For most of us, mobile technology like phones and tablets have changed how we connect and interact with others and how we spend a lot of our time. It can feel like technology has taken over our lives but of course it is only so if we let it.
Technology can be addictive because it distracts us from ourselves and emotional pain or feelings of dissatisfaction with our lives we may be experiencing. Technology also becomes a habit, we are so used to having a mobile phone with us everywhere and using it for so many different things that we may feel lost without it. It can also be used as a safety blanket. For instance, I have seen so many people getting their mobile phones out at social networking events when they find themselves suddenly on their own or there is a silence in the conversation with somebody else.
However, we do have the choice to use technology differently. Because we are so used to these devices we may not be aware of how we use them and how they may impact negatively on our lives, relationships and health and well-being. You may be so distracted by technology that you are not fully present in the moment and do not take time out to connect with yourself very often. As with everything it starts with awareness as you cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
The way we use mobile phones can also impact very negatively on social connections and relationships because reaching for the mobile has become one of these daily activities that we do on automatic pilot, we may be glancing at our phone in the middle of a conversation with our loved ones or at work and thus not fully listening to the other person. This can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. After all we all want to be heard, listened to and understood and the quality of our relationships and connections will suffer if it does not happen.
Here are some of the things you can start being more mindful of.
1. Next time you are interacting with others, notice if you are taking your phone out and putting it on the table so you have it ready just in case and you can look at it from time to time when there are blanks in the conversation. Or do you reach for your phone in your bag or pocket anytime that you get a Facebook notification or a text? Or do you answer your phone in the middle of your conversation with the people in the same room as you?
2. Notice what impact this has on the quality of the connection and interaction between you and the others in the room. How many times does your mind wanders off from the conversation your are having because you are thinking about somebody who has sent you a text or about a call you need to make or something you have read or seen on Facebook? Pay attention to how you are feeling in the current social situation. Pay attention to how the others are reacting to you reaching for your phone, observe their body language and expression.
3. Try putting your phone away on silent and not reaching for it when it buzzes when you are interacting socially even if the others you are with are doing it themselves, instead be fully present and engaged with the others when they are talking, giving them their full attention. It is likely that by doing so they will not reach for their phones themselves but even if they do resist the temptation of doing it yourself. Instead, connect with how you feel in that moment, do you feel frustrated? ignored? irritated? Simply observe the feelings in your body and let them go. For instance, you can say to yourself i notice a feeling of irritation, so you do not get pulled into the emotion. Notice how you feel when the person has resumed giving you attention.
4. When you are waiting for a train, tram or bus or waiting for somebody or in a waiting room or when you are on public transport, try to spend some time without reaching for your phone or tablet, instead connect with your breath and watch the movement of the breath for 1 or 2 minutes and if thoughts come in just bring yourself back gently to the breath without judgment. Or maybe smile at somebody and start a conversation! Connect with how that feels.
5. When you take a break from work during the day try to not do so by only checking your emails, texts or Facebook, go for a walk instead and pay attention to how you feel as you are walking, noticing the colors, smells and sounds around you without judgment to be as fully present as possible in that moment.