A couple weeks ago, I hosted a workshop on cultivating a mindful relationship with our smartphone. I was nervous about leading this, tbh. A part of me felt like a fraud—knowing that I struggle with the mindless scroll and comparing myself to other wellness practitioners on the ‘gram. The imposter syndrome was real.
Yet it ended up helping me grow and learn in unexpected ways that only doing something you’re scared of can. The conversation was raw, real, and meaningful. But most importantly, it was in person. When 55% of communication is non-verbal, it’s no secret that we can easily misinterpret texts. Research is now starting to show that there may be larger health implications for increased tech communication and decreased face time (no, i’m not talking about the video chat app).
Lack of in-person relationships causes loneliness.
Cell phone use has been shown to increase levels of anxiety, depression, issues with body image, and feelings of FOMO. Not only that, too much time on your phone takes away time and energy you could be putting into cultivating real, in-person relationships. Lack of in-person relationships causes loneliness. The same area that lights up in your brain when you are experiencing physical pain also lights up when you are feeling emotional pain. Thus, chronic loneliness can ultimately cause chronic pain down the road. Crazy, right?!
Ok, enough of the scary stats. Luckily, there are small steps we can begin to take to counteract these effects! Here are 3 ways you can start mindfully using your phone:
Realize the beauty of airplane mode
Start small here. Maybe flip that airplane mode on for 5 minutes when you need to focus on writing an email. Maybe shut it on airplane mode while you’re asleep so you don’t see any texts or emails when you get up to pee in the middle of the night. Maybe put it on airplane mode while you’re on a hike so you can better enjoy the great outdoors. Whatever the situation is, commit to a certain amount of time, and just notice how it makes you feel. I guarantee that over time, you’ll actually start to enjoy the freedom that comes from airplane mode!
Forget the story
Ok this one may be tough, but why not try to avoid instagram or snapchat “story” for a night? So many of us feel the need to broadcast everything we’re doing in our stories so the whole world can see. The problem with that is that it takes us directly out of the present moment, inevitably making us enjoy that moment less than we would have if we put down our phones and just experienced it in real time. Not only that, it can cause unnecessary stress when we are concerned about getting the perfect story rather than just enjoying being where our feet are. I noticed this stress in myself, and very recently have opted out of the “story” game in favor of mindfulness. Some of you social media marketers out there may think I’m crazy in doing so because the new algorithms and all that, but I have already felt relief from not having the constant stress of thinking, “should I story this??" It began to interrupt my happiness and feeling of connection to the present moment. And I'll choose my happiness over an extra couple of followers any day.
No phones at the dinner table
How often do you see a couple or a group of friends out to dinner and instead of engaging in real time conversation they’re just on their phones scrolling? I’m guilty of it too! Next time you’re out to dinner, I challenge you to leave your phone in the car or in your pocket (not face-down on the table. I know you're tricks!). We tend to reach for our phones during a pause in the conversation to fill the void. I challenge you to stay in that pause, rather than try to run away from it. I promise it will feel awkward and weird at first, but after some practice you’ll realize how the conversation organically grows and evolves when you allow yourself to sit in those breaks.
Creating space between you and your phone takes time, but it’s crucial for our long-term well-being. Today’s population is experiencing more and more mental and physical health issues caused by technology, but luckily tools like mindfulness can help prevent us from them. Try out different tactics and see what works for you. It WILL get easier if you commit to the practice :)