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Three Ways Technology is Sabotaging Your Mindfulness

How technology affects your mindfulness, why it matters, and what you can do about it

There’s no doubt about it: mindfulness is good for you. This practice of being present can reduce stress, improve cognition, help self-esteem, and so much more. Of course, being mindful is easier said than done. Our world is full of distractions that make it difficult to be present in the moment, with technology being one of the most prevalent. Here’s why tech poses unique challenges—and how you can be mindful anyway.

1. We can’t stop looking at our phones.

Studies show that phones have become a persistent distraction. The average American looks at their phone 47 times a day, with younger Americans averaging an even higher 74 times per day. People look at their phones as they wake up, as they watch television, as they eat out, and at many times in between. Phones aren’t inherently bad, but these numbers suggest that many of us habitually and thoughtlessly turn to our phones all day long—a behavior that falls well short of mindfulness.

Practice mindfully using your phone. Spend a few minutes breathing deeply with your phone in hand, and try to notice any feelings or impulses you have. As you better understand how you react to your phone, you can begin using it more deliberately. And, of course, you can use your phone to help you become more consistently mindful by downloading a mindfulness app. With some effort from you, your phone will transform from a distraction to a tool.

2. We’re hooked on social media.

While it would have been hard to believe 10 years ago, today an average user spends 35 minutes on Facebook, 25 minutes on Snapchat, 15 minutes on Instagram, and 40 minutes on YouTube per day. Users spend this time both looking at other people’s content and posting their own. Looking at other people’s content can damage self-esteem, while always looking for your next Instagram photo op can make you miss what’s in front of you.

While cutting social media out of your life might fix this, most people don’t want to miss out on the benefits social media offers. Rather than delete all your social apps, try to approach social media mindfully. Consider how social media makes you feel, and limit your usage. Rather than idly scrolling through updates, only open these apps after pausing to reflect on your reason for doing so. With mindful usage, you can carefully reap the connective benefits of social media while avoiding damaging habits.

3. We keep binge-watching television.

The average American adult watches over five hours of television a day, and 70% of Americans admit to binge-watching multiple episodes of a show. Streaming services make this easy, as most streaming sites autoplay another video after one ends. If you don’t exit the app in under 15 seconds, another video begins playing, making it easier to mindlessly binge. These viewing patterns lead to other habits, like mindless eating.

You don’t have to cut out Netflix entirely to practice mindfulness. Between episodes, pause the autoplay and use one of those phone apps mentioned above to help you complete a mindfulness exercise. Once you’re done, you can make a deliberate choice to keep watching, rather than mindlessly consuming TV. And it’s okay if you do decide to binge on television sometimes. Just try to binge consciously by watching with a partner and letting shows inspire conversation.

Why It Matters

Mindfulness helps with feelings of stress, and this ability is more important than ever. According to Mattress Firm’s recent “Dozed and Confused” study, baby boomers and millennials feel more stressed than prior generations, and technology likely plays a part.

The same study reveals that habits of bedtime social media posting, phone usage, and TV watching are clearly linked with feelings of stress. That’s right—the habits that make it harder to practice mindfulness are the same habits that stress us out. Using mindfulness to challenge these habits can help relieve stress, and maybe even prevent it.

Don’t let yourself fall prey to technology-induced stress or mindlessness. Begin implementing these tips today to become more mindful in the way you use technology. Create a lifestyle of mindfulness, and you’ll be well on your way to a more balanced, more deliberate life. 

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