How to Gain Control of Your Device — It’s Your Choice
Phones, Boredom, Creativity and Mindfulness — Wait, What?!
I think that right after exercising more, unplugged is the most common New Year’s resolution for 2019. But as opposed to stop showing up at the gym by March, I would like to help you with sticking to unplugging and building a healthy relationship with technology. It’s not so far fetched, despite the statistics.
Yes, the number are not at our favor…
- We view our smartphones more often than ever before, on average 52 times per day.
- Us adults spend between 3 to 5 hours on our phone EVERY DAY.
- 40% of us would rather lose our voices for a day than lose the phone for 24 hours.
I’m sure you are not surprised, but what should surprise you is that most of the time we spend on our phone is not by choice but by manipulation, manipulation designed by the app companies to get us coming back to engage in their creation as often as possible. This is done by creating a habit. Good habits for the app companies, bad habits for us.
I want to pause here and say that it is a bad habit for us only if we do not CHOOSE that action.
If you consciously choose to open your phone, this not a force of habit, and then by all means please continue. I am talking about all those times it is out of our control that we feel the urge to open the phone and scroll down your endless social media feed.
To be able to gain control, we break the cycle. Start with cutting off on the time you do NOT need to check your phone. The time your brain should just wonder, enjoy the moment. This time is usually when you are bored. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but hold on, hear me out. Psychologists worry that we don’t wrestle with the slow boring moments anymore. “We try to extinguish every moment of boredom in our lives with mobile devices,” says Sandi Mann, the psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire. “This might relieve us temporarily, but it shuts down the deeper thinking that can come from staring down the doldrums.” In moments like waiting at the doctor’s office, commuting, waiting in-line at the grocery store, going down the elevator, etc our phone keeps us occupied, allowing us to escape, it became a filler for those boring moments we should not fill.
Starting with the small “waiting” moments putting the phones down and “daydream” may go a long way, our brains actually like the moment of boredom. Boredom spark creativity. Being in a state of boredom encourages us to explore creative outlets because our brain is signalling that our current situation is lacking and we need to push forward.
If you are still with me, you are probably asking when facing a boring moment, my phone is my best option But that’s not necessarily true — before you had a phone you had yourself, focus on yourself, start with your breathing. It may sound silly but it is not, as breathing will allow you to clear your head, gain back control, allow you to CHOOSE your action.
Breathe?! Yes, breathe
A friend of mine, Dina Kaplan founder of The Path was in town for a couple of days. I had the privilege of joining her in one of her meditation sessions. Dina is a former tech founder, that a stressful work environment led her to the path of mindfulness. She is now a certified meditation teacher and leads meditation sessions around the world (Mela is one that is on my bucket list). Dina can vouch for how much “Mindfulness” helps.
If by any chance you don’t know what “Mindfulness“ is, it’s the ”awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Mindfulness involves acceptance, paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them — without believing. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Waiting, feeling bored is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. Try not to turn to your phone, instead bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the flow of the breath in and out of your body, from moment to moment and allow everything else to just be, even if you feel impatience or irritation.
Before I joined Dina, I mentioned it to my kids telling them I will start my day at a chaotic Manhattan mall, leaving my phone aside and practicing meditation. Their reaction was “This sounds boring! How can sitting still for 10 minutes with no phones count as fun?”.
I wanted to say that “when you guys were younger and bored, you came up with the most fascinating and creative games ever. You played with them for hours, never complaining you are bored.” Instead I said, “Let me try it and report back”.
This wasn’t my first meditation session. I practice yoga for a while and was able to incorporate meditation while practicing. However, I never thought of using meditation as a treatment for screen addiction. It never crossed my that mind mindfulness can help balance screen time. Until that Monday’s session. This is when I had the epiphany. Maybe my mind was bored and I was solving a problem?! Whatever it was, it worked.
If you are not convinced yet, there is more
Besides minimizing stress and lower anxiety. Mindfulness helps us become our best selves, help with focus both at work and school, reduced rumination, boost our memory, even to lose weight and have a healthier attitude towards food.
“The brain stem is connected to the spinal cord, so when you meditate,” explains Dina, “you’re flooding not just your mind but your body with health! You are reducing inflammation, increasing immunity, slowing the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, through the body and more.”
As for our relation with technology, our phone in particular — by turning to meditation and not opening our phones we allow ourselves a break. A break from FOMO (fear of missing out) that we get when we scroll down on our Instagram/Facebook feed and see the endless stream of photos of our friends having fun, leaving us feeling lonely and sad.
I know how demanding social media apps are. As I said before, there are designed by specialists to keep us hooked. But we have a choice, we can skip the part of FOMO and take a breather, literally.
Over time meditation gives you a pause between what happens to you during the day — and how you choose to respond. As Dina told me “if I don’t meditate I’ll just react to things all day, and perhaps say some things I might regret.” …with meditation ”I choose how I want to respond to pretty much everything that happens throughout the day”. Not responding to the habit of opening social media is a choice we can gain by turning to meditation.
I tried it, and it works
For those who want to give it a try, here are some recommended tips to get started.
- Start with the intention of not pulling out your phone and focusing on the here and now.
- If you can, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
Remember, it takes practice, you won’t overcome the need to check your phone on the first try and probably not even the 3rd, but over time you will see a difference in your behavior and your relationship with your device.
My friend Ylva Björnberg keeps on saying “You will start to make decisions that are in alignment with your true, joyful, self.” I’ll add & your device will no longer control you.
Making unplugging as the new year’s resolution is the first (and very important) step towards a change. Now we need to stick to it, because if we don’t it will consume approximately 5 and a half years of our lives (by the way, that’s just on social media)! I don’t know about you, but life is too short for that.
Let’s make 2019 a year that we succeed unplugging, that we take control of our devices.
Stay tuned, follow my posts, I’ll be here to help along the way!
I am not a certified meditation expert, I am an expert in screen addiction. If you’d like to further look into meditation, a quick google search will guide you in that path. Regardless I would love to get your response at the comments section.