You know those times when you’re trying to fall asleep and your brain wants to just keeping talking to you? It cheerfully offers reminders of things yet to do, worries to be had, and an inventory of issues that it will helpfully hang on to for when you’re awake again.
And then there are other times when you wake up and feel really refreshed. Truly rested. Your brain is calm, your body is centered. This is rest, as nature intended.
In our go-go digital world, technology is the one knocking at our mind all hours of the day. It beckons and we answer. In fact, we often leave the door open – no invitation required. We trade our concentration, our schedule, and sometimes even our safety to ensure the tech tether is tightly secure.
For many of us, it’s there when we eat, sleep, work, workout, travel – and do all the life things.
This cognitive codependence is well documented and researched. But we are our own focus group. And all we have to do is look up and look around to see parallel people in various states of On-ness.
Trying a tech sabbath – no matter how long it lasts – can highlight how many things we have connected to our cognitive power cord.
I used the word “sabbath” because, at a high level, it refers to a time of rest. It’s often associated with religion where a sabbath is a pre-set amount of time – such as a 24-hour period or from sun up to sun down. Rest, however you define it, isn’t about time on a clock or aligned to a calendar.
The purpose of a sabbath is to have sacred time where your attention is turned inward and you can experience a respite from the daily demands.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that simply exploring your interest in – or your resistance to – a digital detox will give you important clues on where your sacred is in short supply.
Episode 13 explored three ways to go slow to go fast. A tech sabbatical builds on the Reboot suggestion of allowing our brains to spend more time in what is known as the Default Mode Network. This is the mental playground where the mind goes to play when the always-on button gets paused, even for just a few minutes.
So what are some outputs of time with no input?
Well, mentally, you might see a boost to memory, motivation, and creativity. There are also indicators that we may be less prone to impulse and temptation. It can reset – or at least provide a battery boost – to our moral compass. We might make different decisions than when we are thinking through a tech lens.
Physically, muscles start to soften or reposition, breathing extends, and your body seeks more natural ways to receive endorphins – ones that don’t come from a touch. High-performance athletes use rest as a critical part of how they enhance and sustain their physical prowess.
A true sabbath isn’t simply about devices. It means being conscious about all of the pings and zings that are in your line of sight, or are being worn somewhere on you, or that are accessible with a touch of a finger or a call of a name to a device nearby.
Let’s go back to sleep. Screens (of any type) are designed to keep your attention and directly interfere with circadian sleep patterns. If you’re not ready to have tech be out of the room completely, consider moving it out of reach.
The brain-body connection starts in the first moments of consciousness as we awake. If we engage with technology before our feet even touch the floor, the brain engine gets started before the biological one does. Even the act of getting up and moving to a new place before using technology helps sync thinking to doing.
Throughout the year, I do different “habit sprints” with specific actions done each day for a certain amount of time (stay tuned for a future episode on sprints). Recently, I spent a couple weeks with one of the actions being not to use technology within 30 minutes of waking up. It was hard…and amazing. I realized how much I was using tech as my mental caffeine and how much I was able to do in that stretch of time when I wasn’t, well, “doing.” I also felt more centered once the day went on and more in control of how I prioritized my time thereafter.
Another sabbath idea is to try a meal without technology – and without other people. Satiate your body without conversation, music, videos, or social scrolls. Then see how you feel (and act) when you re-engage. You’re providing sustenance to more than just your stomach.
Testing out tech pauses allows you to explore your individual baseline. An unplugged mind also has access to emotional and intellectual oxygen, both of which help you consider lessons from the past and plans for the future beyond the pull of the Now.
The takeaway from this topic is simply to consider where there is a desire to explore the space between all or nothing. It’s in that sacred space that answers begin to emerge and that you have a chance to hear them.
As you begin to revisit life offline, I hope you also find the space to take good care.