It's Friday night. The sun is setting. It's time to turn off the laptops and put all work aside. For the next 25 hours, all our family's electronic devices are going to be off-limits. But as I stand beside my wife while she lights the candles, a feeling of tranquility settles in. Tonight we are ushering in a different kind of light: the light of Shabbat.
Disconnect to Connect
For me, keeping the laws of Shabbat requires a big commitment. I can't perform business transactions or drive; even minor work such as doing laundry, cooking, and writing is prohibited.
This also means no tweeting, snapping, posting, or sharing. But I view Shabbat, and its associated laws, as a wonderful gift. This day of rest is a weekly opportunity to connect with my inner self. For 25 hours, I can zone in on what's really important without getting distracted. Today's world is a whirlpool, and my day of rest is an oasis of calm.
Science is Catching Up
I grew up keeping Shabbat primarily for religious reasons, so it's great to see that science and psychology are starting to reinforce the benefits of a technology break. Whether or not you're Jewish or even religious, it would be a great idea to take a look at the advantages of setting aside phone-free time.
Why Can't I Keep Going?
The average person spends about one-third of their life sleeping and 38,000 hours eating. How is this not an immense waste of productivity?
The answer lies in the wisdom of a saying, which goes as follow: "The further you descend, the further you'll ascend."
By taking a nap, you are restoring your energy so that when it comes time to work, you'll have the power and energy to perform twice as well as you might have done without that nap.
And take mealtime. By sitting down to lunch with a colleague or a dinner with your family, you're solidifying important relationships in your life. That eye-to-eye conversation is necessary, and what's a better aid than a bowl of soup to bond over?
The Hype About Unplugging
All right. So you understand why it's important to step away from the work sometimes. But why can't you chill in front of the TV? What's the whole hype about unplugging?
First of all, there are the health reasons. Using your smartphone too often can cause headaches, vision problems, sleep disorders and spine issues. Our bodies are designed to be active, and when we're glued to a screen we're depriving ourselves of our healthy functions.
The constant information overload isn't healthy, either. Every day people are inundated with the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information, a sufficient quantity to overload a laptop within a week. This has a detrimental effect on our ability to focus, think, and feel.
Rest: A Form of Renewal
"Unplugging is easier than you may think," says Nadav Zamir, labor and employment counsel with Jackson Lewis P.C. "My best moves always come to me on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings. For some mystifying reason, things crystallize over Shabbat."
But Zamir has no need to be mystified. Neurologist Marcus Raichle came across something he coined DMN, the default mode network of the brain. Even when we're at rest, our minds are constantly wandering.
Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang developed this further by researching what goes in the brain of a person in the idle state, and she discovered that downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics, all processes that depend on the DMN.
An Island in Time
The gift of Shabbat is the highlight of my week. My family sits down to eat, talk, and laugh together. There are no phones grabbing attention away from us.
Daniel Gefen, host of Can I Pick Your Brain? podcast show and co-founder of GetFeatured.com describes this experience. "When you take a break from all the noise you become recharged and more effective in all aspects of your life. That's the power of Shabbat. It's a 25-hour period in the week where we get to stop, put a pause on the distractions, and become attuned to the finer details of life. It's a time we can experience inner peace, family closeness and deep reflection."
During Shabbat, it's as if all work is nonexistent. However, when Shabbat is over one goes right back to regular life -- albeit with a spring in the step. One feels productive, driven, and focused after such a mental reset.
Have a Sabbath Moment
Anyone can have a Sabbath moment, whether it's on a Saturday or a Tuesday. Take that hour in the morning. Sip your coffee slowly. Go for a jog without the phone. How often or how long you decide to go technology-free is up to you; some people even go device-free for days or weeks at a time in order to experience a deeper result. The more you cut back, the more you'll gain. It's a given.
But there's no need to go extreme. A break for any period of time is good for your brain. You too will feel the wondrous effects of renewal, just as I do every week. After all, it's something that we all deserve.
Liba Rimler contributed to this article.