I am a great believer in the alliance between smartphones and mindfulness.
At first glance, it looks like a mismatch. The internet is un-ironically awash with pictures of crowds with their eyes glued to their phones in the most beautiful sceneries, museums or inappropriate settings – think funerals. Teachers lament the shortening attention span of their students. New etiquette rules pop up every day; “no cell phone during dinner – the first one to check picks up the bill”. Concentration is flaking, children are getting damaged by distracted parents, society is crumbling etc…
How can technology help you to develop mindfulness?
While every generation complains, without fail, about the ones that follow it, the appearance of the internet and our increasingly easy access to it is a true revolution. But it is, of course, agenda-less. Technology is neither good nor evil, it is what we make of it, and I for one am delighted to use it to help my mindfulness practice. The question is – how?
One of the best ways to develop mindfulness is to stop (to pause!) whatever we are doing, every so often, to take a deep breath and simply take stock of our emotions, actions, of what is happening in that moment, inside and out. And then to resume what we were doing.
It sounds easy, but how do we remember to do it? This little check-in is at its most effective when we are caught into the fastest tides – when we are late, or multi-tasking, or extremely busy, or on automatic pilot… which is exactly when we do not think to do it…
A very helpful tip is to “hang” the mindfulness moment on to a preexisting habit. Some people will focus their focus while eating – each bite must be savored and invested with as much awareness as possible. Others will use commuting as an reminder, either in public transportation, or every time they are stopped at a red light. Yet others will use elevator lifts, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, or any routine already in place in their lives to remember to Pause and take a deep breath.
And this is where our smartphones come in. Yes, of course, you can set alarms and notifications in your phone. But more interestingly, recent studies show that the average person reaches for their phone 75 times a day – for very short sessions (with the exception of reading and Netflix). Basically, people mostly do many brief check-ins.
Now, doesn’t this information spark a beautiful opportunity?
What if mindfulness became just a new daily habit?
Imagine if every time you reached for your phone, or every time you put it away, you gave yourself the minuscule time to check in with yourself? The time to oxygenate all your cells, like a mini interior massage, the time to touch base with yourself – how does my body feel? How does my mind feel? What are my emotions in this precise moment? Just a curious, neutral inquiry, not a spin into the how or why of what is happening. The equivalent of taking your blood pressure. You can choose to give your emotional state a color if you wish, or a number, or anything that feels right for you.
Imagine doing this 75 times a day. A caring, focused and gentle touch 75 times a day. It would only add a few extra seconds to the times you check your phone. Our phones taught us that we can – and do! – take times outs during the day, to recharge, to check on something. Why not ‘hang’ onto this habit the habit of mindfulness?
You can change the wallpaper of your phone to a single word reminder. You can change your passwords and screensavers to ‘Mindfulness’. You can make a pact with yourself that every time you see the word, you take 3 seconds to allow yourself to feel.
And it goes without saying that another reason smartphones are a natural ally for mindfulness is the possibility to use wonderful meditation apps – like our very own Pause…!