The Mind Faculty
Mindfulness and Technology
by Mr Ko Teik Yen
Many of us are not mindful when we use technology. How often do we stop what we are doing to check our messages or scroll mindless through Instagram? A survey found that we look at our phones on average 85 times a day. Consequently, the constant distractions makes it hard for us to truly focus our attention and consolidate things into our memory. This affects our ability to learn new things and we may feel frustrated.
It also makes it difficult to establish a boundary between our work and home life. What do you feel when you hear the familiar ping of a Whatsapp notification? Technology makes it difficult to truly disengage from work and relax.
We need to be more mindful with the way that we engage with technology in order to manage our mental health. There are a few things you can do:
Managing our Emails:
Email is the curse of the modern worker. A study found that office workers take an average of 64 seconds after checking their emails to reorient themselves to the task at hand. This can make the work process unnecessarily frustrating, tiring and tedious.
There are a few ways you can keep your inbox in check while keeping your sanity:
Stop checking our inbox constantly. Set a time to check your inbox and reply your emails. E.g, 10am and 4pm rather than every hour. 99% of the emails can wait for a few hours. If it is that urgent, you will be getting a phone call rather than emails.
Prioritise your emails: how urgently does your email need a reply? When you first read an email, ask yourself: should I reply it “Today” or “This Week?” Tag appropriately and then schedule another time to answer your less urgent emails. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of your inbox, this can help you to focus your attention on what is important and keep your mind sharp.
Manage your Group chats
Being in a group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. This can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. The more notifications you receive, the more FOMO (fear of missing out) you may experience if you think that your family and friends are doing something exciting without you. We may feel that we must always be present, which can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
There are three golden rules with regards to group chats:
Mute your group chat if you are becoming overwhelmed.
Stick to a schedule: check in on your Family Whatsapp Group once a day – you know your uncle is only sending Whatsapp forwards of conspiracy theories!
Be picky and selective: The smaller the group, the better. It may be tempting to add your entire extended family. Would it be easier to organise your grandmother’s birthday when you’re managing 5 opinions or 50? The key is to make sure everyone present is able to add value from being part of the conversation.
Managing the Apps in your phone
Our smartphones have become indispensable. This amazing device, however, is also a major source of potential distraction. The good news is, being dependent isn’t the same as being addicted.
Get rid of apps you rarely or no longer use. Ask yourself which apps are serving you in a positive way, and which ones were not. Are you spending too much time procrastinating on Reddit? Does your heart race every time your news app blurts out another stress-inducing headline? Remove apps that don’t align with your values and keep the apps that help you to achieve your goals.
The same goes for social media. If looking at Instagram models peddling skinny tea makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to ‘unfollow’. Follow people who make you feel good about yourself (ps, we are on Instagram @themindfacultykl).
Rearrange your apps into three categories:
Primary Tools Apps that help you accomplish everyday tasks such as: hailing an Grab, getting directions, and to do lists.
Aspiration Apps that encourage you to do things you want to spend time on. E.g., meditation, yoga, exercise, reading and podcasts.
Secondary Tools Apps that are easily to get lost in such as: email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
Change your app notification settings so you receive fewer, only essential, notifications. Ask yourself: if I was with my family, what notifications do I need to receive? (Probably not your Instagram likes). If I was in a meeting, would these notifications be different? Identify what is a distraction by identifying what is important.
Technology is a double-ended sword. We have all the information we need at our finger tips. However, it can also place unreasonable demands on our attention. Therefore, we need to find a way to mindfully engage with technology. Psychologist Adam Grant argues that “success and happiness belong to people who can control their attention”. I believe that focus is one of the key ingredients to our success and well-being.
What do you want to focus on this year? How can you mindfully engage with technology to help you?
Ko Teik Yen is accredited Mindfulness Teacher to teach the UK Breathworks Mindfulness for Health and Mindfulness for Stress courses. He is also trained in the teaching of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as well as certified to teach Mindfulness.b (Mindfulness in School Project, MiSP).