Less Electronics, More Mindfulness

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Tuesday, February 28, 2023
By Victoria Carney-Paine, LCSW

It’s Friday night.  You’re out to dinner with your family: a ritual you look forward to throughout the week.  Although you’re all together, you feel alone and frustrated. Why?

  • Your partner is outside, on their cell phone with someone.
  • Your teenage children are sitting heads down, engrossed in the land of the iPhone.
  • Even your toddler sits in their highchair, grasping onto an iPad watching a TV show.

Everyone is there, but actually they aren’t. You even attempt to get your kids attention, with no luck.  Everyone is in their own world. Sound familiar?

group with phones

In this world, there are millions of forces constantly fighting for our attention.  We are living in a fast paced, distracted environment that makes it nearly impossible to stay present and be mindful.  Living mindfully means we are present and we experience what’s happening now.  Mindful living can help us feel happier by allowing us not to worry about what has happened or what will happen: it can help us appreciate what we have right in front of us.

Although the development of sophisticated electronics has significantly improved many of our lives, it’s also hindered us in many ways.  So how do we live mindfully, without cutting ourselves off from the world? Do we have to give up our phones and move to the middle of nowhere?

No we don’t.  Here’s some tips for living mindfully while managing your electronic use responsibly.

  1. Schedule social media time.  Allow yourself a specified amount of time per day to scroll through social media.  You can check in your settings how much time you’re using each application, on average, per day.  Start with a little less than your average, and take off some time each week until you’re happy with the time you’re spending. Most phones have a feature you can use to set a reminder notification once you’ve met your limit.  Set it if not to actually limit yourself (you can always keep scrolling if you wish) but to become more aware of the amount of time you’re actually browsing on social media.
  2. Plan electronics-free activities with friends and family.  For example, if you enjoy going out for dinner with your people, put your cell phones in the middle of the table upside down until the end of the meal.  Look at each other in the eyes; talk to each other!  When you’re hanging out, actually hang out (talk, listen, laugh.)
  3. Plan electronics free activities alone.  Spend electronics free time with yourself. Some ideas: a 10 minute walk around the block, an exercise class, read a book, sit on the beach and people watch.
  4. Replace your end of day and beginning of day cell phone checking with another mindful activity.  Give yourself at least 30 minutes-an hour of phone free time upon waking and before winding down to sleep. When you wake up, some ideas: drink a glass of water, stretch, journal, take a shower without checking your phone.  Before bed: charge your phone outside of your reach, read, write, light a candle, diffuse some essential oils.
  5. Buy and use clocks and watches.  Put clocks around your house so your electronics aren’t needed to check the time.
  6. Put your phone, lap top, tablet etc. away when you’re eating.  While eating, notice what the food tastes like, enjoy it!

Some of these ideas can be challenging because sitting with ourselves (and our thoughts and emotions) is often uncomfortable.  One way of managing underlying, uncomfortable feelings is to over occupy our minds with distractions, including electronic use.  If this is something you relate to, think about seeing a therapist to explore what might be going on.