Living the Simple Life
March 29, 2020
I'm definitely not the first person to comment about this, nor am I the most qualified to explain this phenomenon, but it's had a major impact on my life in the last year or so, and I want to share my thoughts and experiences.
It's no secret or surprise that today's highly connected and digital lifestyle takes a toll on mental health. Modern media and social media sites vie for your attention via articles and algorithms designed to keep you in a constant state of outrage. It doesn't take a doctor to tell this isn't a good recipe for long-term sanity or satisfaction.
I've been relatively detached from mainstream media and social media for several years now, but I've still been very attached to my computer throughout that time. I don't think computers are unhealthy, but I definitely spend more time in front of mine than is probably good for me. Within the past year or so, I've been taking steps to get away from the computer now and then to experience life unplugged as I did for a few years in my childhood before the Internet took over my daily habits.
My favorite way to do this now is to go to a coffee shop without a computer and just write in my journal. I also bring a little sign with me to put on the table inviting strangers to sit and have interviews with me. This is very refreshing for someone like me who doesn't get out very often. I find that I have fewer and fewer friends in close physical proximity, and although none of my interviewees have turned into proper friends, it's been very nice to make some new personal connections with people. As an introvert who has a heck of a time initiating conversation with strangers, this is definitely a great thing for me.
Another way I like to relax is by listening to music. Now, I'm sure most anybody reading the article likes listening to music; it's one of those universal human things. However, I'd like you to consider when the last time was that you sat down and just listened to an entire album from beginning to end with no interruptions and without doing something else at the same time like using your phone or driving. Have you ever done that? Nowadays, people mostly use music to fill blank space in their lives; it isn't an active thing except for the occasional concert. I keep my stereo system in a completely different room from all my computer equipment. When I want to relax, I get up from the computer, put on an album, and just sit and listen to the whole thing. I might get up a time or two for a drink, but I make it a point not to get distracted from the music. Music shouldn't be the background for our activities; we need to see it once again for the activity that it is.
I'd like to start reading books again. I stopped reading in the middle of a very difficult book (actually it's not even close to the middle), and I guess I should just read something else, because I'm unlikely to feel like making any progress for quite a long time. If you're curious, the book is volume 1 of The Gulag Archipelago. It's a fantastic recounting of a man's experience in communist Russia, and it seems like a very important read, but it is absolutely brutal to get through. Maybe I'll finish it some day.
One thing I did also for a little while and need to get back into doing is writing before bed. I made a point that 30 minutes before bed, I would get off the computer and write in my journal until it was time to sleep. The point of this was primarily because of some research I've read where looking at blue light from screens isn't good for circadean rhythm, but it also helped get my mind off of the day before bed. Maybe I'll start reading instead.
I encourage you also to go on more walks if you aren't very active already. It's really a treat to take in the environment at a leisurely pace without being bothered by technology.
I realize this kind of sounds like when old people go on about how much better life was before all this modern technology. I'm not against technology, though I do have many issues with the way most people use it nowadays. It's very easy to be swept up in the convenience and stimulation of technology, but for your own sake, I implore you to take a break more often.