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A mindful approach to digital technology

Watch Richard provide an overview of different ways we can approach the use of technology and how it can help us to become more mindful.
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RICHARD CHAMBERS: One of the biggest obstacles to being productive and performing well and, in fact, to mindfulness generally is digital technology. And that’s not good or bad. It’s all about how we use it. But we need to make sure that we’re using it effectively. First of all, it turns out that we’re literally becoming addicted to our devices. Every single time that our phone buzzes or we get that alert pop up on the lock screen, every time we check our phone, we get a little hit of dopamine the reward pathways in our brain, in the nucleus accumbens.
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And then, of course, every now and then you get invited to something on Facebook or you “win on eBay” and we get a big hit of dopamine. That’s the same part of the brain that gets activated when we’re gambling or taking drugs. So we are literally becoming addicted to our devices. And there’s research that’s found now that the more students in a classroom use their phones, the lower their grades. And, of course, it’s all about how they use it. If they’re listening to what the teachers say and then they just stop and check a fact, great.
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But if they stop to check that fact, and then they say that they’ve got a text message, and then they’re texting their friend and starting to disengage from what’s actually happening in the classroom, of course, productivity takes a bit of a nose dive. There’s even a study that found that if our phone vibrates in our pocket and we don’t even check it, we make 28% more errors on the task we’re engaged in. Let’s say 28% of our attention goes from what we’re doing to wondering who that is that’s calling us, even if we don’t check it.
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So, again, we might just want to think about how we use our technology to make it work for us, rather than us sort of being its slave. And there are just some simple principles. Flight-moding our phone when we’re trying to concentrate, excellent idea. Just using one device or app or website at a time so that we can actually focus on what’s important. If we’re totally addicted, we might want to get a web site blocker, something that restricts our access to get on Facebook for a period of time. Switching off notifications is one of the best possible things that we can do to improve our productivity, but also our well-being and how happy we are.
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Because what that means if we switch off the email alert on our computer, if we turn off the notifications that we don’t need on our phones, we can focus for longer periods on what’s actually important. And then we can best check out e-mails later on or get on Facebook as a reward. There’s also some really interesting research coming out around the blue light that’s emitted by the screens of our devices. And what we’re finding is that the blue frequency of light that comes out, when that reaches our eyes, it actually tricks our brain into thinking it’s the middle of the day. So our levels of melatonin drop. Basically, we sort of start to think, well, it’s midday.
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There’s probably predators around. So I better wake up now and be more alert. So if we’re lying in bed at nighttime, watching our iPad or using our phone, that blue light is actually waking us up. So we want to minimise how much we’re doing that. There’s a night time mode on an iPhone or we can buy filters for our iPads and computers, which cuts out some of the blue light and reduces some of the effect. But the less we’re using digital devices in bed, the better our sleep is generally going to be.
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And for the same reason, unplugging from our devices about 30 minutes before bed can also be a really good thing to do so that our body can start to prepare itself for sleep.
Watch Richard provide an overview of different ways we can approach the use of technology and how it can help us to become more mindful.
Have you become more aware of how you use technology or have you already made efforts to reduce distracting technology? If so, what strategies have you used?

Talking point

Within the Comments, consider sharing with other learners your approaches to making technology work best for you. For example, if you’ve made an effort to reduce distraction you may wish to talk about how you turn off notifications on your smartphone/mobile device, use one web browser at a time, specify particular times to check your emails, and more.
Don’t forget to contribute to the discussion by browsing the comments made by other learners, making sure you provide constructive feedback and commentary. Remember you can also ‘Like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Managing comments

Comments on a step can be ‘filtered’ which helps you access them in a way that’s best for you. You can do this by selecting comments by ‘All comments’, ‘Bookmarked’, ‘Your comments’ or ‘Following’ from the drop-down menu in the comments section of the step. You can can also sort by ‘Newest’, ‘Oldest’ or ‘Most liked’.
You can also bookmark comments to remind yourself of certain contributions that you might wish to refer back to at a later stage.

Mentioning other learners

When replying to a comment, you can also mention other learners that are taking part in the comment thread. You can do this by entering the learner’s profile name as part of your reply. For example, @User3320607 That’s an excellent description! @User4499578 What do you think?
Please note, you can only mention others who are in the thread and cannot use the mention functionality in stand alone comments.

See also

You may also be interested in exploring the related links in the See also section of this step. Doing so is optional.
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Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance

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