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Mindful : April 2018
possible that upping your screen time impacts other lifestyle factors, like healthy diet and exer- cise, that contribute to a long and healthy life. It’s Workable These effects are not directly caused by our gad- gets, of course. They reflect how we live, start- ing with the expectation of constant connection. It’s also our often-unconscious choices about which activities screens replace, their potential to distract from productivity and face-to-face communication, the emotional influence of social media, and more. It’s important to stay connected through work or socially, but instead of “batching” time online, we interrupt ourselves repeatedly all day. That undermines efficiency and disrupts our down- time. And, unlike with previous innovations (such as, say, the wheel), screen usage is manipu- lated by products and games designed to hook us. Mindfulness helps us choose how we live with technolog y. We can elect to remain available for what’s urgent, connect with friends, entertain ourselves...and also value disconnecting for a bit. Take Stock Try using a daily calendar and fill in every- thing you value: time for sleep, work, or school, homework, reading for pleasure, exercise, being outdoors, after-school activities or hobbies, friends, and quiet time. Whatever time is left is the maximum available for a screen. Another trick is to ask yourself: What per- centage of my downtime goes to a screen? While technology seems like the ideal fill-in for daydreaming and boredom, often it is in these idle moments that creativity arises. Apps like “Moment” and “Quality Time” allow us to self-monitor time online. Set Boundaries When you’re with other people, including at meal- times, put away your device. Avoid “phubbing”— dissing strangers by making no eye contact while on your phone. Set personal and family guidelines for situations that are appropriate for texting, games, and watching TV. Avoid temptation by turning off any unneeded notifications on your devices. When the phone rings or vibrates, practice taking a breath before deciding if it needs immediate attention or if it can wait. Mindfulness involves being aware of our habits. Catch yourself often, notice how you’re living— and what’s driving your on-screen experience— and then engage in active decision-making. ● Intentional Phone Practice How can we use our phones with more intention? We can start to notice when we’re check- ing them compul- sively, out of FOMO (fear of missing out), or to compare our life to social media’s polished but unreal images. Try this mindful tech practice to make your phone a healthier part of everyday life. • Before touching your phone, catch yourself. Each time it rings, pings, or vibrates, first gather your atten- tion. Is it time to check it right now or could it wait? Take a few breaths, focusing on the air moving near your nose and mouth. Then decide what to do next. • If you start mind- lessly plugging in, catch yourself. How does your body feel, and your facial expression and posture? (A hunched thumb-typing stance may adversely affect your mood.) What do you notice emotionally, and how is it influ- enced by whatever you’re looking at? Where are your thoughts? Past or future? Compar- ing and consum- ing, or engaged and balanced? • After time on your phone, catch your- self once more. Take a breath or two. Note whatever is going on and who is around you. In this moment, you can reconnect to real life, in real time. 28 mindful April 2018 mindful md