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Daring to Step Away: 44 Ways

“I’ll see it, because I ride that thing like a jockey!”

This was the reassurance a friend offered about seeing a message that would be coming his way. The thing he was referring to riding was either his phone or Facebook. I laughed both in appreciation of his comparison and because I know the feeling all too well. But the ride is rough and doesn’t always take us where we need to go. That’s why, ironically, I’m writing this blog post (which in another layer of irony will be promoted on social media) about stepping away from the screens. It’s not an unhealthy idea to consider.

One Day Is a Good Start

For years I’ve taken Sundays off the internet. These often are beautiful days. Time stretches out; I seem to have space to do more of whatever I want to do. Sometimes I go old school and listen to records or the radio. I might enjoy coffee in bed, cook a big dinner, garden, or find another way to enjoy the outdoors. I feel what it’s like to be unsure of what to do next. (Try it. Don’t pick up that device! What is next?)

I feel greater appreciation for my life more when I’m hands-on; the adage “Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have” is made real. It can be hard to not feel productive, but I’m learning the joy of doing nothing. (I find the reassurance of articles like this one about laziness helpful.)

The other days are tricky. My coaching practice and the bulk of my marketing and networking happen online. This is the time of year the evenings become noticeably longer and darker. And when I get near a screen or touch a keyboard, things can go wrong. This is how I know when I’ve fallen into the hole: Everyone’s life looks better than mine. I begin to wonder if there is a pandemic or not (there is); I get confused about what safety measures I want to take or not. And, I too am guilty of adding to the problem by cropping out or disguising any marred surface (whether real or metaphoric) in the images I share.

It’s Not For Me to Say

My role as a life coach is not to give advice or tell someone what to do. (My role is—through listening, reflection, and thoughtful questioning—to help you to discover what is in your heart). So I won’t tell you to put down the phone, to get offline, or to engage all of your senses elsewhere. But, as a fellow human who writes a blog and is concerned with well-being, let me encourage you to set aside the device and step away from the screens.

What Else is There?

Get present in your day. Take a moment to ask what you feel on your skin. What sensations are inside your skin? Can you feel anything in your muscles, bones, lungs, or digestive system? What do you hear, see, taste, and smell?

A few of my favorite things away from screens.

Now ask yourself what you want or need. Pursue that. No answer? Choose from this list of activities to take the place of doomsurfing:

Exercise aerobically or practice yoga. Stretch. Take a foamy bath, lie on the couch with or without a book. Dive into that long-delayed closet cleaning, call a friend. Sit on the porch, take time to smell the roses—or the dirt, or a can of tuna. Walk downtown. Talk to a stranger. Hike in the woods, go to a lake, grab a sandwich to eat outside. Make something, play a game, build a model or a puzzle, listen to music, dance! Look for ways to update your home. Rearrange the furniture, play with your pets, cook something—maybe a dish you’ve never made. Order take-out or go out to eat if that’s comfortable.

There’s More!

Connect with your beloved. Make bad art (or good art if you have the chops). Color Easter eggs even if it’s Halloween. Get dressed up for no reason. Write a list of places you’d like to see then draw a picture of what you imagine they look like. Paint your nails. Journal. Meditate. Write a letter and mail it. Wash your sheets, sing, braid your hair, drive to the wealthiest neighborhood you know of and go for a walk. Look at the sky whether it’s night or day. Visit a museum, farm stand, or the library. Eat chocolate and enjoy every bite. Rest.

What have I missed? What delights do you find offline?

Susan McDowell is a personal coach based in Central Vermont.

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