Will You Switch Off?

I was lucky this summer, among the travel-related challenges, to escape to Croatia with my family. After such a long time that I did not move away I felt that I might have forgotten how to turn off and how to actually take a ‘vacation’.

One Day; Going out to the pool with my book and all the wonderful accessories taken for a day like this. The sun was shining, the water was warm and after a short time in the pool with my son I felt the pain of something ……. Then I got the thought that I should check my phone מו .like a strong magnetic attraction…. I went to One system* Thinking mode, climbed out of the pool and started diving into emails, WhatsApp messages, Viber, LinkedIn, Instagram, the list goes on. The most worrying thing was that in those 30 minutes that I was no longer on vacation, I returned to a busy workload of answering emails and thinking about the next steps and projects for the next few months.

A sharp burst of dopamine ** was undoubtedly released when I picked up my phone and it started to grab my attention. This phenomenon is well described in a Netflix movie called ‘The Social Dilemma’ and I urge you to watch it if you have not already done so. I understand that mine One system I was literally caught and no longer experienced my holiday, but something very different. Instead of looking at the sky, beautiful trees, wonderful green and experiencing the calm and satisfying weather I was no longer present.

Once the hormone levels dropped, I put my phone back in my bag and tried to relax back into the holiday … this thing we’ve been waiting for for years! My mind soon drifted to the content I had seen, which had filled my mind moments before. In an attempt to hasten myself back to my holiday and be present, I decided to go to the bar and drink a cold and pleasant beer.

As I walked to the bar I was completely horrified to notice that maybe 90% of the bronze bodies around the pool had actually used their phones. Now, if I saw many of them with headphones inside, I could consider that maybe they listened to an audio book and actually turned it off or leaned on something worthwhile (of course maybe people did something more useful than what I did not see on their screens … but I do not really hope so). But that was not the case. People were hunched over, staring eagerly into that little rectangle in their hand. I realized I was not alone in my addiction to phones. Often normalizing behaviors can be comforting but in this case it was not.

As a psychologist; Human behavior is what makes me tick. I decided it was time to do some research to start on my own. I went to my room and put down my phone safely and out of sight and reach. ‘I can do it’ I said to myself. I picked up a notebook in the room and went back down to see my family. On the way down, my demons started kicking in … what if someone is not good at home and needs to contact me? What if there was an urgent job inquiry that could not be left for another seven days? The questions continued in my mind as they arrived like buses to a train parking lot and filled me with doubt about my actions.

I recognized that these were the smart strategies of an addicted mind so I decided to write down these thoughts.

Much of the work we do focuses on accepting our thoughts, identifying them, hearing them and not ignoring them. When we try to ignore our thoughts, they can be stronger and I certainly did not want that to be the case. I wanted to break free from my phone and experience my holiday. ‘Ahhh Gotcha’ ‘My mind shouts at me …’ How are you going to take pictures without your phone? ‘ I wrote it down.

My informal research question for myself was’If I remove my phone will my desire to use it decrease?‘. I decided to measure this by writing in a diary. I carried this diary with me and whenever I felt the urge to check my phone I wrote it down. I also wrote down what thoughts accompany my urge to use my phone to encourage it.

The second half of the first day was surprisingly difficult and also surprisingly shocking because of how surprisingly difficult it was !!!!!! The number of times I automatically came to my bag to grab my phone without even thinking was amazing. I did not even classify myself as a big phone user … obviously I was wrong.

Day 1; 56 conscious thoughts about checking my phone!

At the end of the second day I noticed more. I went for walks and dealt with my surroundings. Although I believed I was already doing it (with my phone) when I went out for runs or hikes, I realized that in the absence of my phone and the regular ‘test’, I started to think more deeply about life, projects and people. Without the tactical distraction of ‘testing’ I could have spent time thinking about the challenges in my life and also settling them.

Day 2; 36 conscious thoughts about checking my phone!

On the third day I wanted to go for a run. I know that in order to motivate myself I need to listen to good music while running. I was wondering if this is just another powerful thought that will turn me back on using the phone. So my challenge was to listen to music while running and not access other phone apps. Flight mode!!! This will allow it, while preventing pop-up alerts and emails that will draw me to them. And even if I could use my camera, it was a revelation for me.

Day 3; 12 conscious thoughts about checking my phone!

The fourth and fifth day came and went, and for the first time in too long I was preoccupied with thought and thriving in my time away from home. Something interesting happened during those two days as well. Although I still thought about checking my phone, it did not have the same cognitive effect on me ………. I felt like I was starting to disconnect and disconnect from the power. It has always been easy for me to be in the present. This experience made me realize that in the presence of this phone it was much harder for me.

Day 4; 15 conscious thoughts about checking my phone!

Day 5; 10 conscious thoughts about checking my phone!

Day 6 and 7 ……………… I forgot my diary! And I no longer felt the need to pay attention to my thoughts on my phone while I was busy on my holiday.

* System 1 “is the fast, automatic and intuitive access of the brain”. System Activity 1 includes the innate mental activities we are born with, such as being willing to grasp the world around us, identify objects, direct attention, avoid loss – and be afraid of spiders!

** Dopamine: Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body produces it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. This is why it is sometimes called a chemical messenger. Dopamine plays a role in the way we feel pleasure. It was
Described as our reward center.

This blog was written by Naomi de Barra – a business psychologist and a valued member of the Career Psychologists team.

Career change


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