I’m currently following the How To Break Up With Your Phone plan as featured in the book (of the same title) by Catherine Price. You can read about the previous weeks of the plan by clicking these links: WEEK 1 WEEK 2 Now it’s week 3 and here’s what I had to do every day this week.
Week Three- Reclaiming Your Brain
Day 15- Stop, Breathe and Be. So today, I was meant to take a moment to stop, breathe (can you guess what comes next?) and be. It’s a mindfulness technique where you take a moment to take account of how you’re feeling emotionally as well as physically and to also take notice of the environment surrounding you. Catherine suggests you could do this every time you automatically reach for your phone, but she asked that you did this stop, breathe and be technique at least twice today. Today, I had an incredibly busy and hectic day as my daughter was in the local carnival and then after the carnival, I had the pleasure of taking her to the fair (I fucking hate fairs) and my darling husband meanwhile was
holidaying working abroad, so I got to do all the running about with her by myself, so I did not have time to stop, breathe nor frigging be today. HOWEVER, I did make a concerted effort to do it the next day. I noticed that my brain is very busy with thoughts and so many different thoughts racing in and out of my head. Not too dissimilar to scrolling through social media and having lots of different pieces of information thrown at me. My brain seems to be functioning like a bloody smartphone. Also, I noticed that despite living in a town centre, next a train station and a busy road, the loudest sound in my garden was the birds singing, which was quite nice really.
Day 16- Practice Pausing. This practice does relate to yesterday’s slightly and it’s also about mastering the art of being still. If we’re never still and always keep our minds busy and entertained, we never get a chance to recharge our batteries, nor do we get a chance to mull over thoughts and ideas. Being still also gives us a chance to develop our creativity, it’s when our creative ideas become nurtured. Catherine asks that we think of situations when we grab our phones to occupy our minds. It could be when waiting at the train station, waiting for a lift or having lunch. She then asked that we practice being still during those moments. I knew I was going to the cinema today and I always play on my phone until the trailers start, so I stubbornly left my phone in my bag and let myself just be. I kind of felt like bit of a twat as everyone around me was chatting or playing on their phones. This is going to take some practice, but seriously, what did we do in these moments before smartphones were invented. Did we all just stand around staring? Probably and it probably just seemed quite natural. I also, play on my phone whilst I’m cooking (gawd knows how my phone hasn’t ended up becoming part of my bolognese sauce boiling away), so I’m going to leave it well alone and just get lost in my thoughts whilst cooking instead.
Day 17- Exercise Your Attention Span. Today I need to do something to exercise my attention span. This is so I can start rebuilding my ability to ignore distractions and strengthen my attention span. Like most things, the more we practice something the better we get. Catherine provides lots of suggestions. One of them was quite simply to read and as that is something that I definitely want to do more of and for longer (my mind currently starts to get distracted 2 pages into a book. Whereas, before I had a smartphone, it would take about 30 pages of a book before I’d want to do something else. I basically have the attention span of a toddler right now). So, anyway, that is what I did. I read in the evening and then in the morning when I woke, instead of reaching for my phone, I picked up my book and read again. I know. Shocker. It’s early days yet to say if my attention span has increased, but more reaching for a book rather than a phone will surely improve it over time. Also, I have been continuing to be mindful of those times that I always reach for my phone. When waiting for my daughter to come out of Brownies, I’m usually on my phone, but instead I just left it in my pocket and what happened? I struck up a nice conversation with another parent. That wouldn’t have happened otherwise. By the way, regular reading has a hugely positive effect on the human brain (unlike our smartphones), including our reasoning skills, processing of visual signs and our memories. Catherine suggests that we should incorporate at least one attention-building exercise into our daily routine.
Day 18- Meditate. Whaaaaaa? You want me to meditate? Catherine, mate, me and mediation have never got on. Why? Because I get bored very quickly and my mind just starts racing….oh hold on…I get it. This is probably because of my smartphone addiction, isn’t it? Right fine. I’ll give meditation a go again. Did you know you can do meditation via -gasp- an app on your phone? Yes, yes I know OH THE IRONY, but this is the whole point gang. Your phone is a very useful tool and that’s exactly as it should be used- as a tool and not as a constant distraction. Something that you pick up to do something specifically helpful to your daily life and then you put back down once you’ve done it. Use and abuse it, my friend. Once you’ve got what you want from it, cast it aside. Anyway, so opened my Headspace app for the first time in years and did a quick 5 minute mediation and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Catherine strongly recommends trying to fit in at least a 5 minute mediation everyday. Obviously, it’s not for everyone and it’s not always going to be possible to do it, but I’m going to try and do a quick 5 minutes everyday as much as I can. I think it’ll be worth it, just to calm my mind for those few minutes. It will also be very good for my attention span.
Day 19- Prepare For Your Trial Separation. Now, this is the biggy. Tonight, I am going to switch my phone off for 24 hours and at this point of the plan- I cannot wait. This separation will show us that we can actually live without our phones plus it’s a lovely reminder of what life was like before our smartphones. I have a landline plus an actual alarm clock, so I can do this trial separation in it’s entirety and that’s not just put your phone somewhere else, but with it still on and not just have my phone on airplane mode, the separation means phone off. Completely and utterly off. So, there are a few things I need to do to prepare for it. I need to:
Identify what I’m taking a break from: Catherine suggests that you take a break from all screens. It is meant to be a dramatic break. However, she does leave some screens up to us as to whether we want a break from them. The screens that we most definitely have to take a break from are: our phones (obvs), iPads, laptops, smartwatches and PCs. She does leave whether we take a break from TV and films up to us though. I’m going to watch a couple of programmes this evening and then that will be it. No TV during the day tomorrow though. Sooooo, what am I going to do with my time? Interact with my family?!?! Jeez.
Tell people what you’re doing: I’m probably not going to bother. Other than my husband and child obviously. The only people that will probably try and contact me is my Mum and she contacts me on the landline, so that will be fine.
Get others on board: Yes, I am trying to get both my husband and child on board. I will update you as to whether I was successful or not though.
Make plans: I’m planning on doing some baking with my child tomorrow. I also want to read a lot and if I’m up to it- go for a walk.
Use hard-copy instructions: I don’t think I need to do this and we’re not doing or travelling anywhere new.
Get a pad or paper or notebook: This is so I can make a list of things to do on my phone when I switch it back on again. Catherine reckons that by the time, I turn my phone back on, I probably won’t care about them anymore.
Set an automated phone greeting: Nah, I’m not going to bother to do this.
Create a physical contact list: Yes, probably a good idea to write down a few numbers, just in case.
Use call forwarding: I’m not going to bother doing this either, but apparently you can have calls forwarded from your mobile onto your landline.
Set an out of office response: Nope. Ain’t doing this either.
Set an automated text message response: I might do this (though I need to look into how to do it), but it sends an automatic response to anyone who sends you a text, informing them that you’re not currently checking your texts. It might be useful.
Day 20 & 21- Your Trial Separation. I decided to start my trail separation on Friday evening, so that it ended Saturday evening. I had to time it to finish by Saturday evening as it was the Eurovision Song Contest and I was’t missing that for anything. And guess what? I actually managed to persuade both my daughter and my husband to do the whole no screens thing for 24hrs. The things that we did instead of looking at screens was: bake, read, walk around town, play board games and play fish and chip shops (that last one was definitely my daughter’s idea). I will reflect on the experience of my trial separation or my phone-fast at the beginning of next week’s plan.
So, that’s the end of week 3. Tune in next Wednesday (it’s a 30 day trial, so week 4 is slightly longer) to see how I get on with the final week. And if you feel like joining in too, comment below on how you’re getting on.