By Leo Babauta
In February, I went (almost) completely without my iPhone. I thought it would be hard, and it was at first, but it turned out to be one of the best changes I’ve made in my Year of Living Without.
I highly recommend periods of no cellphone: for disconnectedness, quietness, and full attention to people you’re with and your thoughts and your surroundings.
It wasn’t easy at first. Having a smartphone everywhere you go (which I purposely didn’t have until last summer) creates mental habits — checking things constantly, sending messages, looking things up immediately when a thought pops into your mind, doing something. I suffered withdrawal for a few days, when I would want to reach for my phone constantly every time I was out of the house, and sometimes even in the house.
I was missing out on emails from colleagues and Snapchats from my kids. I couldn’t book something immediately, make a reservation, look up a need-to-know-now fact. I couldn’t read on the train. I couldn’t tell what time it was — this was a big one, as I don’t have a watch and use my phone to tell time, and I realized I’m always worried I’m late!
I watched these urges, and found them interesting. The best thing to do with urges is to be curious. So on trains, on walks, in a tea shop, I’d just watch my urges with curiosity. How did I get like this?
But then I accepted my new reality, after about 4-5 days. I just knew that I wasn’t going to be checking things, reading, looking things up, doing tasks, when I was out of the house. I knew that this was going to be disconnected, quiet, mindful time. This was my reality, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I grew to like it.
My world didn’t fall apart because I wasn’t productive every second of the day, and wasn’t on top of every message instantly. I actually survived not immediately knowing exactly where Crimea was or who won the Oscars last year. Shocking, I know.
I meditated as I walked outside, and sat on a train, or waited in line. I was actually aware of the present moment, much more often than usual.
When our lives are always connected, being disconnected can be a relief. This was my experience in February. For the first few days of March, I continued the habit. Yesterday, for what seemed like a good reason, I brought my phone on an errand … and all of a sudden my old habits came back.
I think I’ll leave my phone at home most of the time now.
What’s next? This month I’m doing no alcohol. What that means is no glass of red wine with Eva every night. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, because I did more than a month without alcohol last year. But the first few days have shown me a few surprisingly strong urges to have a few sips of wine. I’m OK with the urges — I see them as a part of myself I’m learning about, with curiosity.