What’s Stopping Us From Being Mindful:
I’m sure we’ve all heard the study by now... You know, the one that states humans today have a shorter attention span that that of a gold fish! Based on research from this classic study, it was found that gold fish can actually focus on one thing at a time for roughly 7-9 seconds while humans can only maintain control of their attention for 6-8 seconds at a time. That’s a pretty remarkable finding when you think about it! But doesn’t it seem like the odds are stacked against us? In today’s hyper-connected Internet based society, it’s easier now more than ever before in history to lose focus and find our minds scattered and exhausted. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are specifically designed to keep our attention from staying stagnant and to keep us moving from one task to the next without conscious thought. These companies spend billions of dollars each year in order to develop products that are addicting and difficult to leave behind. Designers of these social media sites use neurologically ingrained reward systems, such as dopamine, to ensure you keep scrolling through their feeds from one post to the next. In fact, most of these social medial companies know they are building addictive products that have detrimental effects on our minds and our children but with each generation of new products, we as a society become more and more addicted to our screens and phones. So, why don’t they stop? Well, in the end, the social media websites are a corporation and their number one goal is to maximize profits for shareholders. In other words, the longer you stay on their website, the more advertising dollars they can garner on their sites and thus, the more profit to show viability of their products. If you drill down to it, the only way to stop this model from perpetuating is to stop patronizing social media websites so frequently. If you’re like me, you are desperately trying to find ways to unplug and maintain a level of mindfulness and presence throughout the day. Luckily, I’ve stumbled on two easy ways to implement strategies to help protect your awareness and minimize the allure our phones have on us. Turn Off Your Notifications: Many of us don’t even realize how much of an influence these notifications have on our daily lives because the truth is, our brains are wired to respond to alerts on our phones expeditiously. The resulting dopamine hit is addicting and powerful. When we check our phones or notice someone “liked” one of our pictures online, the parts of the brain that are triggered are the same parts of the brain that light up when we eat sugar or even worse, partake in drugs like cocaine. No wonder these devices are addictive! Every time you check your phone you are effectively rewarding your mind for losing focus and moving its attention from one task to the next in rapid succession. This causes tremendous mental fatigue and can impact our lives in more ways than just one. When you turn your notifications off, however, you take back control of your life so to speak. You are no longer jostled around from meaningless task to the next based on the whims of your social media alerts. By stopping those notifications from reaching you, YOU get to decide where you want to keep your focus and attention-not your phone. The Social Media Detox: If you find that simply turning off your notifications won’t stop you from losing the present moment, you can always try what I like to call “the social media detox”. Just as with a real detox, the goal of this strategy is to flush out all the Twitter and Facebook toxins in your body so you can get back to a level of homeostasis. The first time I did a social media detox was while I was on my silent meditation retreat last year. At first, the thought of giving up my phone gave me anxiety. But the beauty of this practice is this-after a while, I actually felt free and it was a huge relief not to be encumbered by my phone or the outside world. Without my phone in my pocket I was forced to face the present moment as it was and in those moments, I found peace and true introspection. Now, you obviously don’t need to go on silent meditation retreat to get the benefit of a social media detox. I’ve heard of people doing intermittent detoxes one day each week. I’ve also heard of individuals cutting out the last 4 hours of their day as a time without technology. Either way you decide to do pursue these strategies, I encourage you to unplug every once and a while. Instead of wondering what’s going on in the Twitterverse, focus on what’s going on in your actual world. See your mind and stop running from the present moment. There will always be things around to distract us and as technology continues to improve, it will be incumbent upon us to maintain a certain level of head space and presence. Thank you as always for reading. Let us know how you plan on creating space between you and your social media devices. Have you done so already? If so, what are the benefits you’ve seen? Please do share because you never know when something you say will impact someone else in a profound way. Until next time, Many many blessings.