DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
20 March 2016 : Digital detox breaks – those where you leave your devices behind, forego Wi-Fi connections and ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ can apparently do wonders for your relationships.
Increasingly evidence is showing that a weekend break from the digital world enriches lives.
One digital-free retreat in Abu Dhabi say its guests are leaving fully refreshed after chilling out without any WiFi links, limited mobile connections or even a phone or TV in their rooms.
“We have had some people arrive concerned and a bit agitated that they won’t get through the weekend without logging on,” explained Rashad Qudsi, Manager, Arabian Nights Village, which lies half way between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain amidst the seclusion of Al Khatim’s towering dunes.
“They all though suddenly start really noticing the desert around them, tuning into the peacefulness, the bird song and totally relax. It’s very warming to see.”
Today, the average personal device user logs on to social media alone for almost two hours a day and research has shown that even when on vacation, people remain constantly connected over social media, email, and by using devices to find the best hang outs or route maps. Being offline can really unnerve some people.
But with research showing that being totally connected for too long leads to us losing the pleasure of the her and now, digital detox breaks are fast becoming the new medium for happier lives – and demand has even given rise to a specialist website: digitaldetoxholidays.com to find disconnected resorts.
“With our iPads, smartphones and other portable tech devices, we have the ability to continuously send and receive information at the touch of a button or swipe of a finger,” explained Kathryn Brierley Director of the UK’s TheHealthyHoliday company, which has seen a five-fold pick up in digital detox bookings in the past six month. “There’s a never ending stream of news bombarding us and sometimes this ‘always connected’ existence becomes overwhelming, making it tough to ever find a moment to switch off and relax.
“A break from digital communications (even just for a few hours) can refresh and calm us, enabling us to become more productive in human relations and work. This revitalising break clears our life from ‘noise’ and allows us the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, relax and return to the digital world recharged.”
And demand, it seems, can only get better with a recent company poll showing that a third of Brits regret spending too much time on their mobile device while they’re on holiday. Half of those polled admitted to checking work e-mails while away and four out of 10 said having access to social media was ‘very important’ to them when they’re abroad.
Yet Levi Felix, co-founder of digitaldetox.org and organisation which helps people recover from over-connectedness, says that by disconnecting from our devices we reconnect with ourselves, each other, our communities and the world around us becoming more present, authentic, compassionate and understanding.
“Given the space to unplug from the noisy world, we are able to re-evaluate our path, take stock in life, strengthen our relationships, and move forward with a sense of purpose and belonging,” he says.
Levi’s research throws up some startling statistics: 61% admit to being addicted to the internet and their devices; 67% of mobile users check their phone even when it’s not ringing or vibrating; heavy internet users are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed; 60% of people say traditional vacation does not relieve their stress; high social media use can trigger increased loneliness, jealousy and fear, artificial light from screens increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22% negatively affecting sleep, performance and mood.
The digital detox movement began in the US, where the strongest demand is apparently coming from burnt-out executives but is catching on elsewhere – even among the ever-connected celebrity world. Award-winning British singer/songwriter, Ed Sheeran who had 16 million Twitter followers and 5.5 million subscribers on Instagram, has opted out of “seeing the world through a screen”, and is foregoing all social media until next autumn at least.
The singer announced his withdrawal from social media at the end of a world tour promoting his second album, X, saying that although he was travelling the world, he wasn’t actually seeing it.
“I’m taking a break from my phone, emails and all social media for a while. I’ve had such an amazing ride over the last five years, but I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes, so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed.”
We don’t know whether Ed’s digital detox will lead him back to the Emirates after his sell-out gig at Dubai Media City Ampitheatre last year, but if it does, he’ll get a more than warm welcome out at Arabian Nights Village.
“Well he could see the sunrise over the dunes, soak in the sunset over cocktails, take in our oud player and his musical poetry at night, which I think he’d find really interesting,” said Rashad Qudsi.
“The breaks really work. We had one executive check in with his wife and kids and he thought he wouldn’t last the weekend but he was so relaxed at the end of it he rebooked. What’s more his wife thanked us for showing the kids that there is life without a television. The desert is a natural, safe playground for kids who join in all the activities while the parents can sit back, chill out and totally disconnected, of course.”
To book your digital detox call+971 2 676 9990 or visit www.arabiannightsvillage.ae