In a society that functions at such a high level online, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a way to stay engaged with what’s happening around us. Instead of having conversations in person or going outside, the more attractive option is to say inside and chat online or aimlessly scroll through social media for hours.
The apps we use on our phones and the nature of modern media have been designed in a way that makes them increasingly consumable and addicting. Now more than ever, it is important to find moments to step away from the screen and seek mindfulness as a regular part of our daily practice.
In an article by Thrive Global, Daniel Goleman, psychologist and behavioral scientist, recognizes how smartphones and technology are “diminishing (the) number of face-to-face interactions in our lives”. Because we are always connected to such an abundance of stimulants, “It’s very difficult for our nervous system to handle the enormous amount of stimulation it faces each day”, writes Burcu Yapar, mindfulness coach.
As Yapar explains, the large issue at hand is that, “We as human beings have lost our focused attention. We are constantly exposed to different stimulators, and our attention span is getting shorter every day”. When society demands of us to prioritize staying one step ahead – be it of the current trends, the next big buy or sell of land, staying in contact with an exorbitant amount of people – it’s difficult to be present in real time at all.
According to a market-study research group, Neilsen, the average American adult spends about eleven hours daily interacting with digital media. This includes reading, listening, watching, scrolling, posting, etc. The Washington Post reports that teens in our society are spending an average of seven hours looking at a screen every day, while children from ages eight to twelve are spending almost five hours, daily, looking at a screen.
Now, during the pandemic, more than ever, finding a way to break out of this entrancement and safely enjoy the world is the only way to harness a sense of wellbeing. It is imperative that we are very intentional about choosing mindfulness in how we engage with our technology, as opposed to allowing it to dictate our every action throughout the day.
What is Mindfulness?
The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley defines mindfulness as, “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” Mindfulness is not simply an act; it is a practice that involves a desire to be present and take into account the responsibility that we have to preserve our human experiences as saturated and invaluable.
According to this article published by Psychology Today, “Mindfully engaging in a digital world begins with an awareness of the social, emotional, and physical elements of our connection followed by reflection (…).” It is possible to exist in the digital world and maintain an awareness and appreciation of present-day life; it is possible for technology to keep you connected to the world in a positive and educational way, too.
The best thing to be aware of when engaging with technology is why you are using it, how you are using it, what you are gaining from it (in a positive and negative aspect), and how much you are using it. Asking yourself these questions is a great way to keep yourself from being swallowed by the temptation of being disengaged and disinterested.
How Can You Practice Mindfulness?
Amy Howell, Ph.D., explains that awareness, reflection and intentionality are three tools to rely on when on the journey towards “remain(ing) connected to ourselves and those we care about, and to find(ing) space in a digitally crowded world.” A fantastic place to start with this process is by recognizing that technology is useful as a resource; we can appreciate how modern technology enhances our daily lives, while not allowing it to control us as intelligent beings.
Find engaging activities that bring you fulfillment and joy that do not involve looking at a screen or being online. Keep your mind and body busy doing a hobby like hot yoga, knitting a blanket, going for a run, reading current novels and literature, walking through your local downtown area, or, our personal favorite, spending time in your garden.
Engaging in mindfulness is a practice similar to finding a meditation that works for you; everyone experiences mindfulness and the benefits of the practice in a different way, so it is important to continue asking yourself what brings you joy and peace of mind away from the screen.
Mindfulness in Gardening
Granting yourself the gift of the gardening experience is much greater than receiving a few pretty herbs and veggies down the road; gardening is a practice that brings a wholesome sense of wellness and wellbeing to your mind, body and soul. Gardening is just so darn good for you!
When you engage in gardening, you are relieving stress, finding moments to celebrate small success, prioritizing your physical health and giving your mind a chance to take a deep breath. These experiences are so important in a world that encourages us to forget to take a break and push ourselves to the most extreme limits.
Take a look at this interview with Charlie Hall, recipient of the 2019 American Horticultural Society’s Teaching Award, which explains the wonders that gardening does for human mental and physical health.
Unplug to Plug In
It may feel daunting now, but beginning the process of “unplugging” from technology in your life provides the opportunity to “plug in” and engage more with the things and people that bring us joy and fulfillment. If you’re looking for a place to start, try reading this article that includes 7 Ways to Unplug & Enjoy Life More.
There is more to this life than the latest trend and the number of likes on a photo. Take the time to invest in your interests and your talents, and you will be so much happier. Most importantly, get out in your garden today!