Be honest! How many times have you picked up your mobile phone in the past week?  If you are an ‘average’ smartphone user, then chances are it’s close to 1500 times!  That’s more than a staggering 200 times a day, which equates to about 3.3 hours daily, or around of 25% our waking life!  Scarily, for 50% of us, this seeming obsession with our phone starts within 15 minutes of getting out of bed, and often takes place without conscious awareness!1 (If you don’t believe me, think about how many times in the last hour you have picked up your mobile phone!).

With functionality that enables us to stay in touch (via phone or SMS) and up-to-date (via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like), and conveniently and immediately solve unexpected problems, pay bills, choose a restaurant, shop, play games, read the newspaper, monitor our sleep and physical activity, check the traffic congestion, listen to music, and get sports updates (to name just a few), all from the palm our hands, it’s no wonder that smartphones have become the ‘must have’ item that many of us couldn’t ever imagine living without (myself included!).  However, I do often wonder about the cost of this pre-occupation with scrolling, swiping, social connecting, updating, downloading, streaming, checking and so on – and I’m not talking here about data usage and phone credit.

For me, it’s not so much what I do when I am on my phone that’s the problem, it’s what I’m not doing that’s really important.  Ironically, the capacity to instantly ‘connect’ (in the technological sense) has created the potential for instant ‘disconnection’ (in the psychological sense) from our goals and the people around us; from our bodily sensations and our physical experience; and from the present moment.  (If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you checked Facebook, played Candy Crush, uploaded to Instagram, or responded to a text message.  What were you disconnected from? Did you move closer to or away from what’s important to you?)  In other words, for a significant portion of our day, we are out of touch with the basic ingredients for valued and purposeful living!

I’m in no way a ‘technophobe’, and I’m not heralding a ceremonial burning of the mobile phone!  On the contrary – I’m a fan!!  But what I do feel strongly about is that we learn to use technology in mindful and positive ways, and that as parents we model this for our children.

So if you are willing, why not take a mindful pause the next time you reach for your mobile phone, (perhaps just bring your attention to your breath), and then choose to act in a way that is in line with what matters to you.  Undoing old habits is tough. But the upshot for me of being more deliberate in my use of technology (and less ‘seduced’ by it) is that I’m more available emotionally to my children and my husband; more engaged mentally with my colleagues and my work; and open to a broader range of physical and emotional experiences that come from simply noticing and being present.  It’s worth giving a go.

Written by Dr Janine Clarke

Ref: 1Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2014

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