The time has come for digital mindfulness

VINAYAK GARG, writer, entrepreneur, TEDx speaker and an expert on Digital Mindfulness, shares tips on minimising screen time

A few months back I was in Udaipur with my friend. We took a boat ride on the picturesque lake Pichola, with palaces all around and the sun setting in the background. I turn to my friend to find that she is busy on her phone, searching for things to do in Udaipur!

This is the kind of mindless behaviour that each one of us has become used to, and it is worrying. We are never present 100% in any place or moment. Our mind wanders around, and we crave to find distractions on our phone. When we are checking phones while eating or glancing at notifications when we are talking to someone we are doing all this involuntarily, without a conscious decision.

Digital mindfulness is the opposite of this. We need to stop being on auto-pilot, letting smartphone notifications run our lives. We take charge and decide to use technology only to add value to our lives.

In the present world, for any person to even begin any practice of meditation or mindfulness they should first tame their digital devices.

Be present, 100%

Any place that you are in, appreciate that the phone is a barrier between you and this moment. When you check emails and social media, acknowledge that you are doing so at the cost of enjoying the present reality. We all enjoy talking to people who give us full attention and listen intently. We all can be that person. I never take my phone out of my pocket when I am meeting someone. We should stop putting phones in front of us, on the table. With just this small step we would limit our mindless screen time and also increase efficiency at work and depth in relationships.

Get bored

We use the phone most as a way to distract ourselves. Even if we are waiting in a queue for three minutes, we will take out our phone and begin playing with screen aimlessly. Being in a constant state of distraction is very dangerous for our well-being. We never get time to reflect, to connect with our thoughts and to solve problems for ourselves. Never use a mobile phone if you don’t have a clear purpose to achieve from that interaction. Don’t use it as a distraction. Get bored. Boredom is essential for creativity and problem solving, two skills we are losing out on.

Add a reminder on phone screen

We all need reminders. No change comes overnight. I have customised the wallpaper on my phone. When the phone is locked, the wallpaper has the words “Is it something important?” This is a reminder for me to reflect and consider whether it is really important for me to unlock my phone.

Once my phone is unlocked, the wallpaper I have has the words “Get off the phone ASAP.” This is a direct message to let me know that no good will come from being on phone for more time than necessary.

Make your phone distraction-free

I have no social media apps or games on my phone. All notifications on my phone are off. There are apps designed with the singular purpose of having people spend more and more time on the phone. It is our duty to stay away from them. To take control of our time. Trust me, you will never look back in your life and think that I should have spent more time liking posts on Facebook. Remove all the social media apps, and turn off notifications for WhatsApp, email and all the apps.

Baby steps

It can be a long journey and starting can be difficult. I personally recommend starting slow. Just make one simple change. Stop using your mobile phone as an alarm. Buy an alarm clock and use that. Now just create a habit to not use a mobile phone one hour before you sleep. Enjoy a distraction-free morning by not using the phone until one hour after waking up.

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