Give it a Rest!

Smartphones are blurring the lines between work and play. With the convenience of being forever-connected comes the expectation of responding immediately. Work isn’t left “at work” anymore; the stress is carried home. Personal connections get looser as Facebook becomes the new minimum and lunch dates to catch up fall by the wayside, and privacy is a thing of the past.

The benefits of smartphones are obvious, but the detriments are underestimated. The stress and ‘pressure to respond’ is not insignificant, even if it’s difficult to measure. However, if you’ve experienced any of the following, you may want to consider the role technology may play:

  • Difficulty focusing attention or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Communication issues in relationships
  • Making more mistakes
  • Decline in memory abilities
  • Quickly moving thoughts
  • Sense of inadequacy or inefficiency
  • Malaise, or anxiety of ‘missing out on’ things
  • Reduced creativity

According to research, the concept of multitasking is found to be more problematic than helpful.

We only have so much mental focus to attend to things, and the more attention we pay to our technology, the less attention we’re paying to ourselves. This can result in overeating or skipping meals, and greater difficulty identifying and meeting our needs, whether for sleep, food, or human contact. Combine the stress of feeling pressured by the stimulus on the phone with unmet needs and we can end up cranky or snapping at people without really knowing why.

If you think technology might be creating a problem for or your relationships, it does not mean you have to give up your phone! This can be an opportunity to practice healthy tools that can be useful in other aspects of your life as well.

Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking. It is the simple slowing down and intentional focus on a single activity. In graduate school, our introduction to mindfulness was the task of taking a full five minutes to eat a single raisin. We were asked to pay attention to the texture between our fingers, the smell. The malleability and density, the flavor on our tongue. All the small qualities that frequently get overlooked, we were asked to notice and appreciate. Anything can be done mindfully, and it can be a wealth of information revealed to us if we choose to pay attention. If you’re having a conversation with someone…try doing it mindfully, and giving them your full attention. Look at them to take in their body language and facial expression. Listen to the quality of their voice, and their choice of words to express their message.

Try to make technology usage choiceful, rather than a compulsive default response to boredom. See how you feel if you make a greater attempt to smile at strangers throughout your day. Allow yourself to really connect with people, and do things because you choose to, rather than simply reacting to reminders and notification alarms on your phone. View the sunset and experience the beauty of it’s transiency, rather than filtering it through a camera. Explore the power in ‘being’ without having to layer it up with ‘doing’ and see how the quality of life changes.

Do a web search for “no phone for a year” and you’ll find numerous accounts of people sharing what they gain by ‘losing out on’ being ‘connected’. Setting intentions to turn off the phone at night, and most especially, not check work emails until you’ve already gotten out of bed in the morning to start your day, can make a significant impact on your mood and stress. Take the time to wake up, open your eyes, and orient to your existence before ‘clocking in’ at work. You deserve it!

Video credit: Gary Turk