Unplugging this autumn

Autumn is characterised by change. The changing of the seasons, the changing of the leaves, and sometimes even the changing of yourself! This autumn, I decided to change some of my bad tech habits by unplugging. We’ve all heard about how blue light can mess with your sleeping patterns, and lots of people have activated the eye comfort feature on their phones, which blocks out blue light at a predetermined scheduled time, but I’m sure there’s more that can be done!

Researchers have found that 67% of cell phone owners check their phone even when they don’t hear it ringing or vibrating, a habit which is attributed to increased stress and anxiety in adults. We’re so attached to our phones and technology that we even get “phantom vibrations” — and I’m sure you’ve experienced this before. Studies indicate some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes and that 88% of U.S. consumers use their mobiles as a second screen while watching T.V. — who hasn’t checked Facebook while rewatching an old episode of their favourite series? This is all good and well, but if you’re constantly looking for distractions from your distractions, you should put down the phone and back away slowly.

By setting boundaries for yourself and cutting down on screen time, we can start cutting ties with technology and depend less on our phones for entertainment and comfort. I’m not saying you should throw away all your gadgets and drop out of the tech sphere, but there are ways to keep yourself in check. Unplugging doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off from the outside world, or that you’ll miss out on the latest Game of Thrones memes, but rather just that you will be more conscious about how you spend your free time and what you choose to focus on.

Now, due to my job, I can’t unplug completely — imagine telling my boss at a digital marketing company that I’m unplugging from the digital sphere! I have, however, cut down on my screen time drastically and made more time for myself. Check out what I learned below!

Untie, Unplug & Unwind

It’s time to unplug and cut that cord! No, not literally! I used to always have a spare cell phone charger on me at all times, because my constant phone use would drain the battery in a matter of hours. I decided to cut the cord and extend my battery life by using my phone as little as possible. It’s kind of scary knowing that if your battery runs out that’s it, but at the same time, it’s kind of freeing. If I look at my battery percentage and see that I only have 42% left by 1 pm, I just pack my phone in my handbag and ignore it as much as possible to save on battery life.

Another cool trick is to turn on Ultra Power Saving Mode on Android, or Low Power Mode on iPhones. You can customise what this does for you in your phone’s settings, with options ranging from just reducing the brightness and switching off bluetooth and wifi, to blocking everything (apps included) except calls and SMSes. This might sound a bit drastic, but sometimes it’s time for drastic measures!

Another great feature that comes standard with some newer phones, is Digital Balance. This app monitors your phone usage rates, broken down by app, and tells you precisely how many minutes you’ve spent on which app, as well as how many hours you’re actively on your phone in a day. It also allows you to limit yourself to a certain number of hours of active screen time per day, after which you’re automatically locked out of your phone. This can be customised to allow certain apps of your choosing, so no need to stress! You can also limit specific apps to a max amount of time, so if you’ve realised that you’ve been spending 6 hours a day on Insta, just limit yourself to a more reasonable amount!

If all of this sounds too drastic to you, try setting aside a specific time each day to do all your social media updates, browsing and aimless scrolling. I allowed myself to check social media once I get home from work, and limited myself to 30 minutes of scrolling. After 30 minutes, I locked my phone and found something else to do. And don’t try to fool yourself by letting that “something else” be binge-watching The Office for the thousandth time!

Instead of loafing in front of the TV or my laptop before going to bed, I’ve switched to reading. I used to be an avid reader, reading at least one book a week, and always having one somewhere in my handbag. Somewhere along the line, I became lazy and started reading less and less, while spending more and more time curled up in front of the TV. I’m not saying TV is the enemy — I absolutely love watching series and movies, but if you’re spending every night on the couch watching reruns of shows you’ve seen a hundred times before, instead of talking to your boyfriend on the other end of the couch, you might have a problem.

Try unplugging a bit this autumn and spend more quality time with yourself, your friends and your family, I promise, it’s great! You don’t have to take drastic measures, but put away that phone and turn off the TV once in a while. Take a walk in the beautiful Winelands scenery, play some board games, read a book, have a heartfelt conversation, and live in the moment! And don’t worry — if you don’t know how to keep yourself entertained during bad weather, don’t fear! I’ve made a list of things to do during bad weather in the Winelands, in Cape Town and at home, so what’s stopping you?

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