A Year of Mindfulness – 38 – Smartphone

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

What an eye-opening task this week’s was!

Week 38 of the mindfulness challenge was the week of the smartphone. The idea is that by having our smartphone forever in our reach, it can be tough to find stillness and be mindful. For this task, every time I picked up my phone to do anything, I had to think about why I’d picked it up and what I was doing with it. The idea is that this brings a level of thoughtfulness that combats ‘unthinking compulsion’, preventing us grabbing our phone when we are bored or even just alone.

This was probably the exercise that opened my eyes the most to my own behaviour. I actually began to keep a tally for this activity, but my discovery embarrassed me so much that I couldn’t bear to publish the exact findings here, so I’m just going to give you the general gist. Don’t get me wrong, I think smartphones are one of the best inventions ever made, but they’re also a bit of a curse, aren’t they?

I realised that I have a habit of just picking up my phone up and scrolling aimlessly on social media, or even just picking it up and checking all of my notifcations across various apps. It was one thing realising that I was doing it, it was another to acknowledge how often I was doing it. This task highlighted to me the frequency that I thoughtlessly pick up my phone, and really, it was as though I wasn’t even in control of my own movements. It was terrifying. I think I might be well and truly addicted to my phone! It’s definitely something that I’ve become aware of this year, and actually I think it’s only happened over the course of this year, as I’ve never been like that before.

Something it made me think about was that I used to attend meetings at my old job that would literally bore me to death (OK, not literally, because clearly I’m still here, but you get my point!). I realised that I get bored so infrequently in my life, that I can’t sit with it as an emotion. So when I got bored in those meetings, I didn’t cope very well and I just had to do something. This task made me realise that I’m using my phone as a buffer when I feel the same way now. It’s almost as though the more I pick up my phone when I’m feeling bored, the more it becomes a habit and then in doing so, my brain is telling itself that I’m bored, so then I pick up my phone again, even when I’m not. Does that make any sense? I’M NOT EVEN BORED!

This week’s task taught me to become aware of my own behaviour and realise how scary it is when you do things on autopilot for absolutely no reason at all. I made the conscious decision that the week after this challenge, anytime I got the urge to pick up my phone, I’d question whether I actually needed something from the phone (such as to find the definition of a word I’d read or to Google something my brain pondered) or was just doing so out of habit. Because I’m publishing this after both weeks have passed (oops – my bad!), I can confirm that my screen time was down 30% by the week I consciously made the decision to not look at my phone when I was only doing so out of habit. How bad is that?!

I challenge you – assess your own behaviour and relationship with your smartphone. Try this challenge for one week and see how much of a difference it makes! Assess why you’re picking up your phone, and how much of it is just habit or something that you really need? And, as always, don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

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