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It’s time to disconnect to connect

June 30, 2015 | Dave Criswell

Can you hear me now?

On a recent family vacation, we took an eco tour to experience how dolphins behave in salt marshes – you know, how they hunted and interacted with each other.  The zodiac boat held 10 people, and while it was sturdy, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we were bounced in the water.  So, I decided our electronic devices wouldn’t be joining us.  I know.  I know.  I wondered, too, how I’d manage to not share this experience over social media as it unfolded, but it turned out I learned a few things.  I survived just fine without my phone and had spent the time talking to my fellow dolphin watchers.  Some people are crazy interesting when you get to know them!

Not only did I get to connect with nature and meet new people, I spent quality time with my family – real time without anyone’s head tilted down staring at a device – experiencing something new and just with them.  Do you know I actually watched my son’s expressions first-hand and not through a camera lens.  I can’t tell you the last time I did that – for anything.  AND the kicker is that I totally enjoyed being unplugged!  That’s priceless, I tell you!

So, let’s talk about how being active and outdoors is a great way to unplug AND how you can do it everyday by spending time outside without any form of an electronic device.  Stay with me here.

I screen, you screen . . . yeah, “No”

We try to eat right, get enough sleep and exercise, but have you ever thought about how part of a healthy lifestyle includes spending time away from electronic devices?  It’s time to reclaim your time and head outdoors.  Whether you grab the kids and go for a bike ride after dinner or head out for a hike on the weekend, leave your electronics behind.  We’ve got some fantastic suggestions to get your entire family outdoors, and if you need more, take a look at our Tips for getting your family outdoors this summer post. DSCN1552 What are some of the benefits to getting outside and leaving your electronic devices behind, you may ask?

  1. More time for you. I read a recent TIME survey that said out of 5,000 participants, 25% admitted they checked their phone every 30 minutes.  Wow!  Just wow!  Imagine if instead of checking your phone, you took that time and headed outside to do something you enjoy – like a bike ride in Colorado.  We’re not sedentary creatures.  We need activity, and look at the time you just found each day by giving up checking your phone!
  2. Manage your mood. All of the checking in, posting status updates, reading tweets, uploading pictures is exhausting!  Step away from the need to be involved, and get outside.  Inhale fresh air, walk in the sunshine and let your brain decompress.  We all know physical activity improves our mood, right?
  3. Connect with nature. Think about a hike you took your kiddos on.  At the end, I bet you didn’t even realize that at some point throughout the adventure, you all practiced problem solving, used your imaginations and learned to work together.  Electronic devices are obstacles to being present – even if you don’t realize it.  There’s so much nature can teach us, if we just let it.
  4. Connect with your family. Have real interactions with your family outside without any distractions like a phone ringing or a text beeping.  I bet you’ll be surprised how your kids open up and talk about their lives when they see you’re engaged 100%.

CMC_officespace Step away from your phone

We’ve got some suggestions on how to help you get outside and leave your electronic devices behind.  Are you up for the challenge?

No matter your outdoor activity:

  • Leave your phone in the car. Come on, we all know people managed to hike long before cell phones ever existed, and they lived to tell!  And don’t try and use the “in case of emergency” spiel.  Some trails are so popular they’re akin to mall walking.  Someone will be there to help if you need it!
  • Enact a digital curfew. How cool would it be to say on Friday at 7:00 p.m., all electronic devices are powered off and put in a drawer for the entire weekend?!  You and your family could go out, explore, discover and be completely attached to your experiences and detached from anything needing charging!
  • Say “No” to social media. Don’t check Facebook, upload pictures to Instagram, tweet an update or anything social media-related for a set period.  Go camping with family in Colorado and relax knowing you don’t need to update your network with the tidbit that you forget marshmallows!
  • Connect the way your parents connected with you. Sit with you kids, look at a map, plot your trail, talk about what to bring – all without a GPS or an app.  Engage your kids, and see how they respond.
  • Put your phones out of site. Make a contest out of not checking your phone.  Have everyone you’re with put their phone their pocket or a backpack.  The first one to check their phone buys lunch or whatever you decide.  No one likes to lose (or buy lunch for 7)!

100_2081 We’ve got a few suggestions of where to go when you unplug

If you’re in Colorado:

  • Dirty Bismarck Loop near Boulder is great for mountain biking and hiking. It’s dog-friendly, too, so your entire family can join in on the fun.  If you’re mountain biking though, be sure to bring a mountain bike – and not a cruiser-type bike.
  • Deer Creek Canyon Loop just outside of Denver is the perfect quick escape when you want to hike and bike – and, you know, gaze at gorgeous rock formations.

If you’re in California:

  • Muir Woods National Park in Mill Valley is a fantastic place to unwind and explore. Plus, there’s no cell service in the park – perfect for staying unplugged, right?!  Hike among the stunning redwoods and enjoy nature as it was meant to be!
  • Castle Rock State Park in the South Bay area is great for hiking, horseback riding, and there are even some unusual rock formations for climbing. The spectacular scenery will make you want to stay unplugged forever!

100_2125 No matter where you are, check out the following sites for more suggestions:

American Trails  

Want to learn more?  Take a look at the following articles to read more about the importance of unplugging:

7 Tips for Getting Your Kids Motivated to Play Outside

Go Outside and Play!  How to Unplug Your Child

Unplug Your Kids:  Get Them Off the Electronics and Playing Outdoors

7 Ways to Help Kids Unplug from Technology

Unplug!  Your Children’s Future Depends On It

Imagine what your family would look like if you unplugged more often.  You may find you all have a passion for rock climbing, fishing or camping or even playing mini golf on a real course and not on the Wii!  Instead of being connected to an electronic device, connect with each other.  As a family, plan an adventure, head outdoors and leave your devices behind! 100_0645 If you’re looking for more suggestions on places to get outside with your family, check out our other blog posts:

Tips for Getting Your Family Outdoors this Summer

Tips & Tricks for Camping with Kids

About the Author: Lynne Marsala Basche spent most of her career on the island of Manhattan at two New York publishing companies.  A multi-year Avid4 Adventure mom and a new contributor to the Avid4 Adventure website, Lynne’s writing adventures also take her to championing volunteerism and regional recreation stories as a staff writer for the Castle Pines Connection newspaper, as well as supporting separate large corporate communications programs.  By trying to keep pace with her mountain biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, lacrosse playing, unicycling, tae kwon do-loving 11-year old son, she, like most Avid4 parents, loves sharing the value of outdoor recreation and its positive influence on children’s health and confidence development.  Lynne lives in Castle Pines, Colorado and regularly immerses herself in outdoor activities with her family where she also runs her freelance writing company, Blue Spruce Creative

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