Disconnect to reconnect
Do you remember the last time you felt bored? In the smartphone era, a stimulus is almost always readily available, and boredom seems to have become extinct from our lives. Learning how to disconnect is the key to giving your mind the mental reset that it needs.
Imagine this scenario: you wake up in the morning to realize you forgot to set your alarm. You rush to get ready and bolt out of the house. Hopping onto the train, you wear your headphones and suddenly realize your phone is nowhere to be found. You left it at home.
Stress starts rushing in; how will you survive the day without your phone? What if someone tries to reach you? What if there’s an emergency? How are you going to spend your lunch break? But the nightmarish day you thought you would have turned out different than you imagined.
When you returned home at the end of the day, you realized something. Your day wasn’t ruined. And you feel fresh.
. . .
Do you remember the last time you felt bored? In the smartphone era, a stimulus is almost always readily available in the form of an application on your phone, a morning podcast, or your favorite music. Boredom seems to have become extinct from our lives.
However, boredom is essential for our brains and minds' health. It is where we find peace. It is where we become mindful of ourselves. Some might call it the path to mindfulness. In a world where we almost never disconnect, how can we invite more boredom into our lives to help us mentally reset?
From Rest to Reset
Our culture encourages creation. We are driven by making, taking action, and growing. Rest becomes an afterthought.
We come home after work and do some more work because there is nothing else to do. Dinner takes time to make, so we listen to a podcast while cooking. Our walk home from the station is too long, so we call a friend to pass the time. These are all examples of when we overstimulate our minds.
Sadly, most of the time, we cannot really tell when our mind is overcharged. The effects of it only come later, in the form of burnout or fatigue. That’s because all that stimulus has to be processed somehow, and the only time we leave for our brain to do that is while we’re sleeping.
The solution to this overcharge might sound simple: rest. By rest, I mean mental rest. In fact, if you add just one “e” to the word “rest,” you’ll get “reset” - by letting your mind wander, you let it rest, and by letting it rest, you reset it.
And a mind that is reset is an energized one. It’s like a fresh, clean slate you can write anything you want on. It’s like someone turned on the sleep mode on your brain, so the battery won’t drain as fast.
How can we do it, then?
How to Disconnect?
Have you ever heard about “dopamine detox”? If you haven’t, it refers to a wellness trend that encourages you to abstain from activities that raise your levels of dopamine too high, mostly disconnecting from social media. If you have, you have probably heard countless success stories of people deleting social media apps from their lives for a period of time. It’s a great story arc, but it doesn't hold any solution.
It’s a temporary fix to a bigger problem.
Disconnecting does not have to mean throwing your phone in the lake. For most people, even if you do a “social media fast” for weeks, the moment you get back on, the addiction takes over again, with it the negative feelings and overcharge of the dopamine rush.
Disconnection is a habit that can be structured through short, intentional bursts. Instead of forcing disconnection onto your life artificially, this habit can be developed through awareness of the small moments during the day when we don’t have to pull out our phones.
During a bus or train ride, spending some time enjoying the view
Taking a shower without listening to music or a podcast
Cooking and cleaning with your phone down and the music off
The intention behind these suggestions is simple: to develop an awareness of our actions rather than heal the “boredom” they bring with an external stimulus. By being aware of our automatic actions, like taking a shower, cleaning, or just watching trees pass by through a car window, we can let our mind do something it might have forgotten how to do: wander.
And wandering minds are resting minds.
Instead of disconnecting for entire days and joining the hype of meaningless attention-seeking challenges, disconnect for short bursts of time.
But what happens when short bursts of disconnect aren’t enough?
One Step Further: Time for a Vacation
Some of you might get anxious just by reading the words “Time Off.” Taking a vacation or some time off does not have to be at the beach in Hawaii with a Mojito in hand (though that’s a great idea for a mental reset, too, as long as you’re leaving your phone at home.)
What I’m offering is something far simpler.
A year back, I had accumulated plenty of vacation days and took the month off. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, I did not go on vacation abroad or leave my own place really. So what did I do?
I binged on a lot of series and movies, immersed myself in all of my creative endeavors, and played video games. I have done a mental health reset month for myself without realizing it. And although it was weird at first, saying you took a vacation and did nothing, I embraced it.
This year I decided to do the same thing but took a week off instead of a month. I was more intentional about it and ensured it was a week for myself.
Most people around me seemed confused about how I chose to spend my time off.
This further emphasizes how rest is an afterthought in today’s society. Try even one reset day where you do absolutely nothing productive, and you’ll be amazed.
Now, Time to Reconnect
Wait. You just said disconnect.
Yes, I did. But now that you learned how to disconnect, it’s time to start reconnecting with yourself. Letting our minds rest connects us back to ourselves. The wandering mind processes different thoughts about the day and insights about ourselves.
Mindfulness of one’s self is the key to reconnecting with yourself.
Use the advice I’ve given in small doses and fine-tune. We all need a different amount of rest and we all reconnect with ourselves differently. Don’t feel bad or guilty if you feel like you oftentimes need a long vacation.
Speaking for myself, I need a lot of alone time to reset. It might seem odd to someone from the outside, but that’s just how my mind works, and I’ve accepted it. The emphasis is on acceptance. Being mindful of yourself is supposed to be enjoyable, so do it on your own terms and in your own time.
Or, try to accidentally forget your phone, like the scenario at the beginning of this intro. You’ll be surprised by the good day you might have.
Now that’s happiness.