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Using digital technology mindfully

One of the biggest challenges to doing a single thing at a time is digital technology.

We have always had the habit of getting distracted and worrying about things (in fact, this gave us a survival advantage back when things were much more physically dangerous than they are today), but the advent of smartphones and other devices has taken this to the next level. It’s important to remember that technology is neither good nor bad – it is all about how we use it.

We can make technology work for us. We just have to use it mindfully. Simply paying attention to how we use it, and the effect this has, is a good start.

How to be more mindful with the way you use digital technology

Here are some suggestions for helping you use digital technology in a more mindful way.

Use one device or app at a time

Resist the temptation to use more than one device simultaneously. For example, watching TV while using your phone.

Turn off unnecessary notifications

Turning off unnecessary notifications and alerts is one of the best possible things you can do to improve your productivity and wellbeing. For one day, consider experimenting with turning off unnecessary notifications (for example, social media) while leaving on critical features and notifications such as everyday phone connectivity and text messages. Notice your level of productivity and sense of wellbeing throughout the day. On the following day, turn on your notifications and then compare your experience with the previous day.

Limit screen time

You may also want to limit recreational screen time to a maximum of two hours a day. Spending time unplugged and offline is very good for our wellbeing, especially if we go outside into nature – or even just go for a walk down the street or to the park.

Keep devices out of the bedroom

Try to your devices out of your bedroom or resist using them there. Using your phone keeps the mind active and the blue light emitted from the screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s the middle of the day. If you absolutely have to use your device in bed, switch it to night time mode and/or get a filter designed to reduce eye strain during night-time use and reduce disruption of sleep patterns.

Disconnect before bed

It’s good to disconnect at least 30 minutes before bed. Switch off devices (and LED lights) and then start doing things like reading or meditating that let your brain wind down.

Mindful social-media

For better or worse, social media has become a part of life for most people.

Some people are showing signs of addiction, such as craving, tolerance and withdrawal. This is because digital technology and social media are literally addictive. Each time any of us checks our phone or logs into our social media account, we get a hit of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain’s reward pathways, the nucleus accumbens. This is the same part of the brain that is activated when people gamble and take drugs.

When used unmindfully, social media can make people feel less connected and may impair their perception of nonverbal cues and therefore face-to-face communication skills. This disconnection is a major cause of addiction (creating a vicious circle) giving rise to incidents of cyberbullying, partly explained by the lack of nonverbal cues online which might otherwise moderate antisocial behaviour. Unmindful social media usage can also lead to social comparison, which can result in impaired self-esteem and even depression.

Is it possible to use social media in a more mindful way?

We certainly think so. To help you, we’ve put together a list of suggestions that are available from the Downloads section of this step.


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This article is from the free online course:

Maintaining a Mindful Life

Monash University