I’ve noticed a trend when I step out of yoga class.
It happens right after we bow, nod, namaste, thank the instructor, roll up the mats, and look to each other in collective gratefulness, in celebration for whatever it was that brought us to our practice.
We all move in unison to the lockers. And we all pick up our phones—immediately.
Whatever positivity was there before, disappears.
Back to reality—with a bump.
Self-care is a lifestyle. It involves exercise, meditation, eating well. We are motivated by fulfilling plans and intentions. And when we’re looking after ourselves, we are at our most mindful and inquisitive, exploring what we want to achieve and what we need to implement or re-arrange to reach it.
Work harder. Get fitter. Meditate more. Quit vices.
We have the best, most positive, and most enthusiastic intentions—until we see an article we want to read on Facebook or discover an intriguing Instagram account. Before we know it, we’re days behind on our to-do list, and we’ve lost the time we’d put aside for cultivating our dream lives.
And then we feel bad—ashamed, even.
How can I be the person who smashes goals if I can’t even get off the internet?
Ultimately, we ignore the problem, because we’re scared to admit that social media can even be a problem. How could it be? It’s something that seems so trivial—just a daily part of life. We believe that digital dependence affects only the weakest of individuals.
Cue more shame.
It’s not like I can change it, anyway, we think. I have work and a social life, and they both that depend on it.
That’s how we justify and rationalize it in our heads when we end up here again a few nights later at 2 a.m., bleary-eyed, with a sore, scrolled-out thumb, lamenting the distance between us and everything we said we’d do this week, this month, this year.
If it was any other kind of dependence, perhaps we’d accept we had a problem, make some changes, address and examine the behaviour, seek guidance, ask for help. But for some reason, digital dependence doesn’t merit that response. We ignore it.
It’s not a real problem. It’s just a part of life. We all do it.
Engaging with technology triggers dopamine, the feel-good receptors in the brain; the same instantaneous chemical responses we get from other addictive substances or activities like alcohol or gambling. Yet, despite the scientific facts and the severity of its negative impact, we’ve neglected our digital health and not taken it seriously.
It’s time for a new resolution that underpins and supports all of the goals we set for ourselves, whether in social, professional, or personal development. Let’s create a positive relationship with technology that empowers us to make a meaningful and positive impact in the real world. Let’s make digital mindfulness central to our wellbeing.
What is digital mindfulness?
It’s an awareness of our relationship with our digital world, achieved by using mindfulness techniques: focusing on the present moment and noticing our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s noticing and accepting, without judgment, that our relationship with technology may make us feel both good and bad—and that’s okay.
Digital mindfulness involves no detoxes, no deactivations, or other short-term fixes. It’s a commitment to uncover and maintain a meaningful and purpose-driven relationship with our technology.
The key here is not to disconnect. It’s to reconnect. Not to ignore when our digital behaviour makes us feel sad or ashamed, but to acknowledge it. Not to take the wonder of what the Internet can offer us for granted, but to be grateful for the potential gold dust it can offer.
So, how do we get started?
We’re going to take personal responsibility, make smart choices, ignite our creativity, and put in the effort to create microscopic shifts in our digital behaviour that lead to big changes in all areas of our lives. We’re going to put time aside, as we do for healthy eating and exercise, to work on building a relationship with the digital world that enhances our lives.
Without judgement, observe the part of you that gets lost in scroll holes. When are you procrastinating, disconnecting, comparing yourself to others, and numbing? When are you inspired, motivated, educated, and entertained? Schedule the space to sit with these thoughts and feelings. It’s time to ask:
What is this scrolling giving me? What is it telling me about my relationship with myself, others, and my environment?
If we take control and examine how it impacts us and those around us, we can ensure that technology becomes and remains a supportive part of our lives, with the ability to elevate our physical, mental, and spiritual selves.
Particularly for Millennials and members of Generation Z—the generations who grew up alongside smartphones and social media—there is a strong need for support around the management of our digital health. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and the rise of wearables and mixed reality means it will become more ubiquitous.
This year and beyond, the smart, healthy, and productive thing to do is to take control of our digital lives through the lens of mindfulness.
Author: Jessica Riches
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman