How To ACTUALLY Have A Mindful Relationship With Your Phone
The holiday season signals a moment to slow down, reflect on the year that has passed, and get clear on what you want to welcome into the next one—and it’s hard to do that with your head buried in your phone. mbg’s wellness trends forecast that 2018 will be the year we all become a bit more mindful with our devices. Here’s some advice on how to get a head start and begin to form a more mindful relationship with your tech.
How often do you find yourself resisting the urge to look at your phone, only to end up mindlessly scrolling through old texts or checking the same apps over and over? We now rely on our phones for everything from communication and social media to entertainment and banking. It feels almost quaint to recall scenes of people talking to each other or reading books in public places, yet it was the norm only a decade ago.
Why do we keep checking our phones?
In this day and age, most of us have—at one point or another—felt addicted to our phones. One explanation for this sensation is that our brains give us a small burst of dopamine, a hormone that signals pleasure, when we interact with our devices. From a different perspective, we crave the attention and connection that our phones provide. Some part of our egos is asking to be "liked" and "seen." But for most people, the resulting validation is short-lived, so we post again and again, accumulating likes and trying to satiate that ego-based hunger that will never be truly satisfied.
Once our addiction to dopamine and desire for recognition combine, we can feel our phones dominate our lives—so much so that we actually feel stressed and anxious when we're away from them for too long. However, adopting mindfulness techniques could help you form a constructive, rather than codependent, relationship with your tech.
Simple mindfulness exercises that have helped my tech addiction:
1. Take a timeout from your phone.
One way to use your phone mindfully is to make a practice of putting it away when you're traveling—in a bus, subway, or as a passenger in a car. Commit to at least 10 minutes without using your cell. Treat it like a fast. As you practice spending time away from your phone, you can learn to build up your autonomy, and it can start to become less addictive.
2. Pause before pressing the on button.
Another mindfulness practice is to simply pause before you go to use your phone, asking yourself, "Do I actually need to check my texts, emails, Facebook, Instagram, etc., right now?" Really pause and ask yourself if there is something you truly need to check or respond to. Feel that urge—almost like a sugar craving—and see what it feels like to hold on to it for a few moments. As my friend Yael Shy wrote in her recent book, What Now?: Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond, if we pause to feel what’s really driving us, we might find "loneliness, disconnection, and sadness waiting for [us] in the silence of phonelessness." Learn to be with those feelings, and see if they dissipate before you use your phone. Deepening your practice with meditation will allow you to access those feelings more easily without rushing to quell them.
3. Change your settings.
Additionally, making changes to your phone’s settings can help you reduce its role in your daily life. One option is to set all of your apps so that they only use Wi-Fi, not cellular data; this will automatically limit your phone time when you’re traveling or commuting. It will also probably make you realize just how much you automatically check your phone.
You can also flick off email accounts, particularly those that don’t require time-sensitive responses, so that you only check email from your desktop. You can delete certain social media and news apps so that you get accustomed to not checking all of them constantly. Wean yourself off one app at a time and see how far you can get.
4. Don't multitask.
Another important tenet of phone mindfulness is challenging yourself to focus on one thing at a time. In other words, when you're using your phone, make sure that's the only thing you're doing. Then, commit to not using your phone while you are descending the stairs to the subway or walking down the street. Regard your phone as a tool for important and time-sensitive tasks rather than a constant source of data. Your mind doesn't need constant input. It just craves it.
Some of these steps might seem radical, but try out a few and see which ones work for you. Slowly incorporate more changes as your phone takes on a smaller role in your life. By incorporating one or more of these simple techniques, you can give your mind the rest it needs so that you're in control—not your phone.
Looking to become more mindful in other areas of your life? This journaling routine can help.