I recently returned from teaching a yoga retreat in Umbria with an overwhelming sense of having left something behind. Not a belonging, something was missing inside. It wasn’t worrying I just felt different. Retreats are about taking time out to recharge, rest and yes the aim to come back with a greater sense of wellbeing but this sensation was weird. Then I realised I had unplugged, lost the buzz and the weird sensation was actually a sense of calm an ease in my mind and body.
Like most of us the past few years have seen the need for me to be more and more connected. Not in the yoga practice or wellbeing sense, connected more than ever to the internet, social media, new technology. Last year in particular, launching my start up, resulted in an increase in social media posting, online research as I developed the modules for Wellness WorkSpace and content for my yoga business. Add creating and editing videos, presentations, website scripts and the result – new technology overload of which I was unaware until Umbria.
4 days on a 40 hectare working farm up in the hills where wifi is hit and miss, no television, newspapers or radio had created the ideal set of circumstances to deliver, with no help from new technology, one of the most important messages I have received in the last few years – never underestimate the power of connection in the body, community, nature and life.
In those 4 days I had unplugged, disconnected but I had also re-connected to a sense of being and not doing. Daily life was simple. Breakfast was taken outside at a communal table where people talked, watched the birds or the comings and goings in the kitchen. Yoga followed, then plenty time before and after lunch to enjoy the space, nature, farm life until evening yoga. Dinner again around that meeting place the table, talking, discussing, laughing. People coming and going as they pleased, leaving that gathering place to go to bed, find a quiet place to read or just chill.
It was only on my return and the onset of the something is missing feeling that I remembered the only time I saw anyone with a phone in their hand was to capture the amazing sunsets or surrounding scenery. That’s the beauty of an unreliable wifi signal, there’s no choice but to abandon the phone, find alternative ways spend your time and in the good old fashioned way communicate with each other around a table.
The break from that hand sized piece of technology, that can become our constant companion had freed my body, my mind, my nervous system from the hidden state of hyper-vigilance, described by Dr Neil Stanley as the experience of being constantly tense and on guard waiting for that perceived call, message or email. This on alert state embeds into us and we grow accustomed to it as we live with our phones by our sides to feed our need to connect and be available.
This mild state of hyper-vigilance and the bombardment from notifications, reminders etc is over activating our nervous system. An overactive nervous system can contribute to many health issues such as poor digestion, anxiety, increased heart rate, poor quality sleep, insomnia, fatigue, inflammation and it can lower your immunity. Any of that sound familiar?
It’s no wonder that on my return, the absence of the buzz was so obvious and why my newly balanced nervous system felt weird. Yes I’ve plugged back in again but I have made a serious effort to try to maintain balance. I like the no longer weird feeling of calm and ease.
Aside from going on retreat to lose the buzz I have a few tips to help unplug for a short time each day. The hardest part will be taking action, it’s surprising how much we can depend on that tiny companion!
* Switch off push notifications and as many sound alerts as possible
* Take a break from emails by reducing the amount of times you check your emails each day or set up an inbox pause
* No phone at the table. Attention to your phone while eating disturbs your digestive process as it’s active sympathetic mode, you digest food in rest/digest parasympathetic mode
* Remove the phone in your bedroom while you sleep and use a good old fashioned alarm clock to help avoid feeding that hyper-vigilance mode throughout the night
* Respect you are an individual not an extension of a massed produced hand sized piece of technology
Be inventive, work out what works for you, fits in with you to reduce the amount of time you are plugged in. Commit to it, for it’s a huge way to positively change your well-being.