Mindfulness For Dummies
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The digital age has brought huge benefits: from saving lives in emergencies, to sharing information with the world, the advantages are countless. But without mindfulness, living in the digital age can drive you crazy! If you don’t turn your phone or computer off from time to time, your attention can be completely hijacked by websites, incoming messages, social media, games and more. Gadgets are so compelling.

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If you think that the digital age is getting too much, check out the suggestions supplied here to get yourself back in control.

Assess your level of technology and internet addiction

Nowadays, people seem to use their phones a lot. A recent survey of over 4,000 users found that . . .
  • Average smartphone users check their phones 47 times a day.
  • 85 percent of smartphone users will check their phone when speaking with friends and family.
  • 80 percent of smartphone users check their phone within an hour of waking up or going to sleep.
  • Almost half of all smartphone users have tried to limit their usage in the past.
When you find you’re spending more time on your phone than interacting with real people, it may be time to reassess your phone usage. Smartphone addiction is often fueled by Internet overuse, as it’s often the games, apps and online worlds that are most compelling.

Here’s a quiz you can use to get an idea of just how addicted you are to your phone:

  1. You’re doing some work and a phone rings in another room. Do you:
    1. Take no notice: it must be someone else’s; your phone is normally off.
    2. Ignore it and check it later.
    3. Walk casually to pick it up.
    4. Run to pick up the phone, sometimes tripping over or stubbing your toe in the process, and getting annoyed by anyone in the way.
  2. You’re planning a holiday, but the hotel has no Wi-Fi and no phone signal. Will you go?
    1. Yes, why not?
    2. Oh, I’d love the chance to get a break from my devices. Heaven!
    3. Probably wouldn’t go there.
    4. No way! How can I have a vacation without my phone and/or laptop – that doesn’t make sense. I need a good phone signal and superfast Internet 24/7.
  3. Where’s your phone right now?
    1. My what? Oh, phone . . . Err, no idea. I’m not sure if I have a phone actually.
    2. Somewhere around here.
    3. In this room.
    4. It’s right here – my beautiful, precious phone.
  4. What do you use your phone for?
    1. Phone calls, of course. What else is it for?
    2. Calls and texts from time to time. Mainly emergencies.
    3. Call and texts. And picking up emails sometimes too. A few pictures.
    4. Everything. It’s my life! Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, email, texting, photos, video, playing games, fitness, Skype. Oh yes, and ocassionally phone calls too.
  5. Do you keep your phone nearby as you sleep?
    1. No way!
    2. Sometimes. Or just for my alarm clock. Don’t really check last thing at night or first thing in the morning.
    3. Quite often. Send the odd text and maybe have a peek at my messages first thing in the morning too.
    4. Every night. I sleep with my phone. It’s the last thing I look at before falling asleep and the first thing I see when I wake up. It’s a compulsion.
Add up your score: Each number is assigned that same point value. For example, if your answer was #2, then you award yourself two points.

5–10 points: you’re not really addicted to your phone at all – you’re probably too busy meditating.

11–15 points: you like your phone, but not that much. You’re still in control and can live comfortably without it.

16–18 points: you’re pretty dependent on your phone for many things. You might like to take a little break from your phone from time to time.

19–20 points: you love your phone. What if you lose your phone? Or it gets stolen? Make sure you have some moments in the day where you take a break from your device and do some mindful walking or stretching, or sit and meditate away from your phone. If you feel that your phone usage is out of control, try some of the tips in the section below to help, or consider getting professional help if you feel overwhelmed.

Use mindfulness to get back in control of yourself in the digital age

If you’ve discovered that you’re using digital devices to the point that they’re having a negative impact on your work or social life, it’s time to get back in control.

You can manage overuse of digital devices in many ways. It’s not as hard as you may think. In fact, once you start using some of these strategies, you may find that you don’t even want to look at your mobile devices.

Here are some techniques that you can try:

  • Engage in other activities. You can participate in a new hobby regularly, such as knitting, gardening or playing an instrument. By paying mindful attention to your hobby and keeping your phones and computers out of the way, you’ll develop greater mindfulness. And you can also get on with a few household chores – you’ll feel good once they’re done. Again, keep your devices switched off and try focusing on the chore – it can be soothing and enjoyable to polish the dining table or clear your desk with full attention and a little smile.
  • Make good use of flight mode, or switch your phone off. When you have an important task to do, try to keep your phone off or in flight mode. That way, you can’t be disturbed. The iPhone even has a new mode called ‘do not disturb’. This prevents calls and alerts from coming through.
  • Set boundaries. Just before you go to bed, it’s important not to look at screens too much. Television, laptops and phones emit a light which signals to your body that it’s still daytime. Then you may have trouble falling asleep and may wake up tired. Also, you may not want to be disturbed at other specific times in the day. For example, when walking through the park keep your phone off and enjoy nature and the people around you. And obviously, when you’re with friends or family or eating a meal, switch your phone off or leave it out of the way. If distancing yourself from your phone sounds like a challenge, just try it once and see how that goes. Eventually, it can feel freeing to leave your gadgets behind.
  • Switch off notifications. Does your computer beep each time an email comes through? Does your phone make a noise each time someone chats to you on social media or sends you a message? If so, you can end up with perpetual distraction. Every time you’re doing one task, you’re distracted by another. The more you keep switching your attention, the less your mindful awareness develops. Turn off as many notifications as you can. This way, you can focus on doing whatever you need to do with awareness.
  • Be kind to yourself when you slip up. Ever had that feeling of frustration when you’ve spent the last hour or so just surfing the Internet rather than finishing your work? I have. But when you do eventually catch yourself doing this, don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s okay. Everyone has their downtime and gets distracted. Say to yourself, “It’s okay. Let me take a break from my computer and phone and have a little mindful walk. I’ll then come back with a smile and get on with my Everyone gets too caught up with the barrage of technology nowadays.”

If you feel you need more help to reduce your Internet usage, consider an evidence-based therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to ease your compulsive behavior and change your perception about internet usage. Professional help can offer alternative ways of dealing with the underlying emotions and thoughts that may be fueling your smartphone use.

Use technology to enhance mindful awareness

If you’re looking for a way to enhance your mindfulness, you may want to avoid technology altogether – and that’s understandable. Use of technology can distract your mind. But for you, using digital devices may be part of your everyday life. Switching them off for an extended period may seem impossible to achieve. In such a case, you can make good use of mindfulness apps, websites and more.

You can download and use apps for mobile devices like phones and tablets. Simply search for mindfulness or meditation in the app stores and you’ll find lots of resources – take your pick. New apps come out every week! Popular ones at the moment are Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace. But there are many more.

If you use social media a lot, following people or organizations, such as Shamash Alidina, that offer mindful images, tweets and resources may help you.

You can also use software to help you focus mindfully on your work. One free piece of software that is helpful is called Self Control. It’s available free for Apple Mac computers, and there are equivalent software products for Windows PCs.

Don’t be discouraged. Even seasoned mindfulness practitioners need technology tools to help manage technology usage.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Shamash Alidina is a professional mindfulness trainer, teacher, and lecturer. He has over 10 years' experience teaching mindfulness in schools and university courses. Juliet Adams designs and delivers professional mindfulness at work training, and co-delivers WorkplaceMT trainer development in the UK and Netherlands.

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