I'm Happy I Dropped my iPhone in the Pool ...

Jun 29, 2014, 11:23 AM, Posted by Najaf Ahmad

Bye Bye, iPhone

But I wasn't happy at first. While on vacation, I was mortified when I saw “him” lying at the bottom of the pool. “He” was my constant companion through boredom-and caffeine-fueled late-night working sessions.

Snap back to reality. Moments later my other companion—my husband—frantically rescued my iPhone from the depths of crystal clear waters. First aid involved promptly powering off the phone and depositing “him” into a bag of rice where “he” would remain for a week (or two!), drying out

The remainder of vacation seemed bleak as I anticipated hours of boredom and feeling disconnected from the world. But my experience proved otherwise. Here’s what happened:

I engaged in more physical activity. I could no longer lounge by the side of the pool dipping my feet in the water while surfing celebrity gossip sites in eager anticipation of discovering what triggered the Jay Z vs. Solange duel. So I actually got into the pool and swam. The next morning, instead of prolonging breakfast by checking email and fretting over meetings I missed, I went outside and took a walk with my family, soaking in the sun, enjoying the vistas and marveling at the clear blue sky.

I spent more time meaningfully interacting with my family and others. Until this pool incident, my daughter was a constant critic of my need to stay connected ... and rightly so. A recent New York Times article notes that children can feel hurt by the lack of attention that results from chronically connected parents. Thanks to the pool incident, I was meaningfully engaging and playing with my kids without the distraction of an electronic device.

I slept better. Like many others, I’ve struggled with bouts of insomnia. However, once I lost access to my phone, my quality of sleep improved significantly. Apparently this wasn’t a coincidence. Researchers are finding that artificial blue light emitted from computer screens and other devices lower levels of the hormone melatonin which regulates our internal clocks and sleep cycles. This is problematic since adequate sleep is needed to relieve stress, reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve memory and regulate body weight.

My mood and mental outlook improved. I became more relaxed. My friends and family noticed it and openly commented. Freedom from constant interruptions and cognitive stimulation—positive or negative—that came from being chronically connected left me feeling more relaxed. And many organizations are starting to recognize the mental health benefits (and subsequent benefits to productivity) associated with employees disconnecting from electronic devices. Hope Woodhead and I were discussing this very phenomenon when she shared a recent story highlighting email embargo policies being implemented at various organizations. A researcher interviewed for the piece noted: “If you stay on your email, you become transactional. You become reactive. You’re not inspirational”.

In this digital age, disconnecting is hard. In fact, it’s so hard that I couldn’t do it voluntarily and I even went through some early withdrawal! But once I was forced to do so, the cumulative benefits were undeniable. I became a healthier person both physically and mentally. And being healthier is making me a more conscious parent, an attentive partner and an inspired, productive worker.

So imagine how far we’d come toward building a culture of health in this nation if each of us re-evaluated our relationships with our electronic devices. Movements such as the National Day of Unplugging pose this very challenge, recognizing how hyper-connected our society has become.

There are undeniable benefits to having access to the sorts of devices our ancestors couldn’t even imagine. But I challenge you to spend a vacation, weekend, or at least a day with those you really love—and without your electronic companions. Pay attention to how that affects your mood and mental outlook. Striking a new balance might just help you get healthy and stay healthy.