In a world where we are blasted with email, texts, face time requests, instagrams, pinstagrams snapchats, we chats, chat chats and more, it’s amazing how little time we spend truly connecting with our families and friends, and even ourselves. My husband, the kids, and I took a winter break trip to Africa and were completely unplugged (not by choice) for one week out of the trip. After a full day of safaris we actually had to interact with each other! At first, I got the “I’m bored” messaging from my kids. And my husband and I were panic-stricken. What would we all do if we couldn’t check our email or texts, Snapchat or house party every 5 minutes? After a couple of hours, we all gave in. Out came the scrabble board, the deck of cards, and the physical books. We told jokes and laughed until our stomachs hurt, went for walks, and took lazy boat rides down the Zambezi River. We reminisced about when the kids were little. We talked about our hopes and dreams. We came back refreshed, relaxed, and open-minded. So I asked myself, why do we wait until annual two week vacations to unplug? Are there habits I can build into my 2017 hectic life to help me unplug every day? Here are some of my favorites so far:
Have a 5-minute wisdom snack. Reflection and mindfulness makes us better leaders. If I have 5 minutes while I am waiting to get on a plane or standing in line for my morning coffee I pull out my iPad or phone and spend the time reading and reflecting on a nugget of wisdom from someone I respect and admire. Charlie Munger, a lifelong learner has said, “I think it’s a huge mistake not to absorb elementary worldly wisdom if you’re capable of doing it because it makes you better able to serve others, it makes you better able to serve yourself, and it makes life more fun.” I keep Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values: A Day by Day Guide to Ethical Living on my devices. There is a lesson for every day of the year. One of my recent favorites is the January 20 lesson, “Don’t speak, unless you have something to say.” I also own, The Daily Stoic, 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and The Art of Living. Tools of Titan’s, by Tim Ferris is also helpful for snack size lessons on how world-class performers build great habits to achieve peak performance. If you spend 5 minutes every day reading a nugget of wisdom you will be more calm, more grounded, and wiser.
Walk around the block. Turn off your phone and take a short walk around the block. My husband and I are walking addicts. We work together at the company we co-founded and sometimes when we have a tough problem we’re working on, we take a quick stroll around the block in the afternoon and then come back to the office. It is amazing how a short walk can clear your mind and help you reframe a problem. When you walk, your heart pumps more rapidly causing blood and oxygen to circulate to the brain. A Stanford study by Marily Opezzo and Daniel Schwartz has shown that walking boosts creative inspiration. A 5-minute cell-phone free walk can get your blood pumping, get you out in fresh air, and help you with creative problem solving.
Savor a cup of tea. I also like to take a quick tea break when I feel like I am no longer productive or thinking clearly. I keep tea bags in my purse, and when I am on a plane or train, ask for a cup of hot water so I can savor my favorite tea. In 2013, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlighted the many ways in which tea may improve our overall well-being, including the conclusion that people who drink tea could see improvements in mood, concentration and performance. I love peppermint tea for a daytime pick-me-up and relaxing teas at night, especially ones containing gotu kola and shankpushpi, ayurvedic herbs that increase mental concentration and reduce anxiety. I even use this 5 minute tea tip to help my kids take a break if they are powering through homework and get stuck. There is nothing like a cup of tea for a quick reset.
Write a “love” note to someone you care about. Take a step back and think about something your loved ones, friends, or colleagues have done and write them a little note and then leave it somewhere special. You can also, of course, text them a love note. Researchers have found that praise triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure center of the brain. Dopamine is also released when we eat chocolate, meditate, or fall in love. I like to text love notes to my children in the morning after they are on the bus but before they have gotten to school. Your notes can be either general or specific. A simple “I love you” is always appreciated. I may mention an activity my child did well the night before or how I am proud of a chore they helped with. And don’t underestimate the impact of a love text to your spouse or partner. You may then get a love note back and a double dopamine effect!
While it is hard to find time to take a 2-week vacation to unplug, finding 5 minutes during the day can be easier than you think. Take 5 minutes to unplug, take a walk, have a cup of tea, write a love note, or read something inspirational — it may be life changing!
Originally published at medium.com