Do you watch movies while also trying to look up where you've seen that actor before, and end up not paying attention to either?
Is your phone the first thing you see when you wake up, and the last thing you see before you go to bed?
I recently completed a weekend silent, screen-free meditation retreat at Happy Buddha Retreats in Sydney's Blue Mountains. Here's why I think everybody should give a digital detox a go.
Comparison is the thief of joy
We've all heard the expression, and in this day and age of everyone sharing the #bestlife Instagram and TikTok, it's never rung more true. But when you switch off from social, you have nothing to compare yourself to. Everyone in the world could be having the time of their lives, and you simply have no idea, you're too busy enjoying the moment in front of you. I personally found it very liberating. I often go weeks at a time without logging into Instagram, and I find it good for the soul, and my self-esteem. I implore everyone who ever feels inadequate to have a break from social media and see how you feel afterwards.
I love to talk. I'm often waiting for gaps in conversation to jump in with my thoughts - which, actually, doesn't make me the best listener. I think this stems from a fear of there being a lull in conversation - the dreaded awkward silence. But during a silent retreat, everything is of course silent. And hey - it wasn't that bad! Not being able to talk meant I really had to listen to our facilitator without comment, and now I try to be mindful in conversations about letting people talk and not always jumping in with my own opinion.
It also made me listen to my mind, and my body. Often we just push through feelings of discomfort, especially when we have a busy mind, but if I wanted to rest, I went upstairs and had a lie down. If a yin pose was feeling awkward, I shifted and got comfy.
You may discover other passions
Having no phone for a whole weekend made me realise just how much time I spend on my phone and laptop. Whether I'm looking up recipes, playing Wordle, messaging friends, filming TikToks, looking up the train timetable, working, in a zoom meeting, doing an online Zumba class, reading articles or trying to squeeze in some creative writing, I spend a fair chunk of my day looking at a screen.
The retreat had an activity shelf filled with books, crafts and paints. With nothing else to do, and no screens to distract me I picked up some metallic watercolours and began painting. Watercolour requires you to be patient as the wet paint dries so you can add another layer, and I really enjoyed it. Ironically, I have plenty of paints at home, yet I never seem to have the time to use them. There's always something more important that needs to be done, and I struggle to do things simply for the pleasure of it. But switching off gave me permission to do something, simply because it might be fun to do.
Let me explain. I also freelance as a voice actor, and as part of my role - at least, it feels like it - is that I need to be online 24/7 to respond to client queries and questions. If I don't straightaway, they'll hate me, think I have an awful work ethic, cancel all their orders and never work with me again. So naturally, despite putting up an OOO, I was anxious about not being online for a whole weekend. When I finally retrieved my phone at the end, I expected to be inundated with messages that I would have to quickly respond to and apologise over the delay in communication.
There was not a single message in my inbox. Which taught me that disaster is not waiting for me if I go offline for a few days.
You can book an Inner Joy retreat at Happy Buddha - based in the beautiful suburb of Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains.