I have a confession to make. And I’m pretty sure it won’t particularly surprise anyone….
I have been spending more time than ever on my laptop of late and sometimes this means I am neglecting my meditation practice (and my husband). There I’ve said it. It’s out there and the guilt can start to dissipate soon (hopefully). I am loving blogging about mindfulness, and also reading all the online articles that I am discovering BUT I don’t want it to get in the way of actually BEING mindful. I’ve always lacked discipline on my phone anyway and now with the laptop vying for my attention too, how do I rectify the situation?
So, the dilemma. Should I ban the smartphone from my life altogether like Eddie Redmayne reportedly has and move away from the laptop or is there a middle way?
The problem is I, like anyone reading this I’m guessing, use my phone for all sorts of beneficial things that undeniably make life sooooo much easier.
My first smartphone was belatedly purchased in 2012 (I was being a Luddite and trying to resist the trend so was fairly late to the party) and so our firstborn was already a toddler. I kicked myself that I had done all those night time wake ups without the company of a phone by my side. However, I have since kicked myself for not enjoying the night time feeds and snuggles so much with nos. 2 and 3 because I was too busy ‘multi-tasking’ – reading the numerous articles that I had saved to read from my Facebook feed throughout the day. Moments of classic Mummy Guilt.
Apart from keeping me company in the middle of the night (not very mindful parenting I know but please don’t judge me – it stops me muttering FFS quite so much…) my phone, in no particular order, is great for:
- Recording (or attempting to record) ‘magical’ family moments
- Keeping up to date with the news – it’s the only way I can hope to attempt to read newspaper articles these days
- Arranging mine and the children’s social lives via text message, whatsapp, messenger or email
- Virtually ‘chatting’ with friends
- Keeping up to date with friend’s lives (and their children’s) via Facebook (or just being plain nosey)
- Doing the weekly food shop (this app is a lifesaver – a trip to the supermarket for my three is now a novel activity not a chore to be endured)
- Paying any bills, transferring money and generally attempting to have some knowledge of our financial situation via the banking app
- Buying parking permits for visitors (though it feels very rude that I’m standing there on my phone interrogating them about the details of their vehicles before they even step into the house)
- Buying anything from baby essentials to must-have toys to Birthday pressies from that well known online retailer who we all hate but who makes it too easy to buy from them
- Ensuring we don’t get lost when out and about via the maps app
- Keeping my shopping list up-to-date in the notes section
- Checking the weather and making the necessary changes to arrangements as and when
- Having an impromptu disco wherever we may be by listening to the music on itunes or on youtube
- Keeping a track of the (meagre) distances I run whenever I can squeeze exercise into my day
- Decluttering the home by selling secondhand stuff on the local mum’s sites
- Booking my beloved pilates classes
- Googling random question from the children like the one tonight – what’s the biggest octopus in the world?!
- Using a white noise app in a last ditch attempt to get the kids to sleep…
- And last but not least entertaining the children in an emergency situation.
Phew….see we do get an awful LOT from these little gadgets (at least I don’t use it as an alarm clock – mobiles are banned from the bedroom in our house and I have three children for the purpose of waking me up anyway) and so therefore, in line with mindfulness, I feel lots of gratitude for being in a position to be able to have this device in my back pocket most of the time and apparently this is a healthy perspective to take. As a recent Mindful article put it:
‘Marvelling at our modern-day experience rather than being numbed by it can make us happier and more productive at work and in life’
However, there is no doubt that these devices cause me to waste A LOT of time if I’m not careful. For instance, I’m sure I’m not the only one who, before I know it, is scrolling down my newsfeed on Facebook when I had just meant to be quickly adding something to my shopping list. And of course we have to be wary of using the screens when the kids are around. Children’s behaviour is known to deteriorate the more they see their parents on their phones and all three of my children want the gadget as soon as they see me on it (even if I am just checking the weather forecast quickly) so it goes without saying that then quarrels (and usually hair pulling) ensue.
In fact my phone actually turns my children into pickpockets and computer hacks; the oldest has worked out my passcode without me ever telling him it and the youngest two are always sneaking up and trying to ‘snatch’ the device from the back pocket where it is unoriginally and usually kept.
So is there a happy medium? In an ideal world I would like to keep the aforementioned benefits of the phone without using it to ‘zone out’ or having it negatively affect the tots. I suppose the answer has to be to use it mindfully…but what exactly does this mean?
I’m trying to embrace some of the suggestions in this recent article so have ended up:
- Hiding my phone in the spice cupboard (out of sight, out of mind and all that – from me and the children, there’s no fear of me being that adventurous in the day with the cooking!)
- Deleting the Facebook app from my phone when I have been glutting on it just TOO much in a particular week
- Having a FULL digital detox on an odd weekend (don’t be fooled if I still appear to be ‘posting’ on facebook you can schedule these – genius!) – I may try and up the frequency of these detoxes and routinely do them on the first weekend of every month. Feel free to join me. I find it a good idea to ‘announce’ this on Facebook so you don’t need to worry that people think you are ignoring them all weekend.
- Start to remind friends and family of your landline number, and try to collect their numbers in a good old fashioned address book so you can still have REAL chats even when you are trying to complete a digital detox.
I have to say I am still nowhere near cracking the issues of living with so many screens in the 21st century and will be trying out this suggested social media mindfulness practice soon to see if this can help. As the article states:
‘examining and changing our own relationship to technology opens the door for us teach through example and to practice new ways of making technology foster community and wellness’.
Any other tips would be very welcome indeed. So if you have any to share you know how to get hold of me… Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, Whatsapp, Gmail……..