What would happen if you stopped sedating yourself for a week?
Be a smarter user of your smartphone
Nowadays the whole world fits into our palms. We have a phone and we’re not afraid to use it. If there’s more than two people in the line ahead of us, we almost certainly reach for it. It’s kinda disappointing to be the first customer at the cashier or to catch a green wave while driving, as such lucky coincidences ruin our alibi to just take a quick sneak peak at our notifications.
It’s even worse when colleagues waiting for a meeting to start, or parents waiting to pick up their kids from nursery are pushing buttons beside each other.
We forgot how to sit still. We forgot how to say a few words to the person sitting next to us. To watch the landscape passing by, or just to get lost in our own inner world. We forgot how to start a conversation or how to dream about far away places just to ease our sense of discomfort. We forgot to dream about finally getting home.We forgot to be bored.
In the pub with our friends… beside our partner in front of the TV… at the side of the sandpit next to our kids… we are pressing buttons.
There’s a number of researches, videos and articles on how social media is not only leading you to an emotional addiction, but, with the help of a hormone called dopamine, also to a physical one. The effect of this on our everyday life, social interactions and society as a whole is undeniable.
However, my topic today is the ironic fact that, by our constant attempt to stay connected (at least to the WIFI), we are losing our most important connection: the one with our own inner world.
Unless there’s something utterly catastrophic happening to us, we don’t really need to confront or cope with anything. You can easily get away with ignoring your physical sensations and emotions. All the discomfort of thirst, tiredness, a numb limb or feeling utterly useless and alone can be turned off by a few finger taps on your screen. And why would we choose to do that?
On one hand there is an unspoken, yet very obvious social message coming to us from all directions: that we must feel good. Even as young children we notice how much our mom is capable to do only to never see us unhappy – and this is something we pass on to our own kids once we have them. And then, there’s all the hundreds of photos about shiny, happy, and of course, successful people we see every day. Surely they post about some hardship too, but they do this while taking over-filtered selfies under a trendy, hygge knitted blanket and making sure to mention how the product or ideas they sell helped them overcome the unbearable difficulties…
The lesson from this is that it’s OK for you to have a bad day, as long as you can take nice photos of it: likes will follow, and so will your dopamine dose. But better not overdo this, because you’ll soon end up being followed by a brunch of emo losers in a world hungry for success stories and glamour.
And then, there’s this other obsession of ours: that we must be productive. Every single second of the day must be exploited to the fullest. Who has the time to waste on some trainee cashier women – when they could waste their lives lost in a fantasy world too, created and maintained to deceit ourselves and others?
Negative feelings are not trendy. They are painful and scary. And they can be so easily turned off by pressing a single button – why bother with them then?
Well, because if we refuse to feel a bit uncomfortable every now and then and use some self assessment to overcome it, this will result in us constantly feeling like shit. It’s just that we won’t notice.
Not to mention the fact that all the stuff we suppress this way will sooner or later turn back to us in a form and size we can no longer ignore. Buttons won’t help accidents, divorce, illness or death.
There’s so many valuable lessons in hardship! Most often the biggest pain withholds the biggest blessings and catharsis – just think of the analogy of birth!
And while everyone is looking for their “passion” on Google, they seem to forget that the Latin origin of this word, “Passio” means SUFFERING.
The problem is that you cannot be selective: while you do everything to mute your negative feelings until they seem non-existent, don’t be surprised if your desired positive feelings are also fading into an unrecognizable mess…
I hope I said enough for you to see: every time you reach out for your phone on autopilot reflex, you are just about to shoot your next dose of sedative.
But what you should do instead? Quickly get rid of your iPhone and find your old Nokia 310 hoping it still works? Join the Amish or the Society for Krishna Consciousness?
Let’s not go over the top and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Despite all the downsides I mentioned above, smartphones, the internet and social media are brilliant inventions, with uncountable benefits, meaning freedom, mobility and livelihood for many. So here’s a few useful tips you can try instead:
1. On the first day you should just track the time you spend mindlessly online
If you happen to work on the internet, first you should decide what counts as work, and exclude that from you tracking. We’re talking about useless, mindless browsing here. If, by the end of the day, you managed to stay under 30 minutes, I don’t even get why you’re still reading this.
2. Give yourself minimum 15-30 minutes in the morning before you first log in
Many people check their phone first thing in the morning, while still half asleep, and apparently a lot of them even wakes up in the middle of the night to do that! By doing this, you basically live your whole life, from the first second of your consciousness until the last, by REACTING to impulses from the outside word instead of setting intention and CREATING your life the way you want it to be.
3. You decide how much time you want to spend on the interned
Schedule your online time every day before it starts, and then take it as seriously as some medical appointments. It can be between 9-12. It can be one hour twice a day, or 30 minutes every 2nd hour: you, and only you create the rules, but then you must respect them!
4. Plan your time online
I know it’s tempting to decide pointless debates or avoid expensive bets by simply googling important data such as how long The Beatles were active for, or how many teeth a whale has. But this is a very typical way how we end up caught up into the world-web for hours afterwards. The best is to have a list of thing you want to check, sort out and read about in your online time, and schedule your time accordingly.
5. And if you catch yourself on reaching for your phone in a weak and mindless moment of boredom...
- First notice and identify the feeling or thought that triggered this, such as: I’m bored. I need a rest. OR: I’m feeling a bit lonely.
- Once you identified the trigger, make a mindful decision: is it worth escaping from this feeling or would it be healthier and wiser to act upon it instead.
6. Have the people in your life GET USED to the fact that YOU ARE NOT CONSTANTLY AVAILABLE
I know it’s frustrating when they can see that you saw their massage, but that’s just another reason why you should only check your phone in designated times. Having to wait a bit does no harm to anyone. And if it’s really so urgent, they can always try to call you.
7. Pay the "forfeit"
If you’re as mindful as a Buddhist monk, and you STILL want to check your phone in-between two scheduled sessions, well, go for it. BUT commit to do some push-ups, ab exercises or plank beforehand – plan the muscles you want to work that day when you’re making your schedule.
By doing this you’ll either quit your comfort-browsing, or you’ll get very fit and lean: in both cases you’ll regain mindfulness and control.
8. Learn to fill the empty spaces with relaxation
Here’s some examples what you could do instead of reaching for your phone in the most typical situations:
- watch the present moment: your bodily sensations, your thoughts, things and people surrounding you. If you are an advanced observer, you can include vibes and energies too.
- connect with others: smile, start a conversation or pull funny faces to entertain the kid sitting in front of you. Even if she’s yours. Well, especially if she is.
- let your mind wonder;
- allow yourself to “just be”.
By the way, reading is a wonderful thing to do, but it has this one thing in common with your gadgets: it makes you escape your present moment.
9. Sit with your negative feelings
Next time when you’re feeling something isn’t quite right, spend some time together with this feeling: sit down comfortably or go for a walk. Watch how it feels in your body and how this feeling and sensation changes depending on what thoughts you are telling yourself. Don’t try to make it go away, don’t judge and do not resist it. Just allow this feeling to be as it is and watch it. Or even better: start a conversation with it. Ask why it came and what it wants from you. You’ll be surprised: I’ll bet it will be a hell of a lot more productive and important conversation than the ones you have in your Fb. groups!
Try to use the internet following these tips for a week, then share your experiences with me.
Oh, and by the way, Fb. groups – in case you liked this post, you’re welcome to join my free online community, the Fluency and Flow Club – but only in your scheduled time, of course. 🙂