by Joe Delaney, Financial Lifeguard
How often do you fully disconnect - from the internet, your phone, and from all the screens that tend to dominate our lives? This is the simple yet powerful act of unplugging.
Too many of us are always plugged in. Our screens make us edgy from always being on alert. We struggle mentally due to poor sleep. And we actually feel disconnected from people we care about despite our constant digital connection.
Unplugging from it all to reconnect with yourself and others can do wonders for our mental and physical health. I recently rediscovered this for myself on a trip down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park.
Let me share with you what I experienced to inspire you to embrace unplugging in your life.
5 Health Benefits
It was a five-day backpacking trip, 35 miles long point-to-point, with my adult son and a dear friend. This was a true bucket list trip for me. It was physically challenging, we were immersed in nature, and I was with two awesome humans.
Sometimes, it helps to put yourself in a situation that forces you to unplug. In order to spend two full days playing in this beautiful, remote water playground unlike any I’d ever experienced, I had to fully unplug for the first time since I started my business in 2012.
With my amazing staff in place to hold down the fort, I was ready to immerse myself in this well-earned vacation and all the benefits of unplugging.
1. Connecting with Nature
Simply being outside in forests and among mountains has great mental health benefits. Studies have shown that connecting with nature can:
- Improve memory
- Fight depression
- Lower blood pressure
But you can only fully connect with nature by disconnecting from the devices that steal your attention. You won’t experience these mental health benefits if you’re worried about the reception, thinking about calls you need to make, or emails to check. That’s why remote places with little or preferably no reception are so precious.
And what a gorgeous, remote place this was! John Muir, the famed Naturalist, who fought tirelessly to create Yosemite National Park and to (unsuccessfully) prevent the damming of Hetch Hetchy in 1912, said of the area where we were hiking:
“Hetch Hetchy is a grand landscape garden, one of nature's rarest and most important precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life ... while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music.”
109 years later his words still ring true. This is indeed a precious place.
2. Reconnecting with People
As the pandemic has reminded us, there is no replacement for sharing experiences with others in person. Communication through phones and screens just can’t compare.
We’ve gotten so used to digital interactions with clients and coworkers, family and friends, that it’s easy to forget how inferior it is compared with being together when everyone is unplugged.
It’s a sad irony that despite all our ability to connect digitally, the distance technology puts between us can lead to feelings of loneliness. Only by unplugging together can we truly reconnect.
As excited as I was about our impending journey down to the Secret Pools of the Tuolumne River, I was even more grateful to be sharing this experience with people I care about.
3. Appreciating Life
Fully unplugged, the three of us weren’t just together, we were fully present as we set out on our two-day journey to reach the Secret Pools.
We began near the source of the Tuolumne River, the same river that feeds Hetch Hetchy reservoir and the 2.5 million residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bears or rattlesnakes along the way, despite seeing fresh bear skat, evidence that they weren’t too far off.
My friend had elevated the Secret Pools to some kind of Shangri-La. When we reached our destination, I saw that he wasn’t exaggerating. It did not disappoint.
We coasted down a smooth granite slide 180 feet long with a chilly yet refreshing pool at the bottom. Other pools were at the bottom of promontories, our natural high-dives into the cool water. Large, sun-bathed granite slabs warmed us after the plunge.
Truth be told, I did have my phone but only for taking photos and videos of this awesome place. Imagine if we’d had reception and all the intrusions of daily life that come with it. Unplugging allowed us to fully engage in this experience, to appreciate life in real-time, and make these days truly unforgettable.
4. Physical Health
Everything about our playtime was good for our physical health. Hiking to get there, swimming in the waters, climbing the rocks. Unplugging allowed us to engage our bodies in healthy ways.
So much of modern work is unnatural. Hunching over our screens and keyboards for hours on end puts strain on our bodies. Even if we occasionally get on a treadmill with a screen in front of us, being plugged in usually goes hand-in-hand with a sedentary lifestyle.
Our bodies were made to move and explore. Turning off the screens helps us tap into that healthy wanderlust, whether that means walking and running through our neighborhoods or hiking through our awe-inspiring national parks.
5. Better Sleep
We played a solid two days, coming back to our campsite only for meals and some much-needed siestas. Both the exertion of the day and the vivid Milky Way above at night lulled us to some of the best sleep I’ve ever had.
Unplugging gets us away from the blue light our screens emit, which our brains associate with daylight. It disrupts the urge to sleep as we take our devices to bed with us to check messages or watch videos.
But even if you don’t do that, chances are, you have your phone near you at night. That alone can disrupt sleep. Various notifications - and just the chance that there might be notifications - can keep part of your brain in alert mode when it should be in sleep mode.
Let me tell you, there is no better night light than the Milky Way on a cloudless night.
There was little competition for light as our trip fell near a new moon. We were blessed with near smokeless air, too, despite all the fires plaguing our drought-prone state. The stars provided all the nighttime entertainment we needed without disturbing the natural rhythm of sleep.
I’m sure all the exercise and good food we prepared for ourselves encouraged good sleep, too. Unplugging allowed us the time and attention to engage in all these healthy activities.
Unplugging: Part of Living Your Best Life
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and all its wonders truly was the closest thing to Shangri-La that I have ever experienced. It was a precious time well-spent in good company.
But experiences like this don’t happen without a plan and a serious commitment to unplug.
At Lifeguard Wealth, we want you to live your best life. Finances are only the beginning of the conversation. We tie financial health to your overall goals for enjoying life and being well.
I firmly believe making a habit of unplugging is part of any good life plan. Try setting a goal to unplug one day a week and for two full weeks a year. Make a plan to use one or both of those two weeks to disconnect from daily life - and reconnect with nature, loved ones, and yourself.
To learn more about our approach to protecting your financial future as part of a holistic life plan, reach out to Lifeguard Wealth today.
The opinions expressed by myself and other featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of Lifeguard Wealth. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.
© 2020, Lifeguard Wealth