I’ve stopped using my cell phone for the last several weeks. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. What I’ve really done is to stop checking my phone incessantly.
I didn’t do this voluntarily. My house was burgled a few weeks back and they took all of our phones save one. Which means that for the past several weeks – because we’re still waiting for the insurance claim – I’ve been sharing my phone with my two teenaged children.
Sharing your telephone with two adolescents is worthy of a blog post of its own. If not ten. But that’s not what captured my attention most during this period. What’s really struck me is how amazingly freeing it is to not be tethered to your phone all the time, because someone else is using it.
This shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve read Andrew Sullivan’s account of what it was like when he cut himself off from technology for a year, including a stint meditating in the wilderness. I’m familiar with all the studies detailing why digital addiction is a real thing and exactly how it works. Just this morning, I heard a report on the BBC about the fact that the average British adult checks his or her smartphone every 12 minutes.
I’ve always smugly considered myself to be above that fray. When I write, for example, I keep the phone in another room. I can go hours without checking it. When my family goes to bed, none of us brings a phone upstairs. (Hence, the robbery…cough. They didn’t even need to leave our living room to make off with plenty of bounty).
But still, it’s been instructive to realize just how often I check my phone and how much happier – and relaxed I am – when I’m not on it.
Which got me thinking about what else I might usefully abandon – or at least curtail – in the interest of personal wellness.
Alcohol is a definite candidate. I’m a very poor sleeper. And I have noticed that I sleep even less well after I’ve had a drink or two. I did once give up drinking for about a month to see if it would reduce my headaches. It didn’t. So I resumed drinking. But to be honest, I drink so little these days that I’m not really sure that would be teaching me very much. (Not to mention the fact that the *other* report I heard on the BBC this morning said that people who give up alcohol in middle age are 45 % more likely to suffer dementia in later life.) Reaches for a beer…
I also once gave up reading for a week. Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t do this because I thought I was reading too much. Reading has been a huge part of my personal and professional reinvention over the past 12 months. I did it because one of my gurus – Julia Cameron – advocates a week of what she calls “reading deprivation” as part of her course on creative recovery.
It’s not that Cameron thinks reading is bad for you. It’s that she wants you to see that when you stop reading anything for a week – newspapers, magazines, novels – you free up an enormous time to take on other creative projects. (Personally, I think giving up television or the internet would be a better task to set most people to achieve the same objective. But I loved reading deprivation week. I did get a lot done. It also reminded me how much I love reading.)
My current target is sugar. I love dessert. And I’m not on a diet. But I have read all that stuff about the evils of sugar and so I’m curious: would I feel less tired and get fewer colds and if I stopped eating sugar? Some of my friends swear by it. It couldn’t hurt to try.
Have you ever given something up permanently…or just for a little while? What did you learn?