Opinion: Stop looking at your mobile phone while you’re on vacation

The whole point of going on vacation is to forget about everyday life and work, so maybe it's time to put your mobile phone down for a period, author and therapist Patrik Wincent writes.

Opinion: Stop looking at your mobile phone while you're on vacation
A relaxing vacation...Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

It's vacation time! A few days ago you cleared everything out of the office, sent your last e-mail, cleaned the desk and said farewell to your colleagues. Now you’ve started your holiday, perhaps with your feet in the sand and a favourite drink in hand.

Suddenly you hear your telephone vibrate, it’s a new e-mail from your boss, and a couple of messages from your colleagues appear soon after – ding, ding.

The mobile vibrates again and notifications from social media call out to you hypnotically – informing you that there’s a bunch of new likes, hearts, and messages on your phone.

Your kids tug at your because they want to play with you in the pool, but you’re too busy answering your e-mails.

READ ALSO: Why Stockholm smartphone zombies are the worst in Europe

Before you know it your holiday has transformed into a stress-filled experience.

A study carried out by Travelbag shows that employees think about work-related matters at least 15 minutes per day during their holiday. Of the 2,000 who participated in the study, 29 percent said their vacation was more stressful than relaxing.

Of course there are many valid reasons for not turning off your phone entirely. We have for example access to search engines, we can translate languages instantly and GPS helps us get to new areas. We benefit from many things on our mobiles that can minimize lost time and make us more efficient during our holidays.

But the biggest side effect of having our mobiles with us during vacation is the fear of missing something. FOMO – fear of missing out – is the excuse for us looking at our phones more than necessary.

Studies show that we pick up our phones 150 times per day.

We have become so accustomed to stimulation from these notifications, messages and e-mails, that we can barely cope with silence and being present in ourselves. We are no longer used to being alone with our thoughts.

Humans have a primitive instinct that makes us always want to have control of our surroundings – we have had it since the Stone Age, in order to be aware in case danger appeared.

When we now have a little device like a mobile which gives us that control, we have a tendency to pick it up all the time to see if something new has happened. After all, it has been 10 minutes since the last look – you might have missed something.

In the end the brain is overloaded with information.

READ ALSO: 'Banning mobile phones in Swedish schools is as obvious as banning smoking'

Vacations stop your from burning out and taking time off is proven to have a healing power – holidays can for example reduce the risk of heart attack among men by 30 percent (according to a study by BB Gump), and for women who take more than one semester per year, reduce the risk by more than 50 percent (according to the Framingham Heart Study). There is no better health boost that can give you those benefits.

Perhaps it’s time to let the mobile rest – is the whole point of a vacation not to get away from everyday stress, and away from all work?

This is a translation of an opinion piece by Patrik Wincent originally published in Swedish by SVT

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OPINION: How I learned that Sweden is a nation of secret queue-jumpers

Swedes have a reputation as a nation of orderly queuers. But it doesn't take long living here before you realise that for things that matter - housing, schools, health treatment - there are ways of jumping the line.

OPINION: How I learned that Sweden is a nation of secret queue-jumpers

Soon after my daughter was born, I emailed Malmö’s sought after daycare cooperatives to get on their waiting lists. 

I didn’t get an answer from any of them, so a year later, I began dropping her off at the daycare allotted to us by the municipality. 

It was housed in a concrete structure so grim-looking that it was used as the gritty backdrop to the police station in The Bridge, the Scandinavian Noir crime drama based in Malmö. Getting there involved taking a lift that frequently smelled of urine. The rooftop playground was (after we had left) used by local dealers to stash drugs.

But to be fair, it was close to our house and in other ways, perfectly adequate. 

A year later, though, I got a call from one of the cooperatives I had emailed. My daughter Eira was next in line. Did I want to come to meet the staff and existing parents?

When I arrived, I discovered I wasn’t alone. My friend, a Swede looking to establish herself in Malmö after a decade in London, was there, as were several others.

Listen to a discussion about queue-jumping on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

I soon had a distinct feeling of being outmanoeuvered, as I watched her identify the parents in charge of new intakes and get to work on them, asking intelligent questions, demonstrating her engagement, and generally turning on the charm. 

A few days later I discovered that, even though I’d been told Eira was top of the list, my friend’s son had got the place. 

This was my first lesson in Swedish queuing, and it is a pattern I’ve seen time and time again.

Swedes, I’ve learned, generally respect a queue if it’s visible, physical, and not about anything particularly important. But when it comes to waiting lists for things such as housing, schools, and healthcare, many people, perhaps even most, will work their contacts, pull strings, find loopholes, if it helps them jump the line. 

When it was time for the children of the parents I knew to go to school, several of them — all otherwise upstanding law-abiding people — temporarily registered themselves at the addresses of friends who lived near the desirable municipal options, and then, after their children got places, moved back.

When I protested weakly that by doing this were depriving someone else’s child of their rightful place, they simply shrugged. 

When Eira joined Malmöflickorna, a dance gymnastics troupe that is a kind of Malmö institution, the other parents whispered to me that joining the troupe helped you get your child into Bladins, Malmö’s most exclusive free school, as the troupe had longstanding links. 

When it comes to accessing health treatment, I’ve learned, it doesn’t pay to stoically wait in line. When I was recently sent for a scan, I immediately rang up the clinic my primary health care centre had chosen for me. The receptionist spotted a time that had just become free the next day, and slotted me in, saving what could have been months of waiting. 

If you’re looking to buy a house, I’m told it pays to develop good relationships with estate agents, as sometimes they will sell a house without even listing it. And there are all sorts of ways to jump the long rental queues in Swedish cities, some involving paying money, some simply exploiting contacts. 

I’m not, myself, much of an operator, but I’ve also learned to take advantage of any opportunities that crop up. 

A year after we had lost our battle for the daycare place, the same Swedish friend got in touch. She had managed to upgrade to an even more sought-after cooperative. (This one has had world-famous novelists and Oscar-contending film directors as present and former parents.)

There was a place free, and she was in charge of the queue. Did we want it for Eira? The queue at this daycare, I soon discovered, was pure fiction. The municipality has since cracked down, but at the time, places went to the friends and contacts of whichever parents happened to be on the board, or failing that, to people in the queue who seemed the right kind of person. 

It didn’t seem right, but of course, we took the place.