Mindfulness in Digital Age: Staying Present Amidst Distractions
Liam Henderson 30 Nov 0

Understanding Mindfulness in the Digital Age

As someone who is more apt to use a computer than participate in open-air sports activities, I've found the concept of mindfulness surprisingly refreshing, like digitally detoxing without going offline. Think about the art of being present, immersed in the moment. Not an easy task in our modern digital age, I know. I used to scoff at the mere mention of this word "mindfulness", considering it a new-age buzzword that had no place in my life dominated by technology and inevitable distractions. And then, one very ordinary day, while I was typing away at my desk and simultaneously being distracted by the constant notifications on my phone, I noticed something unusual. It was Greg, our beloved Golden Retriever who, unperturbed by the chaos around him, was basking in the simple joy of a mid-day nap. It struck me how Greg was savouring the moment - a moment devoid of any external digital disruptions. Immediately, I felt this bursting need to slow down, to exist simply like Greg, uncluttered and peacefully wrapped in the ecstasy of the present. Thus began my journey to practising mindfulness in this digital age, filled with the rumble and rattle of technology.

Welcome Mindfulness, Goodbye Agitated Mind

Destressing is not a luxury but a dire necessity in the digital era, where the lines between work and leisure time blur easily. Often, my kiddos, Nolan and Scarlett, bring this to light. Their never-ending bombardment of queries and uncontainable energy keeps me guessing, while I juggle between replying to work emails and scheming up engaging replies to an unusual question like, "Dad, why can't we see the wind?" Practising mindfulness, I've learned, doesn't mean shutting myself off from my digital devices or hiding away from Nolan and Scarlett's delightful eccentricity. Instead, it teaches me how to be present, how to react calmly, and to not let my mind wander off amid the constant barrage of notifications and work pressure, thereby enforcing a clear distinction between my work and family time. So, while it's okay to laugh out loud in the middle of a serious meeting to one of Scarlett's unheard jokes, it's also crucial to unplug and listen patiently whenever Nolan decides to express his views about his day at school.

The Productivity Puzzle

Talking about juggling between Nolan's innocent revelations and Scarlett's eccentric jokes, productivity and multitasking go hand in hand. I remember when multitasking surfaced as the utopian concept of the century promoting productivity. Guess what? It doesn't exist, at least not as some magical productivity enhancer it's made out to be. Did you know that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford University, found that heavy multitaskers performed worse at multitasking than people who considered themselves less habitual multitaskers? Why, you may ask? Well, the answer is simple: our brain is not capable of doing two tasks at once. Instead, it rapidly switches from one task to another, leading to disorder, inefficiency and stress. Mindfulness, on the other hand, reduces stress and increases productivity by enabling you to focus on one task at a time, allowing you to be fully present, aware and involved in what you're doing. No longer will you feel overwhelmed by parallel running tasks.

Digital Tools to Foster Mindfulness

While we may be immersed in the digital age, it does not necessarily mean that digital tools can't encourage mindfulness. Believe it or not, but our very own smartphones and laptops, often blamed for being the root cause of distractions, can help cultivate mindfulness. A plethora of apps like Headspace, Calm, and Aura, among others, come with diverse mindfulness exercises and guided meditation sessions to aid in focusing and understanding our minds. They are great tools to begin and hone your journey towards mindful existence.

Striking Screen-life Balance

Ever heard of the term 'Screen-life Balance'? Like 'Work-Life Balance', Screen-life Balance is about creating a healthy boundary between screen usage and off-screen activities. Consider this: before the internet and mobile phones (I know, such a time existed), people had a clear division between their work and personal life. Now? Our personal devices have transformed into workstation-extraordinaires and work-life balance has taken a backseat. For a healthy screen-life balance, start by becoming aware of your daily digital habits. There are several apps available that provide detailed insights into your screen time usage. Next step is to set boundaries, for example, no screens at dinner table. Also, indulging in offline activities, like going for a walk or playing outdoors with kids, should be consciously practiced.

Presence over Presents: Teaching Mindfulness to Kids

Let's circle back to Nolan and Scarlett. As a father, I find it crucial to instil the sense of presence in this present world in them, even as technology continues to progress. It's far better to give them the gift of presence rather than the presents they might clamour for. Mindfulness strategies can be introduced early on, like having a mindfulness jar filled with glitter that they can shake up and then watch settle, teaching them the classic technique of 'Take 5', or simply having them notice three things around them to bring their minds back to the present when they feel agitated.

Mindfulness: It's a Lifestyle

Mindfulness isn't just another trend that will fizzle out with time. It's not a habit that you can adopt today and abandon tomorrow. It's a way of life. It's an art of being fully present and engaged in the moment, be it while writing a blog post, taking Greg for a walk (ahh those leisurely strolls!), or laughing heartily at Scarlett's quirky remarks. It's about embracing technology's convenience without letting it overpower our lives. So here's to staying present amidst the digital chaos. Because remember, at the end of the day, we control our screens; the screens do not control us. And that’s a "Greg" level of mindfulness I aspire to achieve. Happy mindful living, folks!