Taking a Digital Break


This week, I found myself taking an unplanned “Digital Break”. An impromptu decision meant that on Wednesday morning I found myself packing an overnight bag, jumping in the car with a friend, and driving a few hours to some Hot Springs, nestled deep in nature – a true haven of tranquillity and nourishment.

Our unexpected impulse to visit there literally felt like an intervention on our To-do lists and lives. There were a thousand reasons not to, not least because the place we were seeking refuge in has no cell service or Wi-Fi.

There are always a thousand reasons not to. The question we have to start asking ourselves is whether we let the reasons dictate our days, which become our years, which become our lives? Or, should we seek another way of being, and have our longings drive our choices?

I consistently long for more space, stillness and quiet in my week.

Less doing and more being is always in my seeking.

And yet, even though I know better, I too often start my day by reaching for my phone. Checking emails, texts and messages has become my morning prayer. I allow those emails to demand my attention and response like a tantruming toddler. My nervous system is put on high alert before I have even left my bed. In the shower I am already gearing myself up for that which needs to be done.

Our twenty-four hours off the grid was a beautiful reminder to me of that which I really value. Nestled deep in that valley, soaking in its healing waters, with nothing from the outside demanding my attention, I could soften, open and deepen. I was able to feel myself and others better; appreciate and trust life differently.

My friend and I both noticeably became slower and more present. There, the quality of our connection, conversation and presence changed.

In slowing down, we were able to drop into our hearts and bodies.

We could both feel it and name it. And our connection and conversation became as nourishing as the waters we lay in.

We stopped in a café on the drive back and, as we sipped at chai lattes, we both found ourselves falling right back into the habit that has become a way of life and got out our phones.

Without apology, we dropped the deep conversation and presence we had both been swimming in, and started checking our emails. Hundreds of unread emails greeted me from my inboxes. I looked at my companion reading hers and noticed a distraction in her presence and a furrow on her brow that had been missing whilst at the Hot Springs.

I put my phone down and look out onto the rain hitting the sidewalk. I take in the headlights of the cars driving past in the fading light. I sip my tea, tasting the cardamom and spices flirting with my tongue. For the first time, I hear the seductive tones of Gillian Welch playing in the café, and notice that the waitress is pregnant and looking tired.

Nestled in our watery haven, it was easy to only savour the moment. But now I am in this moment and it is just as importantly savoured. The rain continues to hit the pane of glass we are sitting by. I close my eyes and listen to the whoosh of the cars going by. The emails, I realise, can wait until tomorrow.

Here is where I want to be.

And when I approach the long list of emails the next day, most of them can be deleted; and few, if any, require the urgency of response that the habituated routine of checking emails insists upon.

It is up to me, I realize, not to keep falling into the traps our digital age has created. Where any of us choose to put our attention is what will ultimately create our lives. And it feels important to recognize that the minute and often unconscious practices of our daily habits are actually what shape our living.

So, in an attempt to get more conscious of my unconscious digital habits, I have downloaded an app called Moment, that tells me exactly how much I use my phone and how. Sleeping without the phone beside my bed is the next step forward; waiting to check emails until 9am another challenge I’d like to meet.

What about you? What do you do to ensure that you are not over-taken by the tyranny of your devices? Do you feel there is value in taking regular Digital Breaks?

If you could salvage just one hour a day from your phone’s demands for your attention, how might you use it? It’s a question I am asking myself; a challenge I’m both offering and accepting.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments.

And, if you liked this blog post, and would like to read others, or know when I am running a Digital Detox retreat, please sign up to my email list, where you will receive my weekly blog posts and information on the retreats and workshops that I will be holding this year CLICK HERE.

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  1. So important and a great reminder, Susannah to step away every now and then. I’m intrigued by the Moment app, yet not sure I really want to know how much time I spend looking at my phone!

  2. Kat Kinsella says:

    Firstly, if it weren’t for the old phone, I wouldn’t have seen this wonderful article and connected with you. So, I’ll pause for a moment of digital praise.

    Now, stepping away from the screen means real connection and time with those I love and those I’ve just met. And retraining my attention span. Also, if I’m not careful, I think I’ll lose skills such as reading at length and depth.

    Thanks for the beautiful, thought-provoking post.

  3. I love this post. Thankyou suzanne.The fact I read it on my iPhone in bed this morning makes it resonate even more!
    I’m going to try to spend an hour a day finishing (well… let’s be honest.. Starting… ) some of the little design projects I’ve got lined up around the house; pinned together or cut out ready for the next stage that I’ve been ‘ too busy’ to finish.. Right , let me hide this phone somewhere …

  4. I am so glad you found it useful, Yvonne; and may your design projects blossom – I’d love to hear how you get on!

  5. I love this post Susannah. I am a bit of a ‘digital snob’ and always notice the couples I see out for an evening together, but glued to their phones. Your blog has had me realise I do this but in a different way. Instead of robbing a companion of my attention, I rob myself. Every time I give my phone needless attention it is less time and space for me. And more space is what I yearn for. You’ve helped me realise I have all the space I need – I just need to claim it. Thank you.

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