- 84% of people check their PDAs just before bed and as soon as they wake upand an astounding 85% peek at their PDAs in the middle of the night!
- One survey found that over a third of smartphone users would pick their BlackBerry over their significant other if they had to choose one to live without!
If all this sounds like addiction, well, it probably is. In a new study, college students who went 24 hours without using any mediano cell phone, iPod, TV, etc.then blogged about their experience, using terms of addiction to describe their feelings: in withdrawal, frantically craving, miserable, jittery, crazy.
And it has the same effect as an addiction when we feed it as well: We crave it, so we give in, but it doesn't make us feel good. For most of us, being wired all the time has totally stressed us out. We cant relax, and the result of all that stressparticularly for womenis:
- Were more prone to colds, headaches, and stomach trouble.
- Our skin is breaking out; stress increases oil production and thus acne.
- Were gaining weight; we often overeat when tense, and we forget to exercise.
- We cant get pregnant; stress has been shown to interfere with fertility.
And lets not forget the other troubles were dealing with from being so plugged in all the time. Got neck and shoulder pain from all that texting? Check. How about BlackBerry thumb? Check. Done any texting while driving lately, and had an accident (or a near miss?) In fact, youre 23 times more likely to cause an accident when driving while texting.
The Health Magazine/Huffington Post Challenge
Its time to stop the madness. We at Health magazine and HuffPost Living want to help you de-stress, relax, and get your life back under control. Its time for us all to Unplug and Recharge.
Heres what we would like you to try: This month, we want you to spend 30 minutes a day doing something off the electronic grid: It can be 30 minutes all at once, or 30 minutes split into small chunks over the course of your waking hours. Ellen is going to use her 30 minutes to walk her dog in the park (no iPod on!). Arianna is going stick to the “no BlackBerrys during meals” promise she made to her daughters.
Well give you all kinds of support to help you unplug and recharge: Weve got easy meditation and other relaxation tricks, blogger experts who can help you develop a better work/life balance, and a diet and exercise plan that will get you off the computer and into the fresh air so you can clear your head and get into shape.
Think of it: After a slight withdrawal jitter or two, you may feel an incredible rush of freedom. Thats when youll finally feel ready to rechargeand have more time and energy for whats really important: family, friends, and reconnecting with yourself.