By Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW
While on vacation with my husband in the Adirondacks, I made a disturbing discovery…we were in a dead zone. There was no cell service! I immediately went through a wide range of emotions: sadness, panic, boredom and finally acceptance. I imagine that my reaction is not uncommon, and if you were in my situation you'd probably feel similarly.
So what does it mean that having no service leaves us feeling uncomfortable and bereft? It is clear that cell phones serve many more purposes than just a way to make calls. Now our cell phones are miniature computers that allow us to instantly communicate with friends, family and business associates all around the world. And the best part is that we can do this without even having to actually talk!
I will admit that I use my phone a lot to do business even when on vacation. I guess you could say I'm a bit of a workaholic. Even when I'm out of the country I'm checking in to make sure clients are okay, schedules are accurate and the practice is running smoothly. But this time I was in the US, only hours from NYC, so how could this cell phone blackout be happening?!
After pouting for about an hour by a lake (I know, poor me), I actually started to enjoy the dead zone. I was able to appreciate the moment. I was on a beautiful lake, lounging in the sunshine and surrounded by nature. I felt liberated not being a slave to my phone and constantly checking for emails and texts.
So what did I do instead? I read a book (an actual paper one), lounged in the sun, went for a walk and talked to my husband. And what did this weekend without constant connectivity teach me? That being unplugged is a core part of mindfulness and it allowed me to focus on the present.
I challenge you to create your own dead zones in your daily life. Maybe try putting the phone down for an hour each day. It'll be hard at first, but you'll soon see a difference in your mood. You'll learn that the world won't end if you don't answer a work email or a text from your friend within an hour. In fact, you may even enjoy the time off.
Elizabeth Cobb, LCSW is a therapist in private practice in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you find yourself having difficulty with a smartphone addiction or would like to learn more about mindfulness, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.