Seven Strategies to Maintain Mindfulness in the Information Age – Melli O’Brien
In this digital age we live in, technology provides us with incredible opportunities and conveniences but at the same time scientists tell us there is a hidden danger. Constant connectivity can create fragmentation of the mind.
This state commonly referred to as ‘digital overload’ leads the brain to remain in a hyper alert and distracted state, even once the power is switched off.
Today I’m going to give you seven great strategies you can use to bring more balance and wisdom into your relationship to modern technology.
1) A Mindful Moment
Anytime you are about to start work at your computer or grab your phone or tablet, pause for a few seconds.
Become still and bring the focus of your attention into the present moment. Avoid rushing into the stimulation of technical devices while you’re in ‘autopilot’ mode. Aim to start using your device in a state of mindful awareness.
It can be very helpful to place a little note at your work station to remind you. I have one at my computer which says ‘Pause, Take Three Deep Slow Conscious Breaths’. My little note reminds me to do this each time I sit down to work.
You’ll find that with a little practice this mindful state will become a habit throughout your day.
2) Wise Waiting
Whenever you’re on hold or waiting for something to load online, instead of opening another browser or starting another task simply relax into the moment. Make your waiting time into a mini meditation session. You can do this by simply observing the flow of the natural breath.
By returning to the interminable peace of the moment throughout the day, you’ll find yourself happier, less stressed and more productive.
3) Practice ‘Unit Tasking’
Studies show multitasking is actually a less efficient way to do things (1). When you do use the computer, instead of having several different activities going on at once, put your focus on one activity at a time. This keeps the mind calmer and clearer.
4) Develop Digital Awareness
Develop awareness of the relationship between digital stimulation and your state of being. Pause to consider how you feel when you get a twitter or text message, or when you browse the headlines.
What feelings occur inside you when you multitask with many different browsers open? Learn to become an objective, nonjudgmental observer of your feelings when you’ve got your gadgets on. This will help you remain mindful and give you more choice in your relationship to tech instead of just ‘reacting’ out of habit to various digital stimuli.
You may be able to have a small pause to ‘check in’ with yourself before that unconscious lurch at the phone when it rings or when instant messenger beeps at you. What is the state created by those beeps and rings? By becoming conscious of how these devices affect us we may choose to make appropriate adjustments such as turning the phone to silent at certain times of the day or realizing that it is not urgent to write back on instant messenger right now.
5) Mindful Transitions
Every time you turn off your electronic devices, become still, close your eyes and take three deep slow mindful breaths . If you’re carrying tension into any part of your body, breathe deeply and release it as you exhale. Return your awareness to the present moment and your surroundings. What’s going on? Is it cold or hot? Are birds chirping or cars driving by? Are you hungry, tired, anxious, content? This is a great way to transition your awareness from a state of hyper alertness to the calm peaceful state of mindfulness.
6) Unplug With Awareness
It would be wise to have a digital detox every now and then. Schedule some deliberate time into your life where you won’t be using any technology at all. This could be a few hours per day or a half day per week.You could take a longer break, a week or two. What ever is appropriate for you.If your a heavy user of digital devices, you may feel anxiety and a sense of disconnection or boredom once you’ve unplugged. This is a symptom of being over stimulated mentally. Don’t try to fight against the feeling, resist the urge to reach for the nearest device.
Instead see if you can just be there as the witness of any arising feelings. Have a sense of just allowing them to be there. You’ll soon find these feelings will dissipate once you’re fully present in the moment with them. Without a screen in tow you can more fully relax and enjoy the day. Embrace those times and they’ll help you feel reintegrated and whole again.
7) Wake-up calls
Whenever an electronic device beeps, tings or rings it threatens to distract you but you can turn this stimulation around and use these noises as ‘mindfulness triggers’. In Plum Village, a famous monastery in France, they have a ‘mindfulness bell’.
This bell is rung at random intervals throughout the day. When the monks hear the sound of this bell they all stop what they are doing and take a mindful breath, returning to the beauty and simplicity of the present moment. It is their ‘wake up call’ to get out of the thinking mind and come back to the now.
Digital devices can become our ‘mindfulness bells’. When you here the ring of an incoming call or bleep of a new e-mail, use it as a ‘wake up call’ to remind you to be fully present in the now. Before you answer or respond, stop and breathe. Bring your consciousness back to your body and surroundings.
Using technology with mindfulness will help you throughout the day to stop ‘doing’ and come back to your natural state of ‘being’.
With practice, you condition yourself to live more and more in a state of mindful awareness. Rather than letting your digital activities distract you from life, let them become gentle guides that direct you back to living it as it unfolds.
Do you have some more tips to share with us? Share your own wisdom or ask any questions in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.