Have you ever thought about how much time you spend connected to media of one kind or another? Whether it’s an online paper, Facebook, Pinterest or other social media tools, or television and radio, much of our waking moments are spent hearing and absorbing information that’s not our own. While this can sometimes be for informational purposes, like listening to the news or the weather, much of it is hardly essential information.
Having said that, there is both interest and fun to be had in reading onine articles, blogs and Facebook posts by friends and family. But when we are constantly attached to external information it can literally take its toll on our physical and mental health. Our brains are overstimulated, our reference point becomes more externally focused and we can have trouble concentrating.
As a yoga teacher, I see the effect of this on people. People comment the positive impact the silence in the room has on their ability to relax. People struggle with concentration in class, focus and balance. While there are many factors at work for each of these things, the idea of the mind-body connection and the impact of overstimulation cannot be denied.
In a Jan. 2 New York Times article about employee burnout and what some companies like Volkswagen and Lloyds Bank are doing to combat it, the term “ITSO” was mentioned. It refers to the “inability to switch off” and outlines the harmful physical symptoms of being addicted to technology.
Furthermore, Deepak Chopra talked about “digital addiction” in a January interview on CBS News and suggests that there are actual brain changes that occur the more you’re online and compulsively checking email and the Internet. These changes get in the way of our emotions, self-control and decision-making abilities.
So what can you do to decrease your addiction to technology? Here are some simple steps you can take as well as some questions to ask yourself to determine if you have a technology addiction:
How to tell if you have a problem:
- You sleep with your smart phone or it’s on the bedside table and you refuse to move it to another room.
- You incessantly check email.
- You eat dinner out and spend time with friends but continue to constantly check your email.
- Your emotions are negatively affected by viewing posts on Facebook and even when there are posts that upset you, you constantly view them over and over.
Small steps you can take to decrease your addiction to media and technology
- Replace your morning media routine with silence. Drop the morning television, NPR or other morning media infusion and go with silence instead. You’ll arrive at work feeling refreshed and better connected to your body and mind.
- Move the smart phone out of the bedroom and grab a good book to read instead.
- Recognize that Facebook posts often lack context and to take them personally is wasting your good energy.
- Spend at least one hour a day in complete silence, including no speaking, listening to anything or checking email or internet. If that seems like too much, start with 15 minutes.
- Set a time limit after which you will not look at work-related email. If your job requires 24/7 connectivity, tell your colleagues to call you with any urgent issues.
- Go for a run or a walk without your smart phone.
- Put your smart phone in the “silent” mode and in the back seat of the car while driving to work.
Even without digging into the deeper effects of technology addiction has on your brain, notice how your body responds and reacts to things such as receiving certain emails, or waiting for an email response; listen to your breath and notice your heart rate. Notice any feelings of nervousness or anxiety, such as a racing heart or sweating. These are all signs of stress and can be triggered by constantly being connected to technology.
There are so many benefits to having information at our fingertips anytime. But the downside is that we never take time for peace and quiet. Remind your heart and your body how wonderful it feels to just be in silence. Your health will improve, your stress will decrease, you’ll be less reactive and you’ll see things more clearly. This will all help you as you reconnect to friends, co-workers and family though the many technology pathways available to us.
Charlestown residents what do you think? Let us know in the comments.