Azita Ardakani may have built her hip communications agency, Lovesocial, on the Web, but even she knows when it's time to unplug. As she prepares to fly home to Vancouver for the holidays, she'll be turning off her phone and relishing downtime without the constant ding of notifications. 

The annual detox, which Lovesocial's staff and clients take part in, began five years ago, when Ardakani started the agency in Vancouver. Even then, she felt stressed by interacting with clients over the holidays. So she began researching why it happens and found a number of studies that show the brain releases dopamine every time you get a notification, she says. "We're really training our brains in a really scary way not to be present or mindful." 

To counter this, Ardakani created the idea of a digital cleanse, along with a kit that she gives to clients like NPR. Each kit contains a notebook and pen, a postcard that says "Let It Rest," and a pack of cards, the ultimate brainteaser.

And right now, the holiday season offers the perfect time to unwind and get some much-needed perspective. A cleanse can help you get more restful sleep, improve concentration, and boost your creativity. "Our brains need that time, that rehabilitation, to get back into optimal form," says Ardakani. Here, she shares five steps she takes to fully live in the moment. 

1. Get Motivated 

"Everyone has a different motivation as to why they need to unplug," says Ardakani, so you should know what yours is. Perhaps you can't seem to finish a book. Or perhaps you can't hit the gym without checking Instagram. Whatever it is, think about what needs to happen--recharging, spending quality time with friends--and get specific. Then write it down. 

2. Set Goals

How much time do you need to recharge? One day? A week? Whatever it is, be realistic. Ardakani suggests thinking in PIES--physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual--and aligning your goals with one of those areas.  

3. Make a List

It helps to have a list of activities that don't involve your phone, tablet, or computer. Read a book, explore your neighborhood, or simply resolve to catch up on sleep--whatever it is that fuels you outside of work. "This is an incredible time of the year," says Adarkani, so "be really mindful of what you like to do with the people you love." 

4. Log Off

Turn off your phone and put it away, especially at dinner or near bedtime. "Studies have shown that the electric frequency can disturb your sleep," says Ardakani, who keeps her phone off the nightstand. Resist the urge to check, and the only FOMO you should feel will be in real life. 

5. Log On

When you come back, be mindful about the time you do spend online. Unsubscribe from emails you never read, and set times for checking in. Ardakani never responds to morning emails at work--she emails from a coffee shop so she can take back her morning. Try apps like Moment to keep tabs on how and where you're spending your mobile time. 

Published on: Dec 23, 2014