February is a month reminding us to cultivate connection, connection to ourselves and to all of those dearest to our hearts. We live in a society that utilizes technology to encourage connection, ironically, however, it seems we are more disconnected than ever. Technology is constantly competing for our attention with social media, emails, cell phones, and the latest and greatest iDevices. It may appear that we are cultivating connection by staying up to date with people in our lives via social media and our cell phones, but in fact, we are only distracting ourselves from the present moment, developing a relationship instead with our cell phone or social media account (you can literally train the keyboard of your phone to adapt to your texting lingo and have you ever noticed how your social media account knows all of your favorite links to browse?), and missing out on opportunity to connect with ourselves. When we miss these opportunities to connect with ourselves, our ability to connect with those around us suffers as well.
In order to function in today’s society, utilizing technology is pretty unavoidable. In fact, technology has made many good things possible, like bridging the gap between families separated by distance, enabling a more free flow of information, and creating more broadly shared communities of interest. However, there are ways to make the digital world work for you, and not the other way around, so that you can in turn build better connections with the people around you.
Here are a few tips to incorporate technology into your life in such a way that it does not disrupt your quality of life.
Establish Sacred Times
Being mindful, make clear, conscious choices about when, where, and how you use technology in your day. Determine sacred times and spaces where you allow yourself the opportunity to “disconnect” in order to truly connect with yourself and others. For example, declare any time you are on your yoga mat a sacred time to truly spend with yourself free from technology, establish “technology free time zones” during your morning and bed time rituals so you can mindfully prepare for and unwind from your day, or ban technology from the dinner table and use that time to connect with your family and loved ones.
Make a practice of using technology Mindfully rather than Automatically
When new technology develops, we learn how it can connect us to loved ones, how it can help us manage our lives, and also how it can distract us. Bring awareness to what is motivating you to reach for your phone at any given moment. Are you bored and just distracting yourself? Or is it truly necessary for your job? Get clear about your intentions behind the use of your technology and even establish times FOR using technology. For example, reserve time(s) in your day specifically for replying to emails so that you can truly give them your full attention, or even reserving similar times in your day for some literal face time using your iDevice or skype network to connect with loved ones.
Make the most of Face-to-Face Connections
Yes, technology has helped us to maintain connections that might have otherwise been lost, but it still does not replace real, in-person connection. When you have the opportunity to share space with another individual in your life, turn off your notifications from your device or turn on airplane mode and give yourself and the other person the space to truly connect with one another free from distraction.
Applying your mindfulness practice to your relationship with technology can serve to enhance your daily life by allowing you the space to connect more deeply with yourself as well as those around you. If you find yourself still struggling to master your relationship with your device, maybe even consider downloading one of the new mindfulness apps for your phone. Moment is an app for iOS devices that tracks the amount of time spent on your device (Moment Family monitors screen time of any family members with the app on their phone for parents looking to enforce daily limits) and a similar app is available for Android devices called BreakFree. Establish goals for yourself to spend less time on your phone overall, or with specific apps throughout your day and move forward into February with the intention to foster more meaningful connections with yourself and those around you.
Presented by Marcy Hullander