Every time I feel a buzz or a jingle from my smartphone, a voice comes up inside of me: "Oh, there is something for me that needs attention."
If I were to look in my brain, I'm sure I'd see a surge of dopamine, the pleasure-seeking chemical that drives us toward addictive substances. Now, I'm a promoter of technology, but the following story can show you exactly where it gets in the way and how we can turn it around and use it for good.
A while ago I was on a walk with my little boy and found myself checking my email and responding to a colleague. I let the colleague in on the fact that I was on a walk with my son. The colleague responded, "That is great, now get off the phone, AND BE PRESENT!"
She was right. I was on auto-pilot, caught in a habitual cycle of engaging with this little machine. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with sending people messages when we're on the go, but for me, I noticed it was starting to take away from my experiences of being present with the world around me, and with my family.
This has actually become more dangerous as people are feeling compelled to engage with these machines while driving -- not only at stoplights, but while actually driving. More and more states are banning the practice of interacting with these phones while in the car, unless you are "hands-free." How is this relevant to you?
If you do not have one of these little machines yet, at some point or another, it is highly likely that you will, so maybe this can preempt the addictive behavior from occurring. What can we do to break this cycle once we're in it?
We don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we can actually use the machines to help us. I have begun to schedule little reminders that pop up with a link to a short video that helps me take a minute to be present.
Yes, using the technology for good.
Here's an example of a two-minute check-in to help us widen that space between stimulus and response, allowing for more clarity and reconnecting us to what matters.
In doing this practice, we can become aware when we are on autopilot with our phones or anything else, ground to the present moment, and then choose how we want to proceed. We actually create opportunity to have more choice in our lives over what we really want to be doing.
Do we really need to send that text or email while driving, or can it wait? Would we rather be looking at the screen of the phone or staring into our baby's eyes and listing to the birds sing? How does the incessant need to check the phone increase your levels of stress and anxiety or take you away from more stress-reducing activities? Moderation can be so difficult, but this can support us.
Do you or someone you know have addictive behaviors with their mobile devices? What works for you? Share this in The Now Effect Community for others to benefit from.
Share your comments, stories, and questions in the space below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
For more on Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., click here.
For more on mindful living, click here.