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"Digital Detox" Retreat First of Its Kind in the U.S.


Thursday, April 9, 2015   

PHOENICIA, N.Y. - The benefits of putting down the wireless devices are increasingly touted as good for physical and mental health, but it's sometimes difficult to unplug, especially for managers and executives.

There's help in the form of the first-ever Digital Detox retreat for executives in the U.S., taking place this week in upstate New York. Dr. Joseph Loizzo, executive director of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, is leading the retreat.

"Our institute really focuses on taking time-tested practices from traditional contemplative science techniques," says Loizzo. "From contemplative yoga, meditation, different kinds of practices, and sort of tailoring them to specific modern life challenges."

He says with personal stress and burnout at their highest points in 30 years, stress-related healthcare expenses costing American businesses $300 billion annually, and the escalating pace of information exchange, multi-tasking, and global business complexity, it's time to consider proven, innovative approaches and tools.

Frank Clegg is the former CEO of Microsoft Canada and now heads Canadians for Safe Technology. He says he's concerned about potential harm if wireless devices aren't used safely.

"There is no doubt any longer that holding the phone to your head, sticking it in your bra, putting it in your pants pocket, causes harm. Period," says Clegg.

He points to studies that have shown an increased risk of brain cancer with long-term, heavy cell phone use and the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer lists the radio frequency waves these devices emit as "possible carcinogens."

Clegg is also concerned about the stress for business leaders that comes with always being connected.

"You're always at work, you're always available, and I think you just don't have this down time," says Clegg. "We're starting to see now where people are almost addicted, but they're very connected and they feel they always have to be current; they can't miss an email, they can't miss a text message."

He urges executives to start their own detox program by taking a one-hour break from their technology.

Professor Robert Thurman, who holds an endowed chair in Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, will also be at the Mindfulness for Leadership Excellence retreat. He says it's important to have a spiritual component to life, whether through religion or a secular approach.

"Keep the mental and physical things in proportion, and then even the negative impacts that might occur there will be minimized, and one will have a satisfying life," says Thurman.

The Mindfulness for Leadership Excellence Retreat takes place April 9-12 at the Menla Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Phoenicia, New York.

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