Today’s world is loud, fast and frantic. As a full-time working mom with three under age four, I’m no stranger to chaos. Every day is a whirlwind. I go-go-go nonstop before crashing in front of the TV and then collapsing into bed, too exhausted to clean up the cyclone that’s torn through the living room, much less put my thoughts in order. My life is cluttered: not just physically, but mentally, too.
During these busy days, it’s easy to feel out of balance and out of touch with ourselves. And one big culprit that feeds the disconnection? Phones.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge the invisible umbilical cord that ties me to my phone. I’m continually turning to my phone to fill the cracks of life. It offers a quick fix, simultaneously relaxing and stimulating, at least in the short-term. Over the long term, though, it’s become a crutch: An excuse to avoid getting down on the floor and play cars with my son; a means of burying a difficult conversation; an escape from the present moment.
I know my addiction is getting out of hand when I start snapping at family members for interrupting my Instagram habit. My husband and I even have a term for it — “phone crankies.” (Not to be confused with the related-but-different “video game crankies” or “iPad crankies.”) Too much “phone time” throws my inner balance out of whack.
Here are some tips I’ve found helpful to break the addiction and clear out your mental clutter.
Schedule screen-free time.
If you’re anything like me, nothing gets done unless you write it down or schedule it ahead of time. So consider setting aside a day, or — if you’re feeling ambitious — a whole weekend with no screens. Better yet, make it a family event. Have real-life conversations instead of virtual ones. Play board games instead of video games. Bake cookies instead of binge-watching a show. The mere act of detaching from your phone, even for a day or two, can work wonders in restoring your peace of mind.
If you’re anything like me, your mind is always racing, bouncing from your toddler’s tantrum to that bill you forgot to pay to the weeks-overdue doctor appointment you still need to schedule.
Quieting our minds requires more than scrolling mindlessly through Pinterest. It takes intention and practice to silence the constant mental chatter.
Meditation is the best way I know to do that. It leverages the mind-body connection to soothe our souls from the outside in.
Spend time outdoors.
Nature has a way of rooting us back in the here-and-now. Steeping yourself in the raw physicality of the world can renew your appreciation for the beauty all around us.
Just going for a walk around the neighborhood can work wonders for improving your mood. On cold winter days, when my fuse is short, the last thing I feel like doing is spending a half-hour bundling up the kids just to spend 20 minutes outside before their fingers get cold. Yet, once we’re outside, it’s a breath of fresh air for both body and soul.
Observe the world around you.
We miss a lot in life when we’re staring at a palm-sized rectangle in front of our face. On buses and subways, in airports and elevators — wherever people are forced to gather in close quarters with strangers, a solid percentage of us pick up our phones or pop in earbuds to shield ourselves from those in our immediate presence. Would the world end if we accidentally caught the gaze of another or opened ourselves up to the possibility of conversing with a stranger?
Without screens devouring our attention and our senses, it’s amazing the details we start to notice. Spending time observing others — not in a creepy way, but in old-fashioned people-watching style — can help us redirect our focus on those in our physical (rather than virtual) vicinity. By connecting with those around us, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact, even during the brief and seemingly fortuitous encounters that make up everyday life.
Seek out silence.
The speakers in my car only have two volume settings: loud and deafeningly loud. The radio is my constant companion during long commutes and frustrating traffic. My children also provide a steady background of screams, laughter, chatter and song — a soundtrack I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Still, the noise can get overwhelming. It doesn’t help that our house is practically an echo chamber, with an open concept and vaulted wood ceiling. Between the dishwasher humming, the kids screaming, the water running and the TV blaring, I’m bombarded by noise all day long. Silence, by contrast, seems startling and unsettling.
But silence is essential for resting our minds and refreshing our spirits — especially for introverts like me. Don’t give into the temptation to fill every spare moment with noise; that just leads to increased mental clutter. Instead, give your ears a break. Turn off the TV during naptime and enjoy some quiet time yourself (or maybe even a nap, if you’re lucky).
Calm, stillness and silence: They seem like foreign concepts during this frenzied season of life. But by setting aside time to build these new habits, we can cultivate the inner peace that so often eludes us busy mothers.