The Beauty of Disconnecting
I wrote this post a few weeks ago, and I’ve been on the fence about posting it. Talking about the darker days in life can be challenging- especially being in the health field, because we’re supposed to have it figured out- all the time. But none of us do, and while this isn't about nutrition at all- here’s a little story for you.
I sort of recently got back from spending nearly half a year in mexico. People always asked me, “why mexico”, and even though I could come up with somewhat convincing reasons, I really had no freaking clue why I was going. It was one of those “I had a thought in the morning and a flight by noon” type of things- you know? And I am so thankful I followed that impulse because mexico was a wild, perspective shifting time in my life. I experienced a range of emotions I didn't know existed. I felt love inside me that I’ve never known, felt some type of pure joy, and had these intense surges of inspiration but I also felt a depth of loneliness that was foreign to me. On my last day before returning to canada, I was sitting alone in an unfamiliar city, nursing a heartache while trying to prepare myself for the inevitable shock of going back to “real life” (pro tip: this is not a great combo) and while I sat there confused and a little disoriented- I picked up my phone and went on instagram.. maybe facebook, I don't even remember but for a brief moment I wasn’t heartbroken, in a strange city or about to go home- I was numbed out and I thought, “well this isn’t good”. I logged out of and deleted every social media app on my phone and I sat in what was.
I thought more about this- is social media a harmless distraction or a form of addiction? Has it on some unconsciousness (or perhaps conscious) level become an avoidance tool? These questions are huge for me, both on a personal and professional level. In the realm of holistic health and alternative medicine, emotions and disease are inextricably linked. I realized that most of my time spend in Mexico was sans phone. I wondered if that had a role in all these deeper emotions I was beginning to feel. I decided to do a “digital detox”- and below is how that went for me.
Coming back to canada was hard, if I am being honest it was a little awful for the first while. The integration back to the western world kicked my ass this time, far beyond any other trip - and not having social media to turn to was no bueno. But it made me feel. It made me confront my emotions, which I realized I hadn’t truly done in a long time. There were some dark moments this month- some really tough days because what I am learning is everything is so painfully connected. When you’re healing, confronting stuff or even just opening up space up in your mind all of a sudden these things you forgot, things you thought you dealt with and things you didn’t even know existed start coming up and you just sit there and hangout with all it all. This was the shadow side, the necessary shittiness needed to move forward. In hindsight- if you cold turkey give up all your vices at a particularly vulnerable time in your life I would suggest having a therapist on speed dial. It's tough my friends. BUT..
There were SO MANY wonderful things to come out of this. First, even though this doesn't seem positive, I was able to observe how disconnected we are here in canada. Data plans, sim cards and wifi are readily available in Mexico but people were not nearly as glued to their phones as they are here at home. People- travellers and locals alike in mexico were much more present, they enjoyed the little moments, they took in experiences and genuinely connected with people and I thought I don’t want to live like that only when I’m travelling- I want to live like that my whole damn life. With no social media on my phone, this weird stuff started happening- people on the streets, in grocery stores and on the skytrain started talking to me- in Vancouver… what? People started smiling at me, and perhaps they always smiled and I was just to busy scrolling through my instagram feed for the 4th (or 10th) time that day- who knows. What I do know is that I started connecting with strangers. I will admit most of them were in the 6th or 7th decade but the wisdom that has been shared with me and the stories I’ve heard have been incredible. Another thing started to happen- despite the darker moments, underneath I felt happy, a sense of calm that I am only just becoming familiar with. Now that I’ve got use to sitting in my feelings, this happiness is ever present (in varying degrees of course). I have had more free time, I have been writing like mad, my meditation practice is deeper than ever, I spend more time on my mat and I’ve read so many books. I’m doing the things that I complained about not having enough time to do. Weird, right?
One more thing I noticed when going social media free- I realized it’s rare to talk someone who is fully present. I now understand when my parents say “kids these days are always on their phones”. It is bizarre to watch people who are in conversation with you grab their phones in an almost reflexive way. I noticed this in my personal conversations and while observing (creeping) on other people's interactions. We have become so disconnected and we’re not even aware, we have this robotic tendency to resort to our phones and honestly, it's scary.
I don’t want to get into the research here, but there's a whole whack of studies coming out showing delayed and stunted neural growth in kids who are exposed to electronics- anxiety and depression in all ages has skyrocketed since smartphones and the correlations are strong. People are lonelier than ever- So, at the risk of sounding dramatic -here is a friendly reminder that love fades, friendships grow apart, children get older and we all have a limited time on this earth and while social media can be inspiring, uplifting and a good way to stay in contact - being mindful of its effect on your life is some food for thought.
Now that I’ve activated my accounts again, and my career is becoming social media based I’ve made myself a set of rules.
Mindful Media Practices
1. No social media before 10am or after 8pm
2. Social media fast 1 day a week
3. No facebook or snapchat on my phone
4. Set time windows for social media browsing
5. Phone way when having a conversation with someone, when out for dinner, coffee ect.
.. and with these, I am able to have social media and still live a heart-centered, connected life.