Mindfulness is the act of learning to live in the moment.
While it sounds simple, staying aware of one’s thoughts and behaviours is very challenging purely for the fact that our minds like to wander. Indeed, some would describe the mind like an animal captured in a cage, jumping around, screeching, chattering, and carrying on with its noisy charade endlessly, crying out for attention. When in this state, it is useless to fight with the mind or try to banish any prevalent thoughts because as we all know, that which you resist persists.
Now bring in the digital world and what has this got to do with mindfulness?
At a time where nearly every one of us has a smartphone and bombarded by a steady stream of emails, instant messages, notifications and text. Not to mention the impact of what we could miss out on social media, learning to manage digital distractions and become aware of the noise that is similar, to training the mind and learning how to control it.
We are excitedly taught to live in the digital age, learn to work with constant, rapid connectivity, upgrade, move quickly or be left behind. While there is nothing wrong with this, some of us are not able to cope, and it becomes just as important to understand how to thrive in an age of digital distraction, without losing oneself to the madness.
The aim is not to step away from technology only to go back to it with more fixation. Neither is it about introducing withdrawal symptoms or creating detachment, but rather digital mindfulness is more about becoming aware and making the time to be mindful of our actions, thoughts and behaviours. Listed below are some ways of how to manage one’s digital habits without getting too wrapped in digital noise.
1) Take a digital detox – Make some time for activities without glancing at your digital device. Go to the gym, take a hike, meet with friends or go for a swim and keep away from it for as long as an hour.
2) Go silent – Alternatively, leave your phone on silent for an hour or two for at least once a week. Turn off notifications so that you do not see it light up every time a message comes through. It’s a small measure but a step in the right direction.
3) Stop before you click submit, – Take your time to reply to an email or message. If it is not urgent or life-threatening, then there is no real need to respond right away. Take your time and gain the advantage.
Stepping away from technology will not make us more, or less mindful—just as a day of detoxing or fasting will not automatically change our perception of food. In all things, we want to cultivate Aristotle’s virtuous mean, searching for that place between excess and defect where excellence dwells. Mindfulness does not necessitate pure abstention from iPhones, Twitter, and the like—it is not about neglecting specific platforms. It defines how we use those platforms. The reason for a “fast,” “detox,” or what-have-you is to help us see the big picture, to give us more purpose, understanding, and discretion.
Stepping away from technology will not make us more mindful but learning how to become aware ourselves will help change our perception. It is advisable that we find a balance between the connected and disconnected, between a whirlwind of messages, to an awareness of oneself, and become conscious of our outward actions and the inward ones. Being able to detox, disconnect and take a step back will help us to see the big picture, to give us greater understanding and will help keep us mindful of the digital madness lingering around us.
Share your thoughts on the impact of digital wellbeing at @PeaceChild
Written by Dr Neelam Parmar our Trustee here at Peace Child.