A Holiday Thought

Disconnect this Christmas

Christmas tree
By Gemma Smith and Matia Gobbo

There isn’t a more fitting month of the year than December to illustrate the idea of ‘burning the candle at both ends’.

We’ve all been there: overindulgent pre-Christmas parties by night, and frantic end of year work deadlines by day. We start the month with fairy-tale images of presenting the perfect Christmas gifts to our loved ones. In reality, we desperately resort to the usual gifts of gloves, hats and scarves or whatever we can get our hands on when we finish work on 22nd December (there’s always Amazon Prime). Finally we squish ourselves into trains, planes and automobiles to get to wherever we are going, alongside everyone else who also seems to be heading in the same direction!

Animated candle, burning at both ends

But what happens when burning the candle at both ends leads to total burnout? Too many of us are experiencing the physical and psychological side-effects of constant year-round stress, and December is often the tipping point. This rise in stress coincides with an increasingly connected world. And it’s not just the office that stresses us out, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter do an excellent job of occupying our time and even interrupting our sleep.

If all you want for Christmas is some rest to be able to start 2018 feeling refreshed, have you considered doing a mini digital-detox? A 2017 study by University of Copenhagen found that people who took a one-week break from Facebook reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction and a significantly improved emotional life. The study also found that fewer people felt angry, sad, depressed and lonely.

Our story:

Late last year we reached the end of our ‘digital tethers’ and embarked on an experiment which we called ‘My Tech-Free Evenings’. We switched off modem, TV, computers and mobiles every evening from 7pm until the next morning for 30 days to see what would happen. A lot happened actually. We slept better, spent more quality time together and suddenly had ample time to do all the cool things we previously thought we were too busy for. We also realised that we were never really that busy, we were just watching Netflix, posting on socials and taking part in random group chats on WhatsApp.

So how could you create your own mini-digital detox? Here are some ideas you could trial over your Christmas holiday:

  • — Don’t let phone notifications rule your day, particularly those generated by robots. Go to settings on your phone and switch off all notifications that are not messages from real people.
  • — Don’t check your phone out of habit, do it consciously. Decide on specific times during the day when you will check your phone and reply to messages and stick to them.
  • — Switch off vibration / flashlight so that there is no sound at all or visual reminder that you have something new to check. This way it is 100% your decision when you check your phone. Leaving your phone screen-down is also a big help!
  • — Try playing this game. When you meet up with friends or family ask everyone to put their phone into the centre of the room or table. The first person to pick up their phone has to do a forfeit. If you are out at the pub, a great forfeit could be buying a round of drinks. The perfect deterrent!
  • — Practise mindfulness. Make a conscious effort to be fully present in each moment. If you are making mince pies with your mum, be 100% there  — do you really need to take a picture of of your pies, mess about with filters, think of hashtags and then post it to Instagram? Surely time with mum is more important? ; )
  • — If you do step away from socials, make a mental (or even written) note of how this makes you feel. Is it a healthy emotion? If not, what could you change in 2018 to improve the situation for the long-term?

A mini-digital detox over Christmas is a great start but it’s the small everyday habits that you continue throughout the year which will keep you feeling sane in the long-term.

Here’s some ideas for your 2018 New Year's Resolutions:

  • — Make it a rule not to take your mobile phone to bed with you. Looking at electronic screens before bed interferes with melatonin production which can disrupt your sleep.
  • — Switch off all of your devices at 8pm on two days in the week and choose to do something you are usually ‘too busy’ to do. Keep a written record of what you do instead and how that makes you feel, something to reflect back on.
  • — Switch off all of your devices from 8am-8pm on one day of the month. Tell your nearest and dearest what you are doing and then…enjoy.

And finally, this has been a great year! It passed by so fast but we enjoyed every minute of it, in particular the great projects we collaborated on, with some amazing people. We can't wait to see what 2018 has in store for us, for now though we'll be offline - just for a bit.

See you in 2018!
Love, joy & happiness.

Elespacio signature

Matia and Gemma are a couple living in London. Matia is a digital product designer and music producer. Gemma is a nutritional therapist and a life coach. Together they organize “My tech free evenings”. You should check it out.