A Snapchat-girl’s phoneless journey to minimalism and mindfulness

Here is my phone defining mindfulness:

a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Thank you, phone; I will miss you.

I'd heard about the benefits of mindfulness in psychology class, or in passing conversation in the Yogatree parking lot, but never fully absorbed what it meant until recently...

One gloomy day, I went to Shopper's Drug Mart to get some soap and a Cash For Life scratch card because a girl can dream. As I was cashing out, displayed with the word "Mindfulness" on it in promising red letters was a special issue of TIME Magazine. I was having bad day, so I treated myself to the twenty-dollar thing that would help me become a better person. And somewhere in this life changing magazine, the writers at TIME tell me to go on an "i-cleanse" (to get off my phone).

The Problem

I never thought my love of texting and social media was a “problem” – it was just part of who I am! I have to text my family, because they live so far away. My friend must know I just saw a lampshade that made me think of them. I always have a lot to say (which can be confirmed by the length of this article). These texts frustrated an ex partner of mine. And I understood why he was annoyed by it; did he need to know about the goose I just saw with a water bottle in his mouth? No. He did not. Nor did he need a lengthy description on the goose’s glistening brown feathers. But I loved seeing that goose. I wanted to share. I wanted to know how he felt about geese. What about water bottles? Is he more an Aquafina or Dasani man? Can he tell the difference in taste? I can’t.

Ten texts in, I’d realize I should shut my mouth – or halt my fingers. I would then send 2 extra texts apologizing for the prior 10. I never could stop those dancey fingers. Apparently others in our circles agreed upon the fact that I am an over-texter and would discuss it. I just dismissed this and turned to self-love (“This is who I am! I won’t change for anyone! People just like to talk shit.”).

Flash forward to reading TIME magazine: they laid down some insane facts down for me that helped me realize maybe these people have a point; checking my phone has become compulsive, even beyond texting.

Here’s some real shit:

  • The average person checks their phone 150 times per day
  • Phantom text syndrome (to hear your phone buzzing when it isn’t) is a norm for everyone under 20

Following reading this, I listened to podcasts/YouTube videos on mindfulness (Lavendaire’s a good one). This led me to "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Which led me to researching minimalism and watching that documentary on Netflix (“Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”) and that happiness documentary on Netflix (“Happy”).

All of this helped me realize some things about myself. Which led me to this decision of a 5-day trial of this phoneless, mindful, etc. etc. lifestyle.

The only exception I am giving myself is that I may only use my phone…

  1. to make (minimal) necessary calls or messages pertaining to work/rehearsals
  2. as a flashlight

No camera, no alarm clock, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

NOTE: I’m desperately trying not to breach into the territory of preaching/condescension below. I’m just like you – a real, relatable gal.

The Phonelessness

It started off with a little difficulty – I couldn’t look things up or take pictures. I took my camera with me (albeit a little worried that I would look like I take myself too seriously with my semi-professional-but-not-professional-enough-to-look-cool-Canon). On the bright side, having my camera on my person encouraged me to take more artistic photos without the fear of looking like a self-proclaimed iPhone photographer.

Navigation was less of a struggle than I thought. Honestly, I am so capable of getting around places and I bet you are even more so because I’m a bit of a mess, to be honest. Siri telling me to “head west” has only led me to walking in the wrong direction for long periods of time. By the time I get to my intended destination, I swear I arrive substantially wrinklier than I was before the journey. Navigating phoneless gave me such confidence that I could actually do things on my own. In general, the phoneless experience gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment, even when I was doing mundane tasks. It felt good.

You know what else was less of a struggle? The lack of alarm clock! I just magically started waking up at 8.30 (and I am not a naturally-wake-up-at-eight-thirty kind of gal) on days I needed to. I chalked it up to a divine miracle.

My mom’s in town visiting! And when spending time with her, we both became more present. I wasn’t using my phone, so she didn’t use hers. We talked the entire time, and I know that if I’d brought my phone, both of us would have been more distracted. The conversations usually have more interruptions that take time to recover from, only to be once again interrupted by a text (or phantom text).

Alternatively, not being on your phone while other people are on theirs is so difficult. All you can do in the meantime is appreciate the quality of the air, the song of a bird. Which what the good people of the world would do in the olden days, so that’s nice, I guess. But it’s hard and a bit awkward sitting and staring as someone else is texting (to no fault of theirs). And…well, I broke two times to show my friends people/pictures on my phone. #nobodysperfect

In other phone-related failures: I missed my friend’s birthday and another friend’s farewell at work. I am sorry Emma and Karen. Phonelessness here did not treat me well.

On the opposite spectrum of having fun with friends, doing homework became easier. I had a disgusting essay to write and I just wrote it without feeling this gut need to check my phone every other minute because I knew I wasn’t allowed. I kept my focus.

Not texting at the beginning was, in all honesty, a bit lonely. On walks home, I took in scenery, I pet cute neighborhood dogs… but I didn’t snap it or text it to anyone. Partly, it was so empowering – I could live in the moment! – but it also felt partially isolating. It was a lot of time to think (about stressors, etc.). This changed over the course of my 5-day cleanse.

What began as something difficult became one of my favorite parts of the i-cleanse – just experiencing things without worrying about documenting it was freeing. I read up on this exercise, that when a stressful thought pops up to recognize it, visualize it as a cloud, let it float away, and then become present again. It only sometimes worked…but stressing about things in this manner becomes detrimental.

The Mindfulness

I did some things to practice mindfulness in addition to yoga and meditation: the big one was just focusing on where I was and what was going on around me. I’ve always been one to point out a beautiful moon, to stop my partner – even in a hurry – to look at a dog or the sky or a tree. This can be annoying for some people. This time, I just recognized things on my own and took my time. It was hard to not get caught up in thoughts, and I often did. But there was something nice about focusing on things I would’ve usually ignored.

Then, there’s mindful eating: there are different techniques of mindful eating that all essentially pertain to focusing on your food and not multitasking. Chewing it loudly and listening to the chewing is proven to result in eating only what you need. How does it taste? Trying new foods also helps in appreciating flavors more, and being more conscious of what you are eating. This also results in more of a realization of when you are full, so it prevents over-eating.

I have been practicing mindful eating for 2 weeks and I feel more energetic and I’ve even lost some weight. I’ve also been exercising more because apparently that makes people happy. I’ve received tips to try and exercise in novel ways (in a new place, a new exercise) to get that sweet, sweet dopamine uptake. It gives me something to focus on moment-to-moment, with concrete goals set.

The Minimalism

So KonMari wrote this book that tells us how to get rid of the crap we don’t need and then organize.

To outline how much of a consumer I am, here is a list of 5 things I can see directly in front of me that I have not even a little bit of use for:

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: the game for PlayStation 2 (I have no PlayStation 2)
  2. A broken pug clock
  3. Empty boxes with manuals inside
  4. A set of monthly agendas for the year of 2015
  5. Piano books/sheet music (that I cannot read)

So, KonMari: fuck me up.

I purged clutter from my closet to my SD card. I won’t outline the KonMari technique because there are a trillion articles on that. But I will say I feel refreshed. Like a new pink baby reborn from a woman who died of the great plague, consumerism.

I also typed the above paragraph after buying a tea for the sake of getting the WiFi in Balzac’s, so I’m not sure if the woman has died altogether. But there are definitely improvements.

#sobasically …

In summation, I’d say this was a great experience I’d recommend to anyone for a few days, because I feel it’s helped me know when to set aside the phone and live without it. Nixaying on the phone altogether for life, isn’t super plausible for most, given how we function as a society. But I’ve learned I don’t need it as much as I think I do, and the phone doesn’t have to be on me at all times. After the cleanse, I actually preferred to not be on my phone (huge for me!)… I especially don’t enjoy texting anymore (doubly huge!). Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter however, will forever be great loves of mine.

Focusing so much on myself also resulted in me not caring about people who are insignificant in my life. I was working at improving ME, which allowed me to be proud of myself and being happy for others instead of comparing myself to them.

“So Long Marianne” just played in the Balzac’s and I got oddly emotional. I really do feel like I’m letting go of a lot of old physical/emotional clutter with this cleanse! Let us call this clutter Marianne and say so long to her. It’s time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.