Technology is everywhere.
It’s integrated into our lives from the moment we wake up and check our email to the last few minutes of the day when we wade through our favorite social media feed. We stay connected through smartphones, tablets, Fitbits and multi-display work computers.
It can be challenging to use technology mindfully as it’s so easy to get pulled into the ‘world wide web’.
Choosing to unplug, disconnect and put down our devices needs to be a deliberate decision.
We live in a digital age and, while technology offers us incredible opportunities and conveniences, at the same time it can negatively impact our health, our productivity and relationships.
Just the other day I caught myself absentmindedly kissing my husband goodbye as he was about to leave the house – without even looking up from my phone! Ugh! (Thankfully, I recognized what I had done, caught him before he left, and gave him my undivided attention as we kissed goodbye.)
The constant connectivity that our digital devices allows can create digital overload, causing our brains to remain in a hyper alert and distracted state – even after we’ve put our devices down.
The constant barrage of electronic stimuli is pushing our brains to work overtime.
Many of us are addicted to our digital devices, breaking out in a cold sweat at the very thought of turning our devices off, or leaving them behind. (Ever caught yourself feeling anxious when you’ve left your phone at home? I certainly have!).
Did you know there is actually a term for this addiction to our digital devices? It’s called Digiphrenia.
As a business owner, I spend time everyday checking my email, updating social media and creating content to share with my readers. It’s so easy to get pulled into communication about projects by team members who work at various hours and in different time zones. The barrage of information is endless.
Having burned out (more than once) I know the importance of finding balance. We have to consciously choose to unplug and de-stress. We have to learn to live in an online, connected world while maintaining a healthy life at the same time because being connected to our phones, social media, iPads and other technology isn’t going to go away – nor do we want to take away those conveniences.
We have to examine our relationship with them and find balance.
How do you say “yes” to a connected world and a healthy inner life at the same time?
Here are 10 tips to help you live consciously and joyfully in a digital world:
Make time for mindfulness
Train your mind to pause for a few seconds before you get started on your computer, phone or tablet. Let your mind become still and bring the focus of your attention into the present moment. Avoid rushing into the stimuli of technological devices while in an autopilot mode. Make the decision to start using your devices in a state of mindful awareness.
Place a little note at your workstation to remind you. I have one at my computer that says “Stop. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths and let your thoughts go.” Make this practice a habit throughout your day.
Use waiting times wisely
Bring your awareness to how you respond to the “wait times” you experience throughout the day. It might be: waiting for something to load on your computer; waiting for a meeting to start; or waiting in line while running errands. Instead of feeling annoyed or pulling out your phone to entertain yourself, make your waiting time into a mini-meditation session.
Every time you turn off a device or experience a waiting time, close your eyes and take three deep, slow, mindful breaths. Release any tension as you exhale. Return your awareness to the present moment. Notice your surroundings. Do you hear birds chirping, dogs barking or a jet going by? What is the temperature of your room? Are you hot, cold or just right? Are you tempted to reach for a device right away? Do you feel anxious or bored without being digitally connected? This is a sign that you are over-stimulated. Resist the urge to reach for the nearest device. Just stay with the feeling and let it dissipate. Once you’re fully present in the moment you can more fully relax and enjoy your day.
Research has shown that multi-tasking is actually counterproductive. Focus on one thing at a time. This is what meditation helps you do train your mind to do. It also helps your mind to stay clear and calm and you’ll actually get more done!
Develop digital awareness
Notice how your state of being is impacted by digital stimuli throughout your day. Pause to consider how stressed you become in response to digital overload. Learn to become a non-judgmental observer of how your body and mind are responding when you are engaged with your devices, especially for long periods of time. This will help you become mindful and give you more choice when it comes to engaging with technology.
Pause for just a moment between digital activities. Notice how you feel and what your internal response is to the next notification or phone call. If you feel yourself becoming tense or uptight, what do you need to do to relax and get back into your natural state of flow?
Be mindful of your body’s needs
Sitting for extended periods increases your risk for premature death. (They say sitting is the new smoking). This is true even if you are fit and healthy. In order to stay healthy, you’ve got to get up and move around. Stand up, walk around while you’re on the phone and walk around while you are on your breaks.
Take 5-minute breaks every 25 minutes (set a timer to remind you). This will help you stay productive while avoiding burnout. Consider a desk set-up where you can adjust your desk / chair to standing and sitting heights or a treadmill workstation. Stretch your body regularly and move around as much as you can.
Be mindful of your eyes
Staring at a screen for hours can take a toll on your eyes. You may notice symptoms like blurry vision or dry, itchy eyes. Overworking your eyes can cause headaches as well. Most screens are backlit with a blue light, which can interfere with your sleep cycle. If you stay up late staring at a screen, you may experience dry, aching eyes and have trouble going to sleep.
My assistant absolutely loves her moist heat eye compress. The compress, recommended by her ophthalmologist, contains patented MediBeads that are activated by a microwave. She tells me “I really look forward the 20 minutes I spend meditating with my eye compress over my eyes. I call it my “spa” time and find it refreshes my eyes and helps me sleep at night.”
Block out times to put technology away
Plan time away from technology. It’s vitally important that you unplug and give your mind and body time to rest. Some people call it “digitally detoxing.” Think about the biggest distractions in your life and turn them off! When you understand what is draining your time and energy, you can create an effective strategy to counteract it.
There is a movement to “unplug” after 7 pm every evening. Some people try to keep weekends technology-free. Decide what will work best for you and schedule time away from technology by blocking time off on your calendar. When you can do this, you’ll be happier and less stressed.
Give yourself and others your undivided attention
There is nothing more precious in this world than offering quality presence to ourselves and others when we choose. Yes, social networking can bring us closer together, but nothing can replace physical contact and meaningful connection.
Offering quality presence means being relaxed and resting gently in the interaction. It requires that you not only give your attention to the other person, but that you hold some of your attention in your own center. Centering helps you be less reactive to external situations. Compassionately practice active listening by paraphrasing and asking relevant questions. Stay aware of the other person’s experience instead of getting caught up in the details of what they are saying. The journey of deep, meaningful relationships requires that we turn off our devices and offer quality presence to ourselves and others.
Get the most important things done and let go of the rest
So much of what we spend our time doing is not the most important. Instead of taking on an endless list of things to do, take the time to get clarity on your priorities for the day. Plan to get only a few important things done each day. It’s okay to not do everything.
Start each day by taking the time to review your To Do list and schedule. Set your priorities and block out time on your calendar for each major priority, which may only be one thing! Consider what a reasonable schedule looks like for you and set up your schedule accordingly.
Keep your mental space clear
Technology and to-do lists can drain us physically, mentally and emotionally. They can wreak havoc on our relationships and mindful practices. They can interfere with our relationship with our Higher Self.
Make small commitments to yourself to stay on track with your wellness goals. For example, make a commitment to do one minute of meditation, five minutes of stretching and 10 minutes of exercise each day. Or, agree to do one thing one time a week – like yoga on Tuesdays. When you’re ready, build up to more if you wish.
In spite of the dangers, technology really can help make our lives more manageable, as long as it is used wisely. Our stress is not caused by technology, but by the way we use it. By shifting our thought patterns and practicing mindfulness, we can learn to train our minds to become fully aware of where we are, what is happening around us and what we are doing. When this happens, we are able to improve our quality of life while staying in balance with work.
Are you ready to create more balance in many areas of your life?
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