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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

12 Hours Unplugged: Cravings, Urges, and Insights Oh My!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: May 11th 2010

internetLast week I wrote about an upcoming 12 hour Unplug Challenge, where the intention was to set 12 hours aside from your phone, email, text, Facebook, Twitter, and yes, blogs. One of the readers called me out and said,

"Thanks, Elisha. As always in the years I have followed your sage advice, your words come to me at a most opportune time!  Thanks for the reminder to unplug!  Will you write a follow-up column about your own unplugged 12 hours?"

What was interesting about this practice was that the idea wasn't to remove yourself from society in a retreat setting without media contact, it was to go ahead and live your life, but without these forms of connectivity.

I approached this as an experiment with an attitude of curiosity toward what would come up in my mind and body. Not surprisingly, throughout the day I noticed many thoughts that included accessing my phone come and go through my mind (aka Cravings). I also noticed physical symptoms (e.g., tightness in throat and chest) and impulses to reach for my phone even though it was not there (aka Urges).

These cravings and urges were strongest in the first half of the day and tended to die down a bit toward the end of the day. That may be because my mind knew it was going to get its fix soon so it could calm down.

A couple experiences really hit home for me. In the afternoon I arrived and was in between plans with people. As I entered my house I had the impulse to reach for my phone to check it, but ofcourse the next thought told me that it wasn't there. So what was I to do during this "in-between" time?

In that moment I recognized I was a bit tired so I just lied down on the couch and rested. Wow, what a concept. It felt wonderful to allow myself that space. If I had my phone, no doubt I would have checked it, listened to voicemails, read emails, followed up on texts or searched the web. Not even close to as restorative. I also felt like I was taking care of myself which had a healthy effect.

On another occasion I was at a small festival in my town and again had the thought, "how are people going to get a hold of me?" Seconds later I had the realization that everything is not urgent. People can write to me or call and I can just get back to them later. In that moment the entire festival opened up to me and my whole body relaxed into just being at the festival.

Now, let me be clear. I see a lot of value in the variety of forms of connectivity we have available to us today. However, it was very interesting to see how addictive behaviors of mind and body have been formed with my phone and how taking space away from the phone for a short period of time allowed me to be more present to my needs and the world around me and actually brought me joy.  

Did you take the 12 hour unplug challenge? If not, are you up for it this week? As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.



Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

THANKS!!! - Christine Brooks - May 11th 2010

Dear Elisha:

Thanks SO much for proposing the unplugged day...and also reporting back on the challenge.  I was unplugged for all of Saturday and it was absolutely wonderful.  My girlfriend did not believe that I could stay away from my digtal world for the entire day and poked fun at me--so I challenged her to do it as well!  Since we were both unplugged, we made time to stop by a friend's house during a yard sale that resulted in several finds perfect for our upcoming trip to Burning Man!  The drop-in also resulted in an invite to a BBQ at the same house that night where several of us talked about the unplugged challenge.  Some also poked fun at me--which made me realize that I am "known" for being overly wired.  Others mentioned that they would like to be less wired as well.  The result of my experience? I am going to try to learn how to be unwired for one 12-hour period each week.  I have yet to determined when this will be, which leads me to realize that there is NO good time and that making this committment means letting go of having to be a part of the action all the time.  So, it looks like Sundays will be my day.

Again, I send thanks to you for proposing the challenge and gratitude that I took the leap!

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