A Four-Point Plan for Cultivating Healthier Use of Technology

The Gift of a Broken Laptop ……..

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I had been planning on paying a visit to the Apple geniuses after the holidays but alas, my laptop became stuck between two operating systems on December 23, making it impossible for me to access any of my documents.  I quietly tried to ward off my panic.  I tried to tell myself, “just put the computer away, finish wrapping presents and enjoy some egg nog.”  Over the next few hours however, my panic mounted.  What if I could never retrieve the five years of photos I had stored on the computer, or my book proposal?  What if my spreadsheets are corrupted?

I realized over the past year that I had become, well, just a little addicted to checking Facebook, my emails, my calendar, and sometimes even my bank account balance several times during the day.  How did this happen?

Over the next few hours I realized there was another layer of dis-ease, a more insidious layer.  I was  unsettled about not having easy access to my Gmail account, Facebook, wordpress, Netflix and all my other digital distractions – even though I knew I could access all of this digital junk food on my phone.  I realized over the past year that I had become, well, just a little addicted to checking Facebook, my emails, my calendar, and sometimes even my bank account balance several times during the day.  How did this happen?  More importantly what would I use as a buffer when the Christmas madness started to overwhelm me?  After realizing that this machine that had apparently been running my life was not going to get fixed until the Apple store opened on December 26, I spent the next couple of days watching my discomfort, and then had a good long talk with myself.

Many of my patients report low mood and feelings of sadness after spending time looking at all their ‘happy’ friends on Facebook.   Several have reported feeling better after a Facebook fast.  Watching movies on Netflix, trolling on Facebook, double and triple-checking my schedule will not replace the mood-lifting experience of walking outside in the natural light or having a good face-to-face conversation with friend.  It just can’t.

I’ve since taken stock of the digital junk food I consume on a given day and how it affects my mood.  I recently learned in Rick Hansen’s Foundations of Well-Being training that switching to a positive mood-state literally widens our peripheral vision.  I wonder if the opposite is true.  That is, would activating my peripheral vision by looking up from my computer screen and scanning the horizon improve my mood state? I believe it can.  Spending less time consuming digital junk will surely help me enjoy the present moment more fully.  Many of my patients report low mood and feelings of sadness after spending time looking at all the happy people on Facebook.   Several have reported feeling better after a Facebook fast.  Watching movies on Netflix, trolling on Facebook, double and triple-checking my schedule will not replace the mood-lifting experience of walking outside in the natural light or having a good face-to-face conversation with friend.  It just can’t.

Knowing that I will feel better in body, mind in spirit by cutting back on digital junk food I give you the following four-point plan to cultivate healthier use of  technology:

1.  I will not start the day by checking my email or using other technology.  I will not check my email account, Facebook, or bank account until after I have had some water and stretched, and said good-morning to my family.  Physical needs and emotional connection come before technology in my life.

2.  I will check Facebook and other entertaining websites no more than once a day.  I will not spend more than one-half hour a day total on my news feeds.  There is no harm in using technology as a distraction in small doses.  For me, one-half hour or less on Facebook feels balanced, as long as I’m not avoiding difficult conversations or situations.

3.   I will contribute two posts per month, but not more than four hours total managing my website.  Some of you out there may be full-time bloggers and may need to devote more time to your website.  Personally, it doesn’t make sense for me to write and maintain a website about mindfulness if it makes me unmindful.  Four hours a month – that’s all.  Mindful hub readers, forgive my typos and grammatical errors.  I’ll so my best in four hours a month! Let me know if you want to contribute to by editing.  

4.  I will designate one-half day per week as a totally tech-free zone.  You read that correctly:   totally…. tech…free (the horror!!!).  This means:

– No checking texts

A broken computer that you can’t fix for two days.  Think about how this makes you feel. Then, “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck”   – Dalai Lama

– No checking email

– No internet

– No Netflix (gulp!)

-No kindle (gasp!)

Want to join me in my quest for healthier tech use?  Create your own specific and precise tech-free plan.  Check in periodically to let us know how it’s working for you.

Times up!  logging off now!  will check in soon and in moderation.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness everyday!
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