Unplug.

A fishing village in São Vicente (Cape Verde), December 2018. Photo by Alexandra Mateus.

In today’s hyperconnected world, it is easy for even the most mindful of us to become over-reliant on technology. From cell phones to computers to digital TV, some studies estimate that we spend up to many hours a day interacting with screen-based media. The positive part is that some people recognize the side effects of long term tech use without any breaks.

The overdependence has been linked to a host of mental health issues. Our digital lives take up much less physical space than our real lives, but their effect on our mental clutter is not to be underestimated. Mental clutter is the stuff we carry around in our heads — the non-physical stuff. We can’t see it, but we can most definitely feel it.

More and more people are looking to unplug. Using technology is an unavoidable part of our daily work life for most of us. In our non-working hours, home time, and personal lives, we can make more efforts to be out of the screen, while there are plenty of apps and systems for tracking our on-screen time. I encourage to plan, track, and spend a little time each day in non-screen-based activities.

In our contemporary-day problem, we become far away from the ancient lessons of our ancestors — be able to live using only our wisdom. The more I speak with people worldwide who follow that motto, the more I realize that it gets us back to what it means to be human. It is on us to set up our lives with experiences that have always made existence healthy and joyful — human connection, Nature, whole foods, and soulful moments.

In the early days of COVID-19, there were many thinking pieces floating around about how humanity needs stillness and how we need to pause and reevaluate our lives. Also, to stop to fill our lives with material possessions and embrace more slow travels and real-world experiences that enrich us as human beings.

Therefore, by taking control of what we allow into our lives and motivating ourselves to declutter and organise we can calm the storm:

Explore - go somewhere new. Take a hike, visit a new part of town or the world, or try new things.

Meet - connect with someone face-to-face. Spend time with friends or loved ones off-line instead.

Move - do something active. Take a long walk, run, bike, do exercise without your phone while you travel and immerse in the landscape.

Create - make something with your hands. Draw, cook — add something local or cultural to your travels.

Learn - read a book, learn the country’s language you choose to spend some time, visit the geo-cultural references along your travel route. Stretch your mind.

Reflect - do something introspective, visit a spiritual place, do a travel retreat, or meditate.

Help - do something for another person or being, or support a good cause while locally, travelling or even in far distance (e.g. worldwide catastrophes, animal fair rights, children or refugees, or similar).
Donate some of your time travel to a non-profit organisation.

Play - climb or take your pet with you.

Prep - make time to care for the infrastructure of your daily life.

It can be easy to forget but we are in control of our digital lives. We get to decide the purpose of the technology we allow into our lives and curate a healthy relationship with it through healthy boundaries.

I hope the article will provide you space at the end of your day/week or travel to reflect on your successes and challenges along the line. Also, to access the impact your off-screen time had on your mood.

You may find it gets easier and easier to cut down your devices from your radar. You reconnect with yourself and the real world. True self-care lies in deep work, the body and soul work. It can have an extremely positive effect on your mental wellbeing.

Senior UX designer • Traveler • Circular design • Material futures • http://www.alexandramateus.com/

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Alexandra Mateus

Alexandra Mateus

Senior UX designer • Traveler • Circular design • Material futures • http://www.alexandramateus.com/

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