We have all been there. In a group of people hanging out and someone is on their phone. Perhaps they are bored of the conversation. Or maybe it is just out of habit. Nonetheless, despite your efforts to look them in the eye, they are continuously scrolling through their feed, listening to you, but only half listening. “Look at me, damn it!” I want to yell. How dare you look at your phone while we are having a conversation. How rude! But are these minor bantors helping really? What is it that we are losing from our screens and what are we gaining? And how do we balance both of them in this increasingly digital world?
Part of me envies the lives of those without cell phones. There are many times I choose to ditch my phone and leave it behind to enter into the wilderness uninhibited and unreachable. I long for that distance, and when I allow myself to have it, I feel better mentally and physically. The other part of me feels the “need” to have a phone. To contact my friends and family. To keep up with social media and blogging. This same part of me is inspired by other’s stories and pictures and recipes and art. But at what point does inspiring social media and friendly interactions become a mindless scrolling through gossip and things I frankly don’t care much about?
Social media, cell phones, it is all kind of an addiction that we need to take with a grain of salt. Yes, it has gotten us so far in this world. I wouldn’t be able to reach the amount of people with this story without it. But is it helping us grow to our best selves? Or is it hindering our ability to LIVE. These are the questions you should ask yourself. And when you find yourself getting trapped in the mind-melting blue light of your cell phone, computer, or other hand-held device just ask yourself if it’s what you truly desire. Are you really using your screen time as inspiration, or are you using it as just another escape from living your life?
In an effort to reduce the use of your devices, here are a few simple changes you can make in your day-to-day life:
I. Put your phone away after dinner. When the sun sets and the lights go out, put it away or turn it off. Give yourself the grace period of an hour or two before you go to bed. Doodle a bit, or read a book. These things are much more brain-friendly than looking into your screen. Not to mention the blue light of your screen can mess with your sleep and your hormones.
II. Don’t look at your computer, cell phone, or any other device for at least an hour after you wake up. Allow your body to slowly wake. Stretch it out and prepare it for the day ahead without b-lining it to your computer or cell phone to check social media or e-mail. How you start your morning will have a huge impact on how you feel for the rest of that day. So give yourself some time; those messages can wait.
III. If you work at a desk job, be sure to take a break every 30 minutes. Stand up. Stretch. Take a walk around the block, or in the yard. Give your eyes some away-from-screen time and allow them to accept the full nature of the sun.
IV. When you are eating a meal, put your phone down. Bring your full attention to the meal you are about to eat instead of loading your mind with other stressors which inhibit your digestion. Don’t scroll through instagram and don’t check your facebook messages. Just give yourself the gift of being right in that present moment with your food.
V. When you are with a group of people, refrain from picking up your phone. Instead, practice active listening. This means that when someone else is talking, you listen truly and intently. Don’t try to disrupt them, and try not to let your mind wander. Simply listen to what they have to say, and look them in the eyes. They will feel better about talking to you and you can feel better knowing that you really listened instead of checking your device.
It takes practice, of course. Like any habit, these things takes time. Make these changes slowly and see how you feel. Limiting the time you are on your computer or phone not only benefits your well-being, but those around you as well. Everyone can benefit from some unplugged, raw and real time, whether it is only for an hour, or a whole day. Once you step out of the matrix and take a look around you; you’ll notice life is happening. Don’t let it pass you by while you sit looking at everyone else’s dreams and life unfold through a screen. After all: the best things in life aren’t things.