Monthly Archives: June 2014

  • Do You Need A Digital Detox?

    Unless you’re a teenager, you’ll remember a time before our lives revolved so much around mobiles and computers. However, the ability to be technologically connected at all times is now central to many of our lives, to the point that we might feel some sense of withdrawal if we went a few days without checking our social media accounts. For some, this need for constant connectivity has become an addiction, and it makes many of us feel unable to genuinely switch off from work or social duties. Ironically, this virtual connection to the world can make us feel lonely and disconnected – the very feelings we are trying to use technology to help us avoid.

    It would be safe to say that these modern problems are impossible to resolve without mindfulness. Daily activities and habits become so second-nature that we often find ourselves going through the motions with little memory of when or why we started. Yet by bringing our attention to the present moment, we can notice our behaviours and therefore start to make more conscious choices.

    Self-distraction is at epidemic proportions—and it’s not the iPhone, it’s the thought of, ‘I wonder if anybody texted me.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

    We reach for our phones or tablets reflexively now, almost in the same way we move our hand towards an itch so that we can scratch it. So it’s important to slow down and really tap into our motivations. Next time your phone pings with a text, email or notification try noticing your immediate response. It might be, “That could be work, I better read it!” or “Maybe someone has replied to my tweet/facebook status.” If it’s the evening, why can’t the work-related email wait until the morning? If someone has responded to a social media post, what does it mean to you that someone has responded? Or if your phone hasn’t pinged for a while, and you’re feeling a bit down about it, why is that?

    There may be other things we use technology for that we don’t need to, but we’ve just gotten so used to. For example, when was the last time you asked a person for directions, rather than reaching for your phone to look at Google maps? When you’re doing a sum, do you ever try and do it in your head before finding the calculator function?

    Using calculators and digital maps isn’t wrong. In fact, they’re very useful. But the problem comes when we use these useful things mindlessly. When we’re mindless, we cut ourselves off from other possibilities, other ways of doing things which might also be fun or rewarding. Becoming more aware of our motivations and emotions around technology may not result in us not using it for certain things, but it enables us to make our actions less reflexive and more deliberate.

    Creating Time Away From Technology

    Anyone who has ever tried to overcome an addiction or habit by sheer willpower alone will know how challenging it can be. Using hard effort to change a behaviour is a largely ineffective method, and is why so many people get stuck in yo-yo dieting, cycles of sobriety and alcoholism, and why so many smokers have had a hundred “last” cigarettes.

    We covered insomnia in our last blog post, and how that in order to improve our chances of falling asleep we must first accept and acknowledge why we’re not falling asleep. Detoxing digitally works along the same lines. To start off with, all that is required is more awareness.

    If we start noticing how much we rely on digital connection and communication, when we use it (late at night, when we’re with family or friends), how it makes us feel (frustrated, isolated, over-stimulated) and how it affects other aspects of our lives (sleep, exercise, our connection with family, friends and nature) then using willpower starts to become unnecessary. This is because when we are present in what we are doing (i.e. checking emails dozens of times throughout the day) we notice its affect.

    As an example say it’s reading work emails before going to bed – it makes you feel agitated and unable to unwind. Once you’re conscious of that feeling, and you know it’s linked with your action of checking emails at night, you naturally won’t want to be present in that agitation. Feeling the agitation of it, mindfully, is a little like noticing you’ve got a splinter. Once you know where the irritation is coming from, you’re unlikely to leave it there. Without having to mentally motivate yourself to reach for the tweezers, you just pick them up and remove the splinter. In the same way, once we’re aware, we naturally stop doing things that don’t make us feel good. Living mindfully gives us more choice, and will help us use technology when it suits our real needs, rather than as a mindless reflex.

    The Mindfulness Project is running a 3-day mindfulness retreat 11-14 August 2016, which is the perfect opportunity to switch off from technology and reconnect with yourself. Read more here: http://www.londonmindful.com/mindfulness-retreat-sussex.html