According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans – 96 percent to be exact – now own a cellphone of some kind. Also, nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults own desktop or laptop computers, and roughly half now own tablet computers. And according to, well, the general consensus of us all, too often are our digital devices now our boss, instead of the other way around. What happens when you get a text message? You need to answer it right away. Are you checking emails on vacation? You think you’ll get fired or your company will go ‘under’ if you don’t just check. Did your phone die? Trick question…we never let our phone die. Sound familiar? You need a digital detox.
Miraval Arizona, a wellness resort located in Tucson’s Sonoran Desert—and spoiler: scene to the annual Real Housewives of Orange County’s girl’s trip on this upcoming season—recognized that more and more of their guests weren’t just stressed out because of their lives. Beyond the ‘usual’ stressors like work, money and relationships, the very devices that their guests were using to make their lives more efficient and connected were stressing them out to new levels.
And because of that, the resort decided to ban them.
A visit to Miraval Arizona today means that besides your room and a designated courtyard, your phone is really not allowed. Sneak a picture sure—and with a backdrop like the Sonoran Desert and a resort that’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, it’s impossible not to—but there’s no texting or calls, no checking Instagram, and definitely no checking emails. Whether you spend it poolside (with a deliciously fresh piña colada) or you spend it in the desert, walking amongst the rolling hills and open skies—your time at Miraval is purely yours, not your phone’s!
“I would put it under the general category of self awareness,” Miraval’s Wellness Counselor Anne Parker M.A., M.H.S.A. says about the experience people come to the property for. “A lot of times people feel like they’re in a rut, or a lot of times we get people who are in transition,” she says. “For some people [coming here] is just about stepping out of their lives for a few days and breathing. Let themselves pay attention to themselves, instead of just reacting to everything that’s happening around them.” This of course, she says, all happens more easily without distractions from the outside world.
In a study for the Journal of Accountancy, Craig Wigginton, a U.S. vice chairman and telecommunications sector leader with Deloitte & Touche LLP says, “the fundamental reason that we all are addicted to and use our smartphones so much is because of the value they provide in our daily lives in a way that no single device ever has come close to doing.”
Parker’s impact on people’s experience here is clear from the minute you arrive to Miraval as a guest—though programming like desert hikes, sound meditations and the renowned Life In Balance Spa at Miraval are popular activities, you can’t get far into your experience without someone mentioning having taken a class by Parker or even better, having done a one-on-one session with her. “Whether you’re in the spa or out on a mountain bike, we try to make sure that you’re fully engaged in the here and the now. One of the things that we as humans always have to deal with is that impulse to always look ahead,” Parker explains, “and usually we’re anticipating the negative. We project into the future negatively, so the power of being fully engaged in the here and now is truly powerful.”
At Miraval, Parker leads a digital detox course—a class rooted in why we’re so stressed out by or addicted to our digital devices. It’s the people who are open-minded about making their ‘digital lives’ sustainable that show up to class, Parker says. “By challenging people to leave their phones in their room [at Miraval], people get really anxious about that. And then they find out it’s actually okay—it feels good. I tell people that if you’re going to start changing habits, you have to expect some anxiety.” And if you’re rolling your eyes at that—well, Anne Parker hears you. “Sometimes people criticize the ‘mindfulness approach’ in the sense of, “well if you’re always in the present does that mean you never plan or look ahead?” she says. “And I would say absolutely not! The idea is, if you’re really in the present, and your present is planning, then you’re going to plan better! If what you think is ‘planning’ is actually anxiety or worrying, that’s useless energy.”
At Miraval, ditching your phone is merely one step in taking your life back from your digital devices, and also from the things you’ve considered to be urgent, which are consequently not urgent at all.
“We live in a world that is more globally connected than ever,” Nichole Powell, founder of Kinfield says. “And yet, we see more and more people seek connection to the immediate world around them, away from screens or cities.” Case and point: of the 2,000 U.S.-based consumers between the ages of 18 and 75 who the Journal of Accountancy surveyed, 47 percent think they use their phones too much.
Powell, whose company makes clean “great essentials for the great outdoors” like DEET-free bug spray and aloe mist, says that her own love for disconnection and the outdoors sparked the idea for her brand. And her customer—typically ambitious, professional individuals that live in cities and presumably rely (and overuse) their digital devices—will be all the better for it. “The benefits of the outdoors are for everyone, and getting out there can be one of the happiest, healthiest things you can do for yourself.”