Technology has become less of a subordinate tool and more of an engulfing presence in our world. It has remolded not only the structure of our world as a medium for information and sharing, but has also influenced our individual lives and changed the way we live. However, at what point do the technological tools that we use to improve our lives actually begin to start directing our lives by their very presence? When do we become subordinate to technology rather than the other way around?
There has been such an increasing push to implement digitization everywhere but not an equal push against it to step back and assess what value it’s actually bringing to our lives. It’s becoming more rare to have a moment of silence and reflection because we’re constantly glued to our phones and distracted from deeper thoughts. Multitasking between social networks, texts, e-mails, and browsing provides a sense that we’re in this zone of connection to the world and not missing anything. Were human beings so antiquated in the days that we were left to our own thoughts? Was it such a depraved life in generations past?
How can humanity truly “evolve” by technology when technology creates such a distraction of multitasking and moving from one thing to the next that we never set aside the time to fully reflect on an idea or thought without being interrupted? We are using the convenient immediate thinking, and rejecting the slow and effortful thinking that effectively challenges our intellect. Immediate gratification has become preferred over long-term substance.
In order to step back and evaluate our lives, we must first turn off the autopilot – the technologies and constant noise that aim to distract.
1. Have a “blackout” day.
Have you ever noticed how refreshing it can be when the power goes out? It forces everyone to turn their attention away from electronics and toward their surroundings.
Why not create your own “blackout?” Pick an evening to turn off all the lights and electronics in your home, light some candles, and go back to the earlier centuries of entertainment such as playing cards or storytelling. Or start a “Game Night” and find a board game to play with friends and family. It doesn’t have to be 100% no electricity, but the idea is to enjoy something that brings everyone together in the present moment and allows conversation to be the entertainment.
2. Head for the hills
This is a must. If you live in the concrete jungle of the city it can be mentally refreshing to take a break and escape into the wilderness every now and then. Go for a day picnic, a hike, or camping. The quiet clean air of the mountains, the calming waters of a lake, or a sandy beach is therapeutic to the soul. Take off your shoes and socks and step into the muddy earth. Dip your feet into a river or lake. Leave the gadgets behind and allow your mind to rest while you gaze at the simplicity of the natural environment around you. Take a blanket and watch the clouds slowly drift by. The best part about being outside of the city is the starry sky at night. When is the last time you’ve laid back and spent some time looking at the bright canvas of stars above and listened to the crickets chirping?
3. Read a book
Reading gives you time to slowly process, absorb, and reflect upon and idea or story. It allows your brain to process information more effectively when your full concentration is on the content that you’re reading at your own pace. Movies are often presented with ever-changing images and information without breaks to allow you to fully take everything in. By reading you allow yourself to gather the entirety of a story or idea.
4. Create an adventure.
If you need an excuse to get out of the house and into the outdoors, create an adventure. Geocaching is a great resource for this, as it provides a free global treasure hunt for anyone willing to seek out hidden treasures (visit Geocaching.com for more info). You could also find a section of your city that you’ve never been to and visit it with the goal of seeing as much new territory as possible. Sometimes we drive through neighborhoods daily but never walk along the sidewalk. You might be surprised by what you miss when you speed by in a car compared to taking a stroll across town. Pack a backpack with water, food, and essentials and create an adventure on foot with a trek through the city.
5. Think and Meditate
Have you ever noticed that some of the best ideas happen when you’re in the shower? It’s a space where you aren’t surrounded by distractions, and can allow your mind to wander where it wants. Imagine the amazing ideas and reflections you would have if you intentionally allotted a time and space for your mind to just think and wander where it will.
If you have a quiet space at home, such as a patio, create a distraction-free thinking space. The idea is to set aside a space where you can fully reflect, analyze, pray, or meditate. Giving yourself this thinking time may clear your head enough to think of a solution to a problem you’ve been having, bring you peace to a troubled thought, or give you a creative idea for a project you’re working on. It can allow your mind to hash out something it needs to process. We simply don’t get enough quiet thinking time in our modern society, and you may find that you sleep better at night when your neglected thoughts aren’t keeping you awake.
There are a multitude of ways to step back from the constant frequency of our digital world, and back to the natural frequency of nature and simplicity. Give yourself a break every now and then and find a balance that works for you. Life is too short to live under constant distractions and information overload.