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4 Health and Happiness Benefits of Going Unplugged

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 23/03/2016 Megan K. McAvoy

Do you want to be happier?
Do you want to be healthier?
Do you want more fulfilling relationships?

If you answered yes to any (or all!) of these questions, then let me ask you one more. When was the last time that you completely unplugged? I mean, 100% stepped away from your phone, your laptop, social media, television, and any other form of technological "connection."
I spend a few weeks and weekends each year, completely unplugged. Whether that's camping / hiking in the mountains where there's no reception, immersing myself in the wisdom of places like Esalen and Kripalu, or simply "just because."
I disconnected this weekend, and I want to share with you 3 lessons I find every time that I go unplugged. But first, let's check out the importance of human relationships on our health and our happiness, and then get into why we need to "unplug" more often.
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(Photo: Megan McAvoy, Doing yoga during a weekend capstone study at Esalen on The Science of Happiness.)

Why Is Close, Personal Connection the Key to Happiness?
Science has shown that close human connection and social capital are hugely important for our health and our happiness. That's because it's comforting to know that others are there to support us when we are in need. It's reassuring to know that we can talk to our friends when we have challenges, and that we can count on others when things go wrong. Close relationships can help us to better understand ourselves in relation to our surroundings / circumstances. They allow us to look at our life through a new lens (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-k-mcavoy/the-best-way-to-find-your_b_9194532.html).
The health benefits of human connection have also been proven: a longer, healthier life span (http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/berksyme01.pdf) and lower levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone).
Ok, so human connection = health + happiness.
Then, What Gives? If People are so "Connected" Nowadays Then Why Aren't They More Happy?
The digital age has changed how we connect with others. I've found it a blessing to find and reconnect with old friends and even build business relationships. But, social media and social connection has some definite drawbacks.
How many of you have social connections well into the 1,000s between your various social accounts? Is this for purposes of ego? Purposes of marketing? Or, do you really, sincerely have 1,000s of people who are real, tight connections? People who you can count on? People who can count on you?
Aside from the social comparison that I see all too often (aka "keeping up with the Joneses"), research has shown that social connection and social media is having a negative impact on our real relationships. Research has shown that loneliness is rampant in the United States. People have fewer close friends than they did a few years ago... and yet, they've got social connections into the 1,000s. How does this add up?
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(Photo: Here's what unplugged looked like for me this weekend. We've been in CO for 6 month, and on my phone-free adventure, I found where we will be moving next! Golden, CO.)

It's Time to Unplug.

I challenge you. If you haven't disconnected from your phone, social media, and technology for a while, then spend this weekend unplugged. Look up for a change. Go out and see how beautiful the world is outside of a screen. Talk to strangers in a cafe. Connect with friends without distraction. Take a hike. Ride your bike. Meditate. Do yoga.
Remember all of those wonderful parts of you that make you special. Appreciate that in others. Here's what going unplugged can do for you:
1) Greater calm.
2) Greater clarity.
3) Greater conscious movement.
4) Greater conversation and connection with those who you truly care about.
Come back and share with me how your experience was in the comments below. And, if you go "unplugged" already, and want to contribute some other lessons that you've learned, then please leave them below too!

ITCHY © More Than Words Photography by Alisa Brouwer via Getty Images ITCHY

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