The door shuts with a clap behind me, I stretch my face into the bright rays of the sun and enjoy the warmth on my skin. I close my eyes for a moment and smell the sweet scent of the cherry blossoms. With a soft smile, I leave the entrance and head directly to the wood. I stop as a car drives by and let him pass before I cross the street. Into the woods, into the green. Time to unplug, go offline, and enjoy life.
The rain has wettened the ground, the sun didn´t show up for days. Nature is bursting in fresh green all around. The birds are chirping out loud, the wind rustling through the trees.
There is no better time to unplug. No better time to be offline and enjoy life.
Did you go for a walk lately?
What did you see?
What did you smell?
What could you hear?
I follow the trail further into the forest, the singing birds guiding me, their chant softening with the changing of the trees. I cross a path, a woman surpassing me with her stroller. The baby looks up at the trees in astonishment – she’s on her phone, not looking at her baby, nor at the trees. A jogger passes by, constantly keeping his tempo, little white earphones plugged into his ears. He barely nods as I greet him.
It’s a huge forest close to the city, a lot of people taking the opportunity to run, cycle or enjoy a walk in the fresh air. Very few are not plugged in – scrolling through their phones while walking, talking through headphones, or listening to music, and else.
Why do we always need to distract ourselves? Why can´t we just fully enjoy the ONE Thing we are doing? Why is it so hard to unplug and enjoy nature offline?
The cravings of our brain
We are bombarded with information on every corner and over time our brain got used to it. The moment we let go of our devices, we fear to miss out on something important (“FOMO”). Maybe we miss an important call, see an email too late or lose out on this one special offer.
“Let’s just quickly check my phone…”
All online activities stimulate our brain with colors, sounds, and moving pictures. They activate the brain’s reward system, which is in alert the whole time while we are online. Not only does it react to social interactions, due to comments or likes on our social media feeds, but it also satisfies us, if we have executed a purchase. It rewards us with a shot of dopamine, the happiness hormone, making us feel good. It´s the same hormone we feel, when we are freshly in love, eat a nice meal or have sex. No wonder we are so attached to the online world and our devices.
Therefore, online marketing specialists make sure that everything we see or read
Catches our attention
Keeps us engaged longer
Convinces us to a purchase we don´t necessarily need or we didn´t know we need it beforehand
Unfortunately, we are trained to get this daily dose of happiness hormones and our brain is seeking more. We might not even notice it, but as the fear of missing out creeps in, our brain tricks us to spend more time on our computers, check again the phone, leading to loosing precious time for other things. In addition, we decide to handle the next two things simultaneously (like having a walk and making a call or going for a run and listening to a podcast). Also, check “Do less gain more” and the myth of multitasking.
How can we break this downward spiral?
Make a conscious choice
Put away your phone, iPad, Computer, game station, whatever it is – train yourself to be offline again. Battle down the feeling of loneliness once you leave your home without your phone.
Set yourself times to unplug
Dedicate certain times of the day for an offline time. E.g. no phone in the morning before breakfast; having a walk in nature without taking the phone along; switching off devices at 8 pm in the evening.
Stick to these times and enjoy life offline
Stick to your times and don’t give in. Your mind might start to discuss with you: “What if something happens while I´m on a walk and nobody can reach me” they find another solution and you will be informed later on. It might need some time, but once you are used to it, you can start to fully enjoy life offline again.
It needs a bit of strength to do that. Over the years, especially with our travel experience, I wanted to minimize the number of devices and used the kindle app on my iPad for reading books – the internet browser being only one click away. The problem was: I read an interesting passage and schwup, I switched over to the browser and searched for this additional piece of information I quickly wanted to check, and again, I spend hours online. The scrolling and clicking kept the dopamine engaged. Since we settled down in Munich again, I started reading more “real books” – no iPad, just paperback.
I know it’s not only a question of simplicity but also of sustainability. Nevertheless, you can swap or lend books and diminish paper waste that way. But it definitely keeps you away from your devices. Take the time to consciously unplug, go offline, and enjoy life differently. Go for a walk with the head up in the air, listening to the different sounds, smelling different scents, and noticing the different shades of green around you. The best video about different parts of the world cannot compete with the nature around you. Offline.
“The most beautiful gift of nature is that it gives one pleasure to look around and try to comprehend what we see.”