11/08/2013 05:02 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Challenges and Joys of Unplugging Your Smartphone

By Carol Krucoff E-RYT, author of Yoga Sparks.

Our digital devices keep us connected, entertained and informed. But they can also overwhelm us with a constant barrage of sounds, images, texts, emails, games and videos. In our wired world, technology addiction is emerging as a major stressor, as we stare at screens instead of people, text instead of talk, and focus on personal devices while sitting in a room full of our friends.

Since our senses are now amplified by devices, truly freeing ourselves from sensory overload involves the difficult, but rewarding, practice of unplugging. Choosing to temporarily turn off our devices disconnects us from our habits of overstimulation, which for some has become a powerful addiction that consumes waking hours and distracts us from being involved in whatever is happening in the present moment.

One of my favorite ways to practice unplugging is to not check email on the Sabbath, and it's interesting to feel myself reflexively reach for the mail icon on my smart phone, then consciously not touch it. Having a dedicated "email-free" day has helped me recognize my often compulsive urge to check email and come into a more balanced relationship with this service.

Here are some ideas for practicing unplugging:
  • Consider establishing "computer-free" or "no-texting" zones in your home.
  • Don't look at screens (phone, computer, TV) within one hour of bedtime. Emerging research suggests that the stimulation from watching a screen can contribute to sleep disturbance.
  • Never text while driving -- in some places, it's the law.
  • Go "off-line" for a specific period of time -- from one hour a day to one day a week or more -- to set yourself free from the habitual pull of computers, phones and other distracting devices. Notice your reactions, and welcome whatever arises, without judgment, with the intention of seeking to understand yourself better.

As Google executive Eric Schmidt urged graduates at Boston University's commencement in May 2012: "Take one hour a day and turn that thing off... Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person you love. Have a conversation, a real conversation."

Carol Krucoff E-RYT is a yoga therapist, fitness expert, and award-winning journalist. She creates individualized yoga programs for people with health challenges at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC, where she also codirects the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training. She is the author of Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less and href="Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain: Easy, Effective Practices for Releasing Tension and Relieving Pain."

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