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Why I Go Phone-Free for 40 Minutes a Day

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I walk a loop around a two-mile stretch of a neighborhood near mine in good weather. It’s uphill for the first half, downhill for the second. Sometimes a friend joins me. Sometimes my husband joins me. Sometimes my daughter joins me. Most times I go alone.

Until a few weeks ago, I always brought my phone with me.

Like most people these days, my phone goes with me everywhere, every time I leave the house, and wherever I am in the house. It feels like protection somehow, even if I just use it to check Facebook every five minutes (or fewer). I like knowing my kids can get to me anytime. I like knowing I can check emails right away, that I have access to, well, everything, at a moment’s notice. But I’ve always told myself I bring it on my walks in case of emergency. One time I wasn’t feeling well and, using the phone, my husband was able to come get me. Another time, it started to rain suddenly so I was able to call for a ride. See, I defended to myself, the phone is necessary.

But a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling very mad about something and I didn’t want to hear from the world. I didn’t want to read messages or respond to some of the things people were saying. So I (boldly, I thought) left the phone home for those 35 or 40 minutes. And nothing bad happened. In fact, something good happened. I realized that I’d had a better, more peaceful walk than I had in a long time.

I didn’t bring my phone with me the next couple of times I walked. And I noticed some other things. I wasn’t tripping over my feet while I checked my messages. I was looking up at the sky and the trees and other people. I wasn’t bumping into anyone, and I was walking faster. I was more focused. Did it have to do with not having the phone?

So of course I couldn’t resist the temptation and brought it with me again. And you know what? The walk seemed longer. I almost fell a couple of times. (The town really needs to fix the sidewalks.) I almost bumped into a couple of people. (Sorry!) And I didn’t feel as good after the walk.

So I tried to give myself parameters. I would only check my phone when I reached a certain spot, about three quarters of the way through the walk. Or maybe halfway through, when I was headed downhill. Or if I felt a buzz. Or if I thought that maybe one of my kids was trying to reach me, which, of course, they rarely are.

Now I’m committed to walking without my phone, to giving myself 35 (or 40) phone-free minutes each day.  I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted to bring the phone with me, especially with one of my daughters half a world away in Europe and the other back to school, with work emails coming in and anxiety over whatever is going on that day. Still, though, I force myself not to bring it, and frankly, I don’t even miss it. I don’t get uptight about my emails or text messages when they’re not available to me. But as soon as I get home, before I even shower, yeah, I check.  I admit it.

So if you’re trying to reach me, I’ll get back to you…in less than an hour.


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