Written by Elaine Smookler, RP. Faculty, Centre for Mindfulness Studies. Columnist- “Inner Wisdom” Mindful Magazine , Faculty, eMindful
Social media is a great way to connect with the world. When we bring mindful awareness into the mix, we can use the Internet to develop new connections, learn from a vast network of co-explorers and maintain a healthy, pleasurable balance with technology.
However, when we use social media mindlessly, we can be pulled down a rabbit hole of demoralizing time-wasting that steals our alertness and calm. A recent study by Deloitte found that Americans check their phones an average of 46 times daily, and if you are between 18-24 years old, research shows it’s more like 74 times a day. Since the chances are we will be even more connected to our various devices as technology continues to develop, this is the perfect moment to establish the healthiest relationship possible with your social media network.
There’s Help! Practicing mindfulness now has extensive evidence behind it that shows how it can assist you to leverage resources like social media, while keeping the time and energy you invest in check. Mindfulness trains the ability to focus our attention in the present moment, as well as to notice when we are lost in thought. This awareness enables us to make a conscious choice about how to spend our attentional resources – knowing that they are limited. It helps us ask ourselves, “Is this what I want to do with my time and attention right now? Is this bringing more value, joy or growth to my life?”
Try these mindful awareness strategies to help you manage your life on the web.
- Engage in Value – Revaluate your social media go-to’s. Do you need to be connected to all of them? Which of them might you “spring clean”? Which are the few you can really enjoy? Which gives you the most value? Which have become dependable community networks and reliable and trusted sources of information? Being selective about the social media you spend time on can protect you from being bombarded by the constant flow of information available. Once you have decided what to keep, take the plunge and purge the rest – you can do it!
- Be Present – Give whatever you are engaging with your full attention instead of surface grazing and diluting your attention through multi-tasking. If you are reading an email, really read it, if you’re connecting to friends and family on social media, take a moment to feel the connection. This is how we can use this technology to nurture mental and emotional health! Be present to the social network – and then walk away and be present to other parts of your life.
- Set a Timer – Make a decision about how long you will be on any particular social platform. It can be helpful to set a timer because time has a way of falling off when we dive into the internet. Then, make a specific plan for what you’ll shift your attention to afterwards. If you don’t make a plan, it may not happen.
- Turn Off Unnecessary Distractions – Be daring and turn off notifications that are frequent distractions. This can make a significant difference because the brain takes time to shift gears. And do you really need to know every single time someone sends you a message or updates their LinkedIn account?
- Practice Mindfulness – The next time you’re about to reach for your computer, tab or phone, try a mini-mindfulness practice bringing your full attention into the present so that you can make a conscious choice about engaging in social media.
Mindful Social Media Practice
- Take a mindful breath and bring your full attention to the present moment (hint: it’s where your body is).
- Notice your thoughts and feelings. What are the thoughts or feelings that are driving you to reach for your device? Is it to connect with others? To learn? Or maybe you are feeling bored, lonely, tired or you simply don’t want to be there or do the task at hand? It may feel unnecessary, or too much work to look so deeply at your motivations, but it helps to notice what’s driving you to pick up, click and surf.
- Take another conscious breath. On the outbreath, have a sense of landing in the body, being aware of bringing your shoulders down. Feel where the body makes contact with the chair or the floor. Notice the difference between living primarily in a world of our thoughts about things, versus feeling alive in your body and awake to your senses. Be here now … in your body, and notice how that makes you feel.
- Once you are present in body and mind make a choice about how to proceed with or without social media. Learn to make taking care of your own physical, emotional and mental well-being your top
Please join us for this month’s theme week which offers a wide range of perspectives, helpful tips, a variety of practices and a great online community to share this exploration of how to bring more peace into our lives.
Elaine Smookler is an eMindful instructor and registered psychotherapist, with a 20 year mindfulness practice.
Also published on Medium.