My Dad has a little house in the woods. It was in ruins when he bought it some 35 years ago and I remember helping him (together with some of my uncles and cousins) restoring it and putting a roof on it.
Since then, it has been a place of many barbecues and sunny Sunday afternoons. As kids we roamed the woods, built huts, played in the little stream making mud cakes, feeding the fish in the pond and getting splashed when they jump up. As a teenager, I loved visiting the horses in the neighboring field, dreaming up stories about my future. As a young adult, I threw quite some legendary barbecue parties there with friends from near and far.
Nowadays, I only go there on special occasions, like my father’s birthday barbecue or a less special occasion, like a normal Sunday, where I watch my kids roam the woods and do exactly the same things I used to do at their age.
The house seems to have shrunk. It hasn’t of course. It just seemed bigger when I was a kid because it was part of the big adventure of living outdoors for most of the day and sleeping in the woods.
I now realize that creating this adventure for us was (and is) actually quite a lot of work. There’s maintenance on the house, the well (from which the water is drawn) has to be kept clear and clean, wood has to be chopped for the stove, trees have to be cut to avoid them falling on the house, grass has to be mowed and weeds to be weeded to avoid things growing wild.
To my Dad however, this was never work. Well it was, but he loved it. It was his little haven. The place he still goes to every day, rain or shine.
For him it is his daily time to disconnect, recharge. Although he works hard while there, he also takes time to just sit in the sun, watch the trouts swim happily in the pond, and plant wildflowers in shape of heart for us to admire months later.
And while I considered this ‘just something Dad does’ when I was a kid, I have come to see this as a vital need for him in order to exist, switch off, breathe, recharge and come back to us a happy man.
My Mom does the same, only her thing is the garden or sitting somewhere quietly and reading a magazine.
I have inherited both from my parents. I like to go outdoors, for a hike or a run and I also like to sit quietly near the fire or in the sun with a good book.
Quiet, calm, disconnect. Just you and your thoughts, your hands or legs.
This has become a very rare thing in our connected world.
Yet it is still as vital as in the old days.
Because our brain has two parts.
One that works WITH all the information we get from all sorts of sources. The one that soaks it all up, digests it, makes connections, comes up with ideas.
The other part starts working when we switch off all the information.
Different people have different needs for each of those modes. But both the connected and disconnected are necessary and important to all of us.
You know when you feel a little edgy, nervous, mad, angry or jumpy? That is usually because you did not give yourself enough ‘disconnected’ time.
Because although you disconnect to the ‘outside’ world, the internet and Facebook, your phone and other people, it is a time when you get to connect to yourself. That inner being, that soul of yours, your essence.
My Dad goes to the little house in the woods to disconnect daily. Some people go on retreats.
It is important to know however, that you do not need to go far. Because the best place to disconnect is in your own head.
You can meditate to get the same effect, but also create art, go for a walk in nature or take a bath.
Ideally, like for my Dad, this should be a daily ritual. So ideally, it should be something simple.
Think back to the time before we all had mobile phones and Netflix. What did you used to do? Or as a kid, what was your favorite pastime?
Can you do these things now? Do you still enjoy them?
Find something simple to switch off from life’s busyness and connectedness. And then create a daily ritual with or around it. Schedule it in. Make it a habit.
Here are a few examples:
- Block your lunchtime slot in your agenda for going running (that way no one can book you for meetings and jeopardize your fitness regime)
- Make it a family rule to switch off all phones during dinner
- Have a regular no phone/tablet/tv evening
- Make it a ritual to go for a walk with the family on Sundays (no matter the weather)
- Create a ‘do not disturb’ space. A room, a corner etc where no on is allowed to interrupt you when you’re there.
- If you use your phone as alarm clock, buy an alarm clock. Prevents you from looking at your phone as soon as you get up.
- Program your wi-fi to switch off at certain hours.
- Book a regular massage or other relaxation ritual.
What suggestions or ideas do you have to disconnect? Tell us in the comments.