How Disconnecting from Technology Made Me Happier
The waiter caught me at a bad time.
“Quires más guapa?” (Want anything more, beautiful?)
I looked up at him, like a deer caught in the headlights, hunched over my plate and stuffing the last bit of bread into my mouth, after it had been soaked in the mystery sauce on my tapas plate.
Believe me, this whole moment was far from “guapa.” I think I even had some flakes of bread falling into my lap at that exact moment.
I froze, but managed to shake my head, “no.”
He nodded, smiled and winked, something Spanish men seem to do with an effortless charm, and walked away.
I un-hunched myself and leaned back into my chair, sighing as I chewed and wondering if he’d call me “guapa” again after that incident. I reached for my wine and sat back again, holding the glass against my chest as I breathed in the moment.
I looked up at the buildings that surrounded me on tiny Calle Estrella. Dusk was finally making its presence known and the street lamps were lighting up, casting about their golden glow.
The tiny cobblestone street began to hum with the sounds of people talking and laughing, of glasses clinking and utensils hitting plates, as Bar Estrella’s tapas were being consumed by the European crowd. Once in a while, a motorbike would zoom down the street and around the corner, its “brrruuummm brumm brumm” echoing into the distance.
As I watched all the life happening around me, I felt relaxed and at peace. I was sitting alone in solitude, surrounded by happy people, good food, and good wine. There was nowhere I needed to go and nothing I needed to do in that moment, except soak it all in.
This was my second time living in Sevilla. The first time I lived in Sevilla was for 4-months during college, but this time around, I was here for a total of 6 glorious weeks. I had recently become a full-time freelancer, so I had the location independence that allowed me to travel. I was working from a cute Airbnb that had a view of La Giralda, Sevilla’s famous cathedral, and it had me hoping that heaven would look a little bit like this (wine and palmeras included.)
One thing that struck me about my time in Sevilla was the peace, clarity, and joy I felt during my time there. It’s true, I was away from the “daily grind,” that I experienced back at home, but I was still working (almost) full-time in Sevilla, running errands, getting groceries, going to the gym, doing laundry…being just as responsible of an adult there as I was in San Diego.
But I did it with much more ease and grace. Why?
I let myself disconnect from distractions and be in the present moment. And wowzers, that is powerful when done on a daily basis.
When I arrived in Sevilla, I didn’t get a Spanish phone plan. This meant that my iPhone couldn’t make phone calls or send texts, and it would only have Internet access when connected to wi-fi. So, I basically had Internet at my apartment and then the second I stepped out of there…my phone became a camera. And that was it.
This meant I wasn’t answering emails while in line at the grocery store. This meant I wasn’t scrolling through Facebook while drinking my coffee at a cafe. This meant I wasn’t Instagramming while walking the winding cobblestone streets of the city. This meant my head wasn’t always swirling with work or my to-do lists.
Instead, I observed what was around me. I engaged with other people (as much as my broken Spanish would let me). I indulged in my thoughts. I wrote and journaled in an actual notebook. I sat and basked in the sunshine.
I was curious. Because my natural curiosity wasn’t being stifled by Facebook notifications or the mental checklist that grew every time I read an email from a client.
Disconnecting from social media, technology and being fully engaged in the world around me allowed me to truly soak in my surroundings. It allowed me to daydream, it allowed me to bask in the present moment. I was enchanted by all that I saw because I was fully there.
At home, I’m not more obsessed with my phone or technology than the average person, but I didn’t realize how “connected” I was to it until I disconnected.
I was so much happier. I slept better. And better yet, I was more productive and focused when I worked (huzzah!)
In a world that’s so connected and busy, it can be difficult and a little anxiety-inducing to disconnect and, well, shut the damn phone off.
But even just an hour or two a day away from social media notifications and distracting technology, can give us a chance to be fully in the present moment. To soak in our surroundings, observe and give our brains and bodies a mini-vacation.
And as counter-productive as it sounds, this will actually make you MORE productive in your day.
That night after dinner, I got up from my table and meandered back home. I climbed the five flights of stairs up to my attic studio and stood on the balcony, staring at the magnificent sight of La Giralda. I let the cool breeze wash over me as I closed my eyes and listened to the now more distant clanking of plates and silverware and a soft hum of voices.
I was filled with peace and tranquility, my senses more enriched. I opened my eyes and smiled. I turned around and went back inside, releasing the curtain from its hook, so it could cover my open balcony door, but still dance gracefully in the wind.
Now that I’m back home in San Diego again, I have to be more cognizant of my “disconnect” time. So, just like I would schedule a dentist appointment, I schedule time to disconnect. I walk or drive to a cafe and just sit while sipping my coffee. No phones allowed.
So, how do you plan to disconnect this week?