Technology can be a beautiful thing: It connects us to our family across the country, it exposes us to captivating stories, real and fictional ... but it also has its downsides.
Admittedly, we're all a little guilty of indulging in our devices too often, whether it's checking our texts one too many times while we're out to dinner or just wasting precious minutes dissecting our old roommate's new romance. Luckily, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls in order to approach life in a more mindful manner. Below are six tech traps we constantly get sucked into and how to fight your way out of them. Take that, smartphone addiction.
1. Snapping a picture of the moment instead of savoring it.
That sunset may be beautiful, but if you're not truly enjoying it -- without your phone -- you may not really remember it. Research suggests that our phones aren't the best cameras, our memories are. A 2013 study revealed that people who took photos of art remembered less about the work than those who just stopped to soak it all in. And while photos are an incredible way to preserve a memory, we shouldn't be experiencing every important moment in our life through a screen. Next time, let the mind do the image capturing.
2. Scrolling through your newsfeed during dinner.
We all get sucked into this trap, and there's no better time to call to mind those updates than when you're catching up with friends. But that doesn't mean you should be browsing at the table. In fact, the mere presence of your smartphone during your meal could have a negative effect on your relationships and interpersonal connections.
If you have that one friend (or if you are that friend) who is constantly checking their SportsCenter app and Facebook updates, there are ways to unplug at the dinner table. Games like "phone stacking," where diners place their devices in the middle of the table and the first to touch gets the tab, encourage people to connect with each other instead of their screens. Some restaurants also offer discounts to ditch your phone at the door.
3. Checking your notifications in the middle of a work task.
As useful as we think those quick IMs (or dancing panda gifs) to our co-workers are, if we're being truthful with ourselves, those sporadic notifications aren't really helping us get work done. And there's research that backs this up. Studies have found that we're interrupted as much as six times during one hour, and researchers at George Mason University recently discovered that those little hiccups have a serious impact on our quality of work. If you're trying to get something accomplished during the day, try silencing your phone and going invisible on Gchat. You'll see a difference in your to-do list.
4. Clearing some emails before bed.
We can't say it enough: Ban your phone from the bedroom. While it's tempting to power through some correspondence or delete some unnecessary clutter in your inbox, it's probably doing more harm than good. Not only are you setting yourself up for poor sleep, but nighttime device use also makes you feel depleted in the morning, affecting your work productivity. We can easily void the trap of sleeping with our smartphones by storing them in the other room before going to bed and waking up to an alarm clock instead.
5. Constantly binge-watching your favorite shows.
We know it feels oh-so-good to lie in bed with copious amounts of "Scandal" or "Orange Is The New Black". (Be honest: How many times have you told yourself that this is the last episode you're going to watch for the night?) But despite this undeniably guilty pleasure, new research suggests your excessive TV habit could be negatively impacting your health.
Binging for three hours or more a day leads to a greater chance of early death, according to the research. And while three episodes may not seem like a lot in the span of a whole season of your favorite show, that's time spent not being active (as we've previously heard, sitting is the new smoking) or mindful. Instead, try watching one episode at a time and spend your new free time outdoors, crafting or reading -- all activities that can boost your health and well-being.
6. Keeping your eyes glued to your phone as you walk.
Not only are you making people who may cross your path incredibly annoyed, you're genuinely missing the wonder of the world around you: the gorgeous blooms popping up off the sidewalk, the playful puppy on a walk, the interesting stranger across the street. When you're walking, try stashing your phone. As Cat Greenleaf, an Emmy-award winning journalist and founder of Look Up, Stop Texting, writes to her smartphone in a HuffPost blog, "I've got to re-engage in the world instead of secretly feeling engaged to you."
This GPS Guide is part of a series of posts designed to bring you back to balance when you're feeling off course.
GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others' stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing "secret weapons" that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.