Is your smartphone the first thing you reach for when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you lay to rest at night? In between, do you find yourself on life’s hamster wheel, struggling to get ahead?
Every single day, working professionals receive an average of 200+ emails, 80-something texts, countless social media notifications and news headlines galore.
Research suggests that unchecked reliance on the Internet and media can trigger a problematic dopamine loop, routinely motivating our brains to seek a reward that rarely lives up to its anticipation. With every notification or alert we receive, the brain sees an opportunity for a mental or emotional reward - perhaps we will be noticed, acknowledged, validated, liked.
Unfortunately, being met with shallow, impersonal and unsettling content (rather than with authentic connections and meaningful exchanges) only motivates us to seek the reward more fervently; it’s a neurological micro-gamble each time, and can be just as addicting as hitting the slot machines.
The need for this validation and the demands for our attention are constantly right in our face (or in our pocket), and it’s easy -- and normal -- to feel scattered and spread thin. But on the flip side, technology provides countless benefits when it comes to how we connect, work and create.
So, how do we cope? How do we find the balance?
Enter, Mindfulness. This practice is the remedy for our attention deficit, connecting us to the now and allowing us to be completely and comfortably aware of the present moment. When anchored by the present moment, we can acknowledge our values clearly, evaluate our habits thoughtfully and make conscious decisions about how to distribute our attention.
At Work From Om®, we advocate an integrated approach to mindfulness that allows us to thrive as conscious individuals without denouncing social media and our smartphones. We work with corporations and fast-growing startups to infuse mindfulness into workplace habits and culture, all starting at the individual level. By challenging employees to acknowledge their negative habits related to technology, each individual is empowered to reclaim ownership of their attention, make technology work for them, and walk the path of healthier, happier, higher-functioning human beings.
It all starts with The Work From Om® Digital Diet. No, it’s not a detox, and yes, you can easily begin today!
Digital detoxes may be all the rage these days, but for most of us it is as unrealistic to disconnect entirely as it is to survive through a juice cleanse. Instead, adopt the sustainable Work From Om® Digital Diet by setting rules around your own interactions with technology. From designating screen-free time to turning off unnecessary notifications, you can eliminate stressful stimuli, increase your ability to focus, and profoundly improve your mental well-being. We’ve cherry picked some of our most accessible tips to share with you below.
- Wake with an alarm clock that’s NOT your phone (and leave your phone in another room)
When was the last time you woke up and took a shower, had breakfast or even let your feet hit the bedroom floor before exposing yourself to a screen? When the first thing you reach for is your smartphone, you’re automatically subjected to checking notifications, scrolling through social media and reading headlines as soon as you wake up - it’s just too easy! Use a regular alarm clock and allow your mind some space to come into its own consciousness before subjecting your attention to the outside world.
- Pad your evenings with screen-free time
How often do you find yourself relying on your phone, laptop or TV in bed to fall asleep at night, eyes falling heavy with strain before succumbing to exhaustion? The blue light given off by LED screens prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, the hormone that tells us it’s time to sleep. This means it takes us longer to get into a nice, restful sleep, which can mess with our bodies’ internal clocks. Designating anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour (ideal) of screen-free time before you sleep can do wonders for your brain.
- Turn off non-vital notifications (we’re looking at you, Facebook)
Do you absolutely need to have social media (or shopping, political news, etc.) notifications light up your phone every five minutes? If your reactive answer is yes, ask yourself why. Unless it has to do with your job or your health/safety, it’s probably time to reconsider. Notifications have trapped us in a loop of constantly picking up our phones and take us away from what’s happening right in front of us. The biggest offenders are the social apps that we use the most, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which we tend to check out of habit even without being prompted. Turn off your smartphone notifications for these apps. You’ll get your fix through checking anyway when you’re bored or looking for something specific, and detaching from the leash of notifications will yield a feeling of freedom that one must experience to fully appreciate.
- Designate phone-free zones and situations
We are in a day and age where being completely present - with ourselves and also with the people around us - takes a little extra effort, so it’s up to us to make it happen. One way to promote this is to establish phone-free spaces and conditions, and we recommend doing so in the places that matter most. Perhaps you can leave your phone at home during your daily jog, designate a no-phones rule for a weekly meeting at work or agree that dinners with your partner/kids/best friend are phone-free situations. When we make the effort to eliminate distractions from life’s precious moments, we are able to experience them more fully and improve relationships with others, our work, and ourselves.
- Observe the the “40-10-10 Rule” for your most productive hours
Inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, a popular time-blocking method developed in the 1980s, we designed the 40-10-10 rule as a modern-day solution for a full hour of productivity, break and communication. It calls specifically for 40 minutes of dedicated work on one task, 10 minutes to take a break, and 10 minutes to respond to any missed texts, emails or notifications. It’s no secret that we have a lot to get done in a single day, so it’s tempting to work on a little bit of each thing all at once. But multitasking has shown to increase the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, in our brains. It leaves us scattered, thinking about too much and forces our brains to work harder than doing one thing at a time. We can be incredibly more effective if we focus on one task, and block time to recharge and catch up. Break your time down and use it effectively. We are confident you will quickly see positive results.
Use these tools to get yourself back in the driver’s seat, take control of your own mind, thoughts and how you use your time. The first step is being aware of how we are affected by the world around us, and determining how to effectively move forward.
What do you think of these tips? Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments, or on Instagram and Facebook.
Interested in learning more? Let's work together. Our Mindfulness in an Age of Distraction workshop dives deep into tools you need to break from technology in conserve your energy.
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