How to Be More Mindful (and Smart!) with Your Smartphone
Smartphones - what would we do without them? They help us connect immediately, but that may not always be such a good thing. Maybe it's time we took a step back and become a bit more aware of how we interact with the these amazing devices - and the world around us.
By Lindsey C. Pratt, MA, NCC, MHC
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Have you ever reached for your phone to look up something that feels urgent, only to quickly become distracted by three new texts and notifications from multiple apps? You may never get back to that original question you were planning on punching into Google.
It may be the first of many times in one day that the little distraction device in your pocket interrupts your flow and challenges your original intention. Life is a balancing act of family, dating, career, finances, and self-care, and concentration isn’t always our strong suit.
You might be having a wonderful time at a friend’s birthday party but sneak away to check your email and find out your application to a new job was rejected. Suddenly, the party doesn’t feel so engaging, and your head fills with anxious thoughts about the future. Sound familiar?
Technology provides us with assistance in so many areas, but our smartphones can be a drain on concentration, especially when they feel like an extra appendage: A recent IDC Research report found that 79% of nearly 8,000 smartphone owners ages 18 to 44 keep their phones on their person or near them for all but two of their waking hours every day. It can be hard to resist temptation, but constantly checking our phones can put a strain on our joy in the present moment.
Assessing your reasons for reaching for your phone before the mindless scrolling sets in is a simple little mindfulness trick that may cut down on tech time and allow you to live more freely in the here-and-now. Try checking in with the five “WH” questions each time you reach for your phone; think of it as a filter for intentional living.
“Am I with the people who I want to be focusing my attention on right now, or am I checking my phone to communicate with others who aren’t here?”
Checking in with the “who” can be a great screening tool for our relationships. If we’re always scrolling our gadgets when we are with certain friends or a new fling, this may indicate a lack of emotional connection or fulfilment in the relationship.
Anete Lūsiņa, Unsplash
“What, exactly, am I opening my phone for right now?”
Assessing overall intention may help with mindless scrolling—checking every app without really knowing what we’re looking for. Checking in with “what” also cuts down on our ability to become distracted. If we open our phones with a specific question that needs answering, it’s less likely the notifications and texts will sway us away from our initial intention.
“Am I fulfilled by my surroundings at the present moment?”
By checking in on the “where,” we are better able to cue into our settings and see if we are truly content with where we are.
If you notice yourself scrolling every time you’re at a specific event or location, this may be an indicator you’d rather be elsewhere, which can help you tune into the bigger picture—perhaps the desire for a new profession, new hobby, or change of scenery in the day-to-day.
“Does this phone task need to happen now, or can it wait a few hours until I become more available? Is there really an immediate urgency to checking my email at this moment?”
Part of our smartphones’ allure is they are in our pockets and able to be utilized at any moment. But be mindful of how this can remove you from the actual present moment—the one you are living in right now, with the setting you’re in and people who are physically at your side.
“Am I escaping a feeling or a setting I’m uncomfortable with? Is scrolling my phone helping me ‘disappear?’ ”
We may be reaching for our gadgets due to feeling emotionally strained, bored, or socially anxious. This reduces our ability to cope with these feelings on our own, so it’s important to be mindful of the “why” in every scroll.
Bottom line? Think of your relationship with technology like any other relationship—it should take work, and you should be open to evolving within that relationship. Adding intention to your scrolling can strengthen your bond with the here-and-now, helping you evolve into a more mindful person and a truly smart phone user.
IDC Research Report, Sponsored by Facebook. (2013, March). Always Connected: How Smartphones and Social Keep Us Engaged.