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The slow down experiment

In a life-changing, year-long experiment, Suzy Walker acknowledges her ‘stop the world I want to get off’ state, and seeks a less hectic, calmer pace of life. She begins with that pesky smartphone glued to her hand!

by Psychologies

Slow down

4 minute read

When I was asked to leave the speed awareness course for texting (a colleague) I knew things had to change. I need to slow down, but how? I have a busy job, I’m a single parent, I try to write fiction in my ‘spare’ time and I enjoy seeing friends. I love cramming as much into life as I can, but I feel something is wrong; I’m racing, never resting. I want to stop and enjoy the view.

Otherwise engaged

Research says the typical smartphone user interacts with their phone 85 times a day and 24 hours a week. A day a week? ‘Measure it yourself and see,’ says Laura Willis from Shine Offline, a wellbeing company that helps people manage their online lives. I was averaging four hours and 42 minutes a day, a staggering 32 hours and 57 minutes a week. Our phones can be as addictive as cocaine, says Willis. ‘We get a high every time we get a notification, due to dopamine, the feel-good chemical that’s released. We’re a nation of phone addicts.’

It’s not about ditching the phone, but creating a healthier relationship with it, and Willis suggests a few techniques: turn off all notifications, no phone at the table and keep it out of sight when you’re with friends or colleagues. ‘It’s proven that a visible phone in a social setting decreases the depth of our interaction,’ she says.

I commit to a blackout from 8pm to 9am. I buy a watch and alarm clock because I use my phone to check the time and get sucked down the rabbit hole. I wake to its beep and answer emails before my first coffee.

So far, so good. Then I realise I also reach for my phone when I’m bored, sad, lonely or angry. I use it to numb, soothe and run away from my feelings. At first, deprived, I jiggle my foot incessantly. I feel lost. Then, slowly, my shoulders drop and my heart lifts. Instead of a social-media trance, I breathe, look out the window, chat, read. One of my main fears was that if I wasn’t connected, there’d be a crisis, but I soon see there are no fires to be put out; no dramas. I work for a magazine, not a hospital – there’s nothing that can’t wait.

It’s a good start. More time. I’ve ‘found’ 24 hours a week. More crucially, I’m disconnecting from this addictive little beast in my pocket and reconnecting with my life, my people, my emotions… with me.

Listen to the podcast

Hear Laura Willis from Shine Offline coach Suzy Walker on how to create a healthier relationship with her phone, here.

Image: Getty

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