Dear smartphone, we need to talk
If you’ve noticed like I recently have that you have a problem without your smartphone, you’re in a good company. There are 237 million smart phone users in the US alone, 57 million users in Germany. Most of them are displaying addictive behavior. It is actually not possible to work or engage in a conversation with close and undisturbed attention as long as the smartphone is within our reach. This means that all those apps, internet at your fingertips, social media & co. are actually training our mind to underperform and our relationships to deteriorate.
Close and undisturbed attention, i.e. ability to concentrate is the essence of yoga. According to Patanjali, yoga begins with ekagrata (concentrated mind) and concludes with nirodha (stillness & clarity of the mind). This leads not just to a better performance at any given task (including our relationships), but also to realizing Oneness of Being, union of our inner divinity with the Divine. Read: peace, love, compassion and bliss! To achieve these states, the vrittis, or the movements of the mind, must be quieted. This is not possible by holding onto our devices for our dear life.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting you throw away your smart phone or delete your instagram. Our devices are not inherently demonic. Social media can certainly become a time-consuming distraction or addiction, but it can also become a vortex of love and support if we make it that through our conscious use. I do not want to miss any communication or information source available to us today. It is only important, as with all things in life, to use the right thing at the right time. And to question your relationship with your device from time to time as not to become controlled by it.
Here 7 simple actions, (yoga off the mat so-to-say:-) that helped me limit the mindless use of my smartphone and time-wasting on social media:
Upon awakening: Drink a glass of hot water! Do Not, repeat after me, Do Not turn on your phone for a minimum of 20 minutes. Perhaps you can stretch it to an hour. Brush your teeth, take a shower, kiss your partner, cuddle with your kid. There are many ways to start your morning without the smartphone. Ideally you would use at least 5 minutes of this time to meditate i.e. sit still and 5 minutes to do your sun salutations or some breathing. This will set you up to begin your day with clarity and focus.
Set fixed times for your social media visits. Let’s say twice or three times a day: between 9-10am and 7-8pm for full 20, 30 or 40 minutes, whatever works for you. Set yourself a timer and focus on doing only that. The same works for your emails.
If you use social media for communication with your clients or customers write your posts in a word document so that you don’t get tempted to check whether you got a few more likes or who's posted what in the last like 5 minutes.
Ban your smart phone from your bedroom. You will sleep better, you will age slower as your adrenals will be happier. The urge to save the world around midnight or 6.30am will cease. And you will wake up well rested and more capable to serve the world in a constructive way.
Cut your instagram or facebook follows. Generally so, but especially the ones that make you feel inadequate because you are comparing your life to theirs. When you think of someone go to their feed, see what’s going on and engage by leaving a comment or a like. The difference is real time interest and focus instead of mindlessly scrolling down and not even remembering what you just saw.
Turn off the push notifications alerts & co. These induce an immediate cortisol rush and put you into a state of reaction as opposed to intelligent action.
Introduce a day a week without your smart phone or at least without social media. You’ll be surprised how difficult this might be, but also how beautiful and poignant it is to be fully absorbed in a conversation, observing the trees on a walk, listening to music or reading a book when you know that nobody can get hold of you.
Hope that implementing at least one of the suggestions above will help you quiet a few of those vrittis and free up some time and space for real life juiciness right in front of you. Let me now how it worked for you in comments below.
Much love, G.