Are you addicted to technology?

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Devices and the internet seem to be infiltrating every part of our lives – making some parts of life easier but also creating a vortex of endless emails, messages and web pages which many of us struggle to get out of.  As a result we could be missing out on the real life that’s right in front of us, as well as feeling the stress of dealing with this information overload.

We can spend too much time on the screen and not enough actually playing with our kids, talking to our partner or seeing our friends face to face. In short, life can be passing you by while you’re on the internet.

If you feel there’s too much technology in your life and you’re living mostly in a virtual world then mindfulness can help you to switch off and come back to the present.

So how can we cut down on excessive use of our devices?

First it’s useful to reflect on how much time you are online each day. How many hours at work and out of work are you on your phone, laptop, computer, TV or tablet? It might be more than you realise. Decide if it’s too much and then consider how much you would like to cut down. 

Here are some tips to help switch off from your devices:

  • Set boundaries for when and where you are allowed to use your devices and when they are off-limits.  Have technology free times eg after 9pm. Have device free places, for example in the bedroom or outdoors.
  • Have technology free days where you put away the devices for 24 hours. Some families try to improve their quality of time together by putting all devices away from Friday night until Monday morning each weekend.
  • Never use screens right before bedtime.  Research shows that artificial light from screens before bed reduces melatonin levels, a key hormone for quality sleep.
  • Leave work at the office.  Don’t take your laptop home and don’t check work email at home.
  • Meet up with friends face to face.  Is your social life mostly on Facebook? Try to meet with friends or at least call them on the phone.

How mindfulness can help with technology addiction 

Many people are addicted to the excitement, connection and stimulation of messages and the web. It is hard to let go of this habit so sticking to the boundaries listed above is not easy. 

Here’s how mindfulness can help with the addiction:

  • Be mindful of the urge to use your devices – especially the ever-present mobile phone.  Practice a technique of “surfing the urge” – whenever the urge comes up to pick up your phone (or tablet etc) first PAUSE and take a long slow breath in and out. Notice what the urge feels like. Ask yourself “Do I really need to check the phone?”.  Then decide if you can do without it this time.
  • Putting the device out of sight in another room can help with the pause. So don’t stay close to your phone if you can help it!
  • Choose a replacement habit – every time you get the urge to pick up your phone or tablet, see if there is a healthier habit you could do instead. For example, doing yoga stretches or drinking a few sips of water.

These practices can help you to reduce the amount of time each day you are on your devices, without having to quit them completely. 

Suzie Brown teaches mindfulness meditation courses and workshops for the general public and in workplaces throughout Melbourne and Victoria. She writes a mindfulness blog and offers online courses through her site: www.avistamindfulness.com.au