The Science Behind Unplugging on Vacation: Your Brain Needs It

When I first heard the word “unplugged,” it was in reference to MTV Unplugged, a TV series showcasing popular musicians usually playing acoustic instruments. Today, I use it every time I unplug myself from my laptop, smartphone and other electronic devices. The first time I did it, I was so worried I would miss something important–a call, an email, the latest information about (fill in the blank), a text from a friend… You get the drill, right? Now that I’ve been doing it more regularly during the day for 10 minutes or so, evenings and on weekends, I’ve noticed some fascinating changes:

  • More engaged–I’m much more present with my friends, family and the outdoors. Nothing competes with what is happening RIGHT now, in the moment.
  • Calmer–Talk about relaxed. I’m able to truly sit back and appreciate where I am and what I am doing. Riding my bike, floating on a river, hiking a gorgeous trail–it’s all right there, and so am I.
  • Better awareness–It may sound weird, but I notice people’s eyes and faces more when I’m unplugged. I listen better, too, because voices and the sounds of nature are the soundtrack to what I’m doing, not my favorite playlist (which is pretty cool, BTW).
  • More creative–Solutions to problems with which I’ve been struggling, and interesting ideas  come to me when I’m just relaxing and unwinding.
unplugging on vacation - northern outdoors
What “Unplugging on Vacation” looks like!

And, a recent article in The New York Times , “Hit The Reset Button in Your Brain,” backs up the importance of unplugging or, as the article puts it, “hitting the reset button in your brain.” Turns out, activating your “mind-wandering mode,” zoning out or simply daydreaming is a necessary and vital part of creativity and productivity. It is biologically restorative, to quote the author, Daniel J. Levitin, director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University and the author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.”  

According to Levitin’s NYT article, we need to be vigilant about our breaks:  “But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.”

So, I’m not knocking technology, but I am very appreciative of those times when I unplug from the virtual world and reconnect with the real one. And let’s face it, at the rate of information we get, you can’t keep up with it all any way. Read the full New York Times story here.

If you’re ready to disconnect from the virtual world, Northern Outdoors is a great place to unplug and reset your brain. We’ve got fishing, whitewater rafting, float trips, hiking trails, and (because it’s all part of the joy of unplugging on vacation) a craft brewery with tasty beers. Stay the night (or two) and check out the stars from the hot tub or the deck. Heck, bring your guitar for some fireside entertainment. Acoustic, of course.

See your adventure vacation getaway options here. 


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