For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Audit Your Phone Usage

It’s one thing to wonder whether you’re on your phone too much, but it’s another to face up to the cold, hard evidence. Based on data collected by RescueTime, the average person uses their phone for three hours and 15 minutes every day. But before you start blaming yourself, keep in mind that our phones were designed to take advantage of the biological makeup of our brains to capture our attention.

Beginning to adjust your phone usage takes both willpower and consistent mindfulness to keep track of how much time your phone is consuming. Here are a few easy steps you can take to ensure your phone usage stays in check and your time remains your own.

Track Your Total Phone Usage For One Week

In your phone settings, check out your screen time and review the daily and weekly reports on how much time you spend on your phone. Decide how much time you want to allow yourself to spend on each app and set limits accordingly.

Bury Your Most Addictive Apps 

By organizing your home screen so that your most addictive apps are in the back pages, you turn passive apps — apps you go to out of habit, just to zone out — into affirmative apps, which you consciously seek out for a purpose. 

Download Other Apps

If you’re willing to accept the irony of using tech to limit your tech use, there are dozens of additional apps that track and limit your screen time. A few of our favorites include Rescuetime, Getsiempo, Freedom and Off the Grid.

All Rights Reserved to Michelle Watt.

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For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Volunteer

Unless you’ve made a habit of volunteering, it can be a challenge to come up with the motivation to get started. Here’s something to motivate you: volunteering isn’t just good for the communities or organizations you serve; it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

Doing good deeds for others can reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate loneliness and depression, and improve your mood. Researchers have found that charitable acts stimulate our brain’s reward center, leading to the “warm glow” we feel when we know we’ve helped someone out. And regular volunteer work with an organization can create an opportunity to forge meaningful relationships and build an enduring support network. As a hands-on learning environment, volunteering is also a great way to acquire new skills, to gain experience in new fields and try out possible careers.

Here’s how to get started volunteering, plus a few ways to find organizations to serve and support.

Determine What You’d Like to Do

Do you want to help out your local community? Learn a new skill? Share a skill you already have? Travel and experience a different culture? Test out a possible career path? Work with a specific population? The best way to volunteer is to find something that matches your personality and interests, according to HelpGuide.

Look for Opportunities

Organizations that regularly provide volunteer opportunities include museums, libraries, theaters, youth organizations, historic sites and state parks, 
animal shelters, senior centers, food banks, and places of worship.

Find the Right Fit 

Volunteer opportunities are practically limitless. You might love an organization’s mission but not quite click with the staff. Or you might adore the team but struggle to make the hours fit with your schedule. As you sort through options, it’s important to learn what a given organization’s needs are and whether they align with your interests and availability. 

Here Are Some Online Resources: 

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For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Spend 30 Minutes Outside Every Day

Americans spend 87% of our time indoors, and almost half the remaining time in an enclosed vehicle. That means we’re only outside 7% of our time — and over the past year or so, you’ve likely spent even more time indoors than usual.

Spending time outside does wonders for our bodies and minds; it can also help us feel more connected to the world around us. Researchers have found that regular exposure to nature lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, betters sleep, reduces stress, and improves self-esteem and memory.

If you’ve found that you’re spending more time indoors this year, especially as the weather cools, we challenge you to try to spend at least 30 minutes outside every day this week. Here are a few ways to fit more time outside into your schedule.

Walk a Dog

Dogs are a great excuse to get outside. If you don’t have one of your own, offer to take a friend’s dog for a walk. You’ll be doing them a favor while reaping the benefits of fresh air — plus, the pup will love to explore your route.

Hit the Streets or Trails Instead of an Indoor Workout

Your jog will be a lot more interesting when you trade the treadmill for the real world, whether you’re running on streets or in parks. 

Watch a Sunrise or Sunset

Making time to catch the sun rising or setting is a great way to get outside, enjoy the beauty of nature, and either wind down at the end of the day or spend some moments centering yourself before your day begins.

Take a Walk at Lunch or During a Meeting

Fitting in a bit of exercise and a dose of nature in the middle of your workday is a great practice to begin. Try heading out for a quick walk during your lunch break, or take a walk during a meeting — it’s likely you’ll have a bit of extra energy for the rest of your day.

Ready for a weekend escape to nature? Book your Getaway today.

For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Schedule a “Day of Jubilation”

Jubilation: (noun) A feeling of joy, delight and triumph.

During our founder Jon Staff’s college years, he took a class called Introduction to Science and Technology in Society. One of his assignments required students to give up all electronic communication for 24 hours as a demonstration of how ubiquitous electronic communication is. While he was apprehensive, it ended up being one of the best days of his college years.

A Day of Jubilation is a great way to refresh your relationship to familiar surroundings. It can also be an exciting and unconventional way to discover a new place. Scheduling a Day of Jubilation is a great way to disconnect from distractions and reconnect to what matters most. Here’s how to prepare for your next Day of Jubilation.

Choose a Date

Find a time when you can disconnect for a full 24 hours—and if you’d like to share your “day of jubilation” with friends or your partner.

Power Off Your Phone and Set an Email Auto-Reply

Give advance warning to folks who might otherwise worry if they can’t get in touch with you immediately. For everyone else, calls that go straight to voicemail and auto-response emails should make it clear you’re not ignoring anyone; you’re just not available.

Pick a Favorite Spot

Set up a specific time and place to get outside, explore, and enjoy some tech-free time off in nature with those who matter most to you. 

Be Adventurous

While you might have some ideas for how you plan to spend your day, keep yourself open to whimsy and spontaneity. Follow your instincts and curiosities; allow yourself to be guided by happenstance and unexpected encounters. Let the day take you where it will.

Ready to plan an unplugged day of jubilation in nature? Book your Getaway today.

For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Write Thank You Notes

We’ve been exchanging letters of appreciation for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese and Egyptians wrote each other well wishes on papyrus. Fourteenth-century Europeans delivered notes to friends and family by hand. 

In the late 1880s, the card-sending tradition took off in the United States when Polish-born printer Louis Prang introduced a technique called chromolithography to reproduce colorful motifs on card stock. Today, however, it can seem like these expressions of gratitude have become a rarity.

A recent study conducted at the University of Texas, Austin, found that people often hesitate to send thank you letters because they worry their notes might come across as insincere or poorly written, and that they might make recipients feel awkward or uncomfortable. 

At the same time, they doubt how much recipients will appreciate such notes. But the research team discovered that getting a thank you note — even an email that took its author less than five minutes to write — was a big deal to the people who received them. Most reported feeling “ecstatic” and perceived the letters as warmer and better written than their nervous authors had imagined. 

This week, we challenge you to write a thank you note to someone who has helped you get through the last year. Let them know what their time, jokes and support have meant to you — not only will you tap into the benefits of expressing gratitude, but your thanks will likely brighten their week. Here are four tips to help you start writing.

When You Must Send a Thank You Note 

While letters of appreciation are a nice gesture at any time, in certain circumstances they’re pretty much mandatory. Always send a thank you note after a job interview, after receiving a gift, after someone writes you a letter of recommendation or does you a favor, after someone hosts an event in your honor, and after someone hosts you in their home.

Personalize Your Note

If you’re expressing gratitude for a gift, let the person know how much you enjoy it or how you plan to use it. If you’re thanking someone for a letter of recommendation, you might mention how you value their opinion.

Make It a Practice 

Make a practice of sending thank you notes after dinners, parties, and other social events. It’s the easiest thing to do, and it will make you feel good to sit down and say a proper thank you—you may even spot your note on your friend’s fridge the next time you visit them. 

Go The Distance

Step up your thank you game by investing in blank cards, a few good pens, and a book of forever stamps. If you’re ever feeling nervous about what to write, remember that the gesture itself is what the recipient will remember.

Need an escape to reconnect to gratitude? Book your Getaway today.

For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Plant a Garden

We’re asked to pay attention to a lot in our day-to-day lives. With so much to focus on, it’s easy to get worn out, a phenomenon psychologists call directed attention fatigue (DAF). You might recognize the symptoms, which include feeling distracted, forgetful, impatient, or irritable.

The most effective way to rest and restore is to shift our attention to something that engages us without requiring sustained focus. The natural world offers an ideal fix, stimulating our senses—rustling leaves, birds in flight, clouds drifting overhead — without demanding heavy concentration.

If you’re looking for something more active than simply soaking in the great outdoors, try gardening. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Start Small 

If you don’t have much gardening experience, start with just five to seven plants. Choose a few you’re excited about; you can always add more next season.

Find a Sunny Spot

Kathleen Frith, president of the sustainable agriculture organization Glynwood, recommends selecting a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day and using a raised garden bed, which gives you control over your ratio of soil and nutrients.

Weed First

If you take time to clear your plot of pesky weeds before you start planting, you’ll save yourself the headache later and ensure that your plants have the best chance to grow and thrive.

Label Your Plants

It’s easy to forget which plants are which, or where exactly you buried those seeds. As you’re planting, set labels in the soil. You can use the ones that come with store-bought plants or make your own with markers and popsicle sticks. 

Ready to get out in nature? Book your Getaway today.

For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Create No-Phone Zones

Entering the National Radio Quiet Zone, which stretches 13,000 square miles across eastern West Virginia, you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There’s no cell service, no Wi-Fi, and the radio only picks up the lowest-frequency stations.

The zone surrounds and protects the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where the massive Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope tracks and reads energy waves from stars in galaxies thousands of light-years away.

The community is so serious about disconnection that it even has “RFI Policemen,” roving disconnection cops who come after anyone who produces any radio frequency interference.

Tech-free spaces have flourished in recent years. Some are one-off gimmicks like Kit Kat’s “Free No-WiFi Zone” campaign. Others are more immersive, like the London restaurant the Bunyadi, which banned phones, turned off the electricity, illuminated tables by candlelight, cooked food over an open fire, and even banned clothes. (Perhaps too far for some of us.)

Here are a few key times and spaces to create no-phone zones in your home:

1. Drive Time 

We already know we shouldn’t be texting, browsing, or dialing while at the wheel. Here’s the next step: Even if you’re just along for the ride, try locking your phone away. How many friendships have been forged in the idle time on road trips? How many family challenges have surfaced on rides home from school? How many new ideas pop up while staring out the window at passing scenery?

2. TV Time 

If you’re in the habit of scrolling through your phone while streaming Netflix, you’re not alone: According to a 2018 study, over 178 million Americans report using another device while in front of the TV. This is known as media-multitasking, and neuroscientists warn that it’s bad for our brains. In tests of attention and working memory, heavy media multitaskers perform notably worse than those who stick to a single screen. So savor leisure — and save your memory — by watching one thing at a time. 

3. Dinner Time 

For millennia, humans have connected with one another over shared meals. Having phones out at the table — even if we’re not actively engaging with them — diminishes the quality of our interactions by suggesting that our attention could be drawn away at any time. Banish phones to restore the dinner table as a site of emotional, intellectual, and physical nourishment.

4. Bed Time 

There are lots of good reasons to keep our phones far away from our beds: The screen’s blue light disrupts our body’s melatonin production; the addictive allure of social media keeps us scrolling mindlessly past our bedtimes; the way phones distract us from downtime with our partners; the non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation they emit that our body tissue absorb… Here’s a tip: If you use your phone alarm to wake up in the morning, swap it for a physical alarm clock.

Need a phone-free zone? Book Your Getaway today.

For Your Free Time

Wellness Tip: Deep Questions to Ask Loved Ones

In the 2015 essay for The New York Times, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” Mandy Len Catron wrote about a study psychologist Dr. Arthur Aron had conducted at Stony Brook University 20 years earlier. 

Aron wanted to explore whether it was possible to create feelings of closeness between people who didn’t know each other. To do so, he asked pairs of strangers to sit in his lab and talk to each other for 45 minutes — some made casual small talk while others were given a set of 36 questions to ask each other, questions that grew more and more personal as the list went on. 

By the end of the session, two of the strangers who’d asked each other deep questions had fallen in love. Six months later, they got married and invited everyone from the lab to the wedding.

Catron took the 36 questions from Aron’s experiment on a first date to try them out herself, and her experiment worked – she and her date fell in love. But this isn’t just a story about romance, she cautions: “It’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.”

Here are the first five of Aron’s questions to start asking your loved ones to get to know them, and yourself, even better. 

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you? 

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

If you’re talking with a partner, take turns answering each question, alternating who answers first each time. Make eye contact as you answer. Remember to be honest, even if it makes you feel nervous or vulnerable.

Additionally, be an active listener —  there’s no point in asking deep questions if you zone out during the answers. Push your conversations further by asking follow-up questions and challenging basic assumptions, including: 

  • Why do you think that?
  • Have you always felt this way?
  • What caused you to change your mind?

You don’t need to replicate a landmark psychological study to get into the habit of asking deep questions. Next time you find yourself engaging in small talk about work or weather, switch gears and ask your companions something more meaningful.

Ready to make meaningful connections? Book your Getaway today.