The quiet beauty of a digital sabbath

Flower pot for digital sabbath

The average UK person spends almost 3.5 hours a day online, outside of working hours. I assume that many days I come close to that amount myself. Between blogging, catching up on shows and looking up trips and recipes, I can easily get lost in the digital world. And although I have become more and more mindful about what types of online platforms I use – I pretty much quit social media -, I definitely see the merit in connecting digitally and having access to the wealth of knowledge that is stored in the web.

The digital sabbath

But seeing merit in the digital reformation doesn’t mean we should spend hours a day dogmatically praying to our devices. I don’t know about you, but I often feel bogged down by the time spent online. Particularly when there are so many other things I would want to spend my time on. When I heard Pico Iyer talk about the concept of digital sabbaths (or a digital detox weekend) last November, I was keen to try out my own weekend away from the screen. The rules were simple. For one full day (or in my case a weekend), you turn off all screen devices, such as phones, laptops, and TVs. Let your loved ones know you can only be reached by pigeons for that day and the quiet beauty of the digital sabbath can unfold.

Empty Space

If you feel stressed or burned out, you probably feel like you need more energy. I did when I went through my health crisis. But we don’t need energy to feel more rested and balanced. We need space. Empty space, to be precise. In a time where we are always on, we lack the time to be off. Stress isn’t the problem, but the lack of meaningful rest. By clocking off the digital matrix for one day a week, we allow our body and mind to recover from the constant stimuli we are exposed to nowadays. Stepping away from technology more regularly has been one of the most useful things I have done the reduce my stress levels.

Nourishing activities

I used to want to do all these activities I thought I didn’t have time for. In my ideal life, I saw myself taking long walks in the countryside, pottering around the house and creating wholesome meals. Of course, I don’t need to explain that I did have time for them if I had only prioritised them sooner. Creating empty space away from technology opens up the possibility to fill our time with activities that soothe our soul. Walking, for example, naturally slows down our thoughts. The pace of our walks syncs up with the pace of our thought, which helps us sort through mental clutter and arrive at sparks of insight. Researchers call this the deliberation-without-attention effect. These slow and gentle activities allow our mind to spread out and spill over a little. When our mind is constantly occupied with the latest notification on our phone, we lose this ability to make the mind wander.  

Deal with sh*t

A digital sabbath can be uncomfortable at first. One of the reasons we reach for our phones so often is to distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. The feeling might as simple as boredom or something deeper and more uncomfortable. For me (and for many others) my phone was my main source of distraction. So when I started introducing the digital sabbath, I got uncomfortable quite quickly. The beauty of negative emotions is that when we stop suppressing them, they actually go away completely. If you are struggling to just sit with your emotions, a nice way to navigate through them is by journaling your thoughts. And you will see that dealing with your sh*t becomes easier over time. I have found that the longer I have been doing these digital detoxes, the more emotionally resilient I have become.

Since that weekend in November, I now have a digital sabbath each week. Whenever I can, I try to make a whole weekend out of it. But many weeks, I need a day at the weekend to take care of some digital errands. Whether you can commit to a whole weekend, or perhaps even just one afternoon a week, I can wholeheartedly recommend introducing the digital sabbath to your week.

Have you ever tried a digital sabbath?

9 Comments

  1. March 11, 2019 / 7:29 pm

    Wat goed dat je er zaak van maakt om dit regelmatig te doen! Ik doe het eigenlijk nooit, maar zou het wel vaker willen doen. Probeer bijvoorbeeld die telefoon met het scherm omlaag weg te leggen als ik samen met iemand een film kijk of wat dan ook. Zet me weer eens aan het denken hierover 🙂

    • Lizzyfied
      Author
      March 12, 2019 / 7:04 am

      Voor November had ik dit ook nog nooit gedaan! Ik ben zelf heel erg een alles-of-niets persoon, dus ik leg liever een hele dag mijn telefoon weg, anders is bij de verleiding te groot om toch constant op dat schermpje te kijken.

  2. March 12, 2019 / 10:19 am

    This is such a great idea, and one I try to do throughout the day. I’ve been having my phone on do not disturb and in another room for the first half of each day, so I can focus on things that I need to do, rather than things I want to look at, and it makes me feel much more productive, and connected with others. I’m now going to try to extend this idea to a whole day. Lisa @ lovefromlisa.com

    • Lizzyfied
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 7:01 pm

      How great that you already not use your phone for the first half of the day! I often reach for my phone within the first hour of waking up (unless I am doing a digital sabbath of course), so that is something for me to work on.

  3. March 12, 2019 / 12:51 pm

    A wonderful idea.. I’d love to try it someday. I’ve actually had so much work lately that I’ve been off Instagram for a few days, and I got a message from one of my followers asking why I haven’t posted in so long 😀 Flattering, but also a reminder of how much time we really spend online.
    Dee recently posted…A Weekend at Conrad Cairo [Hotel Review]My Profile

    • Lizzyfied
      Author
      March 13, 2019 / 7:02 pm

      Haha, that is actually quite sweet that someone messaged you about your absence. Yes, it can be quite a shocking realisation how much time we spend online. I often notice it after coming back from a holiday where I didn’t spend any time online. I hope you find a day soon where you can try out a digital sabbath to see if it works for you. 🙂

  4. March 21, 2019 / 4:36 pm

    Hey Lizzy! Raar maar waar, ik vind jouw artikelen altijd zo interessant dat ik er echt even de tijd voor wil nemen om het te lezen. Ik merk ook dat het Engels mij tegenhoud (kost net even iets meer concentratie), waardoor het al met al lang duurt voor ik een reactie achterlaat. Maar goed, over naar je bericht 🙂
    Super gaaf om te lezen dat je dit al sinds november doet! Wat je schrijft is allemaal zo waar en ik kan me voorstellen dat deze offline tijd zoveel opbrengt. Heel knap dat je dit soms zelfs twee dagen doet, en hoe dan ook wekelijks. Het is een thema waar ik zeker mee bezig ben. Ik van alles wel geprobeerd om minder online te zijn. In principe ging het wel goed omdat ik niet bijzonder veel nieuwe prikkels had op mijn telefoon (geen algemene sociale media, weinig gebruik van Whatsapp) Ik merk dat ik nu ik blog weer meer online ben en dit meer is dan ik wil. Ik denk erover na hoe ik dit voor mij het beste kan aanpakken!

    • Lizzyfied
      Author
      March 24, 2019 / 12:06 pm

      Geen social media is inderdaad al heel behulpzaam voor mij voor mijn digital sabbath. Ik probeer 1 a 2 grote blogdagen per maand in te plannen, waarop ik wat artikeltjes schrijf en foto’s maak (zoals vandaag 😊). Zo blijven er nog genoeg dagen over zonder technologie, waarop ik echt kan uitrusten. Wellicht werkt zoeits ook voor jou?

      • Silke
        March 25, 2019 / 6:30 am

        Dankjewel voor de tip! Vaste dagen inplannen is denk ik ook wel iets voor mij 🙂 Ik moet er ook nog wat onnodige zelfopgelgde druk afhalen haha.

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