Slide to power off...
I meet a lot of people from very different backgrounds – being in Central London I’m very fortunate to get to see people sitting in my dental chair from all walks of life. The variety always intrigues me and I love to hear about the intricate dance (or in many cases battle) between people’s work-time and play-time. So many of our modern conveniences, sold to us as dream-like concepts supposedly aimed at making things easier, have actually led to our work and play times becoming embroiled in what feels more like a mud-wrestling match than the elegant Waltz we all wish it could be.
Our mobile phones have reached epic levels of functionality and we all rely on them rather like a pocket-sized performing monkey, completely taking for granted their ability to multitask and concurrently complete vastly different roles in our lives: imagine trying to carry all of those actual things around with you - your camera, address book, diary, calculator, map, PA, encyclopaedia, library of books, every CD you ever owned, your TV, personal stereo, your wallet, your travel agent, video camera, your food shopping trolley, your personal trainer, your financial planner, your favourite news reader or journalist – whatever you need – there’s an app for that! Well I don’t think even Samsonite have come up with a case big enough to fit all of that in. But ironically our split-second accessibility to so much information, so many people and so many potential functions seems to have turned into an emotionally hefty ball and chain. Don’t get me wrong – I love my phone and I am far from suggesting we all start following the luddites. But equally, just because our phones can juggle all those colourful balls of information at a rate of knots doesn’t mean that we as mere humans should be pushing ourselves to do the same. Sometimes we need to switch off and let our minds just stop running on the hamster wheel of life. After all – if you are trying to fill a bath it doesn’t matter how fabulously strong your water pressure is – if you don’t put the plug in you won’t be able to fill it.
One common theme I’ve noticed among my patients over the last 10-15 years is a general increase in signs of stress. Your mouth tends to give all of your secrets away, even when you aren’t speaking! So very little gets past your dentist…. The pressures of life, work, Brexit – a lot of these things feel like they are out of our control and other than running away to live on a desert island (if only!) they can seem like pretty impossible things to fix.
What I see in almost all of my patients, friends and colleagues, no matter who they are and where they come from, is a resistance to truly switching off. They say it takes one to know one and I am perhaps more guilty of this phenomenon than most around me. That’s why I made a pledge this year to start spending more time away from my phone – even if it’s just on Sunday afternoons – I can honestly say that so far, 5 Sundays into 2019, I am noticing a difference in how I feel at the start of the week and how well I sleep on Sunday nights. And guess what – nothing ever seems to have happened or been sent to me that couldn’t be acknowledged or processed the next morning. An even more tangible effect is that I have now practiced Jazz piano 5 times more than I have over the past 15 years since I started harping on about wanting to learn!
So why not ‘slide to switch off’ and shimmy yourself out of the rat race for a couple of hours this weekend and see how beautifully peaceful it feels. You might actually really enjoy it. I was shocked by how naked it felt – like someone had taken away my comfort blanket! But after a few switched off Sunday afternoons I realised it was like being given the gift of time.