We are inseparably attached to our devices most of the time, with Coronavirus lockdown it is inevitably more so.
What can we do to ensure we stay safe and healthy as we surf?
We all have heard of mental wellness and physical wellness, but who has heard of digital wellness? This year, May 1 was observed as Digital Wellness Day and as the Ambassador for India, we organised various activities. The aim was to bring awareness for the concept of Digital Wellness and we were amazed to find overwhelming participation from both working and non-working professionals, students, and even monks.
All of us would agree that more than ever today we all are finding our digital devices the only way to keep us informed and socially connected. It’s the way of doing daily activities like office work, schoolwork, shopping, meeting, conferences, parties and even attending birthdays, marriages, funerals and much more.
The current situation of Covid 19 is also giving us an opportunity to reflect and evaluate how technology can be an enabler in keeping us together and informed. Rather than being afraid of technology we can explore connective power of technology to enhance our quality of life and mental well-being.
The big question is: Are you really getting the most from your virtual life?
Follow these in the face of this unique crisis:
1. Be Informed: Don’t Get Compulsive
“Even though you checked messages a second ago…a new message or email makes you anxious and reach out for it for fear of possibly missing something.”
Did you know that human’s obsession with sensational news stories is biological? It is built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news.
“Human brain is Velcro for Negative and Teflon for positive ones.” – American psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson
Our brain’s “seeking system” is designed to explore threats to our survival. So in order to deal with this insecurity and anxiety it keeps scanning the environment for any negative clues. Our brain rewards us when we see or find something scary or sensational. It immediately releases a neurotransmitter called Dopamine in our “neural pathways”, the reward centre of the brain.
In order to get this repeated reward and sense of security and comfort, we try to repeat this experience again and again. This leads to a looped or compulsive behaviour leading us to over consume or overdo negative behaviour which seriously affects our mental and physical health.
So next time, be careful to not get into this chemical trap when you are surfing the news or get attracted towards something sensational.
2.Be Wise: Choose Trustworthy Sources of Information
In such times, it’s crucial to stay informed about things like precautions, symptoms, safety and medical advisories, social assistance, government notification, travel restriction, school and workplace information.
But at the same time, we have to be careful to not get into a loop of news surfing or jumping to see the news whenever your WhatsApp or Facebook notification buzzes. There is a lot of fabricated news and misinformation in circulation to engage more likes, or views. It’s important to understand and distinguish what you read or view.
Choose your news source carefully so that you are not misguided and stick to honest and genuine sources for information.
3. Be Careful of What You Share
Just as it’s important to be careful with the information we consume, it’s our duty to share news responsibly. How many times people tell you that they have heard or seen the news on social media but when you check you find it’s fake?
Don’t become facilitators and multipliers of misinformation on social media and online platforms. Verify the source and news before you share as you could be abetting unnecessary rumours and judgments. With tighter policy regulation, one can be lawfully prosecuted for disseminating false information.
4. Be Smart: Don’t Get Used
“The social network was founded not to unite us, but to distract us,” Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook . He added that whenever someone likes or comments on a post or photograph, “We give you a little dopamine hit.”
Neurotransmitter Dopamine is responsible for our happiness and also the reason for our addiction. This is why tech companies want your engagement and your attention and in reward they give you a little hit of dopamine.
“These unnaturally large rewards are not filtered in the brain, they go directly into the brain and overstimulate, which can generate addiction. When that happens, we lose our willpower,” says Wolfram Schultz, professor of neuroscience at Cambridge University.
5. Be Disciplined: Limit Checking Your Updates
In many homes, news channels run through the day mindlessly with repeats playing the same news again and again. At another end, there are people who compulsively monitor news and social media feeds leading to anxiety and higher stress.
Be disciplined and set time to watch news and even set time to check your device. Be attentive and observe your feelings. Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you are watching or reading news. If you are feeling anxious and uneasy, get away. Talk to someone or seek help and support.
6. Be Mindful
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we pay attention to the current moment rather than being distracted by our devices.
Is your phone the first and the last thing you see every day? You are not fully at fault, we are living in times where we perpetually and continually distract ourselves with devices. The bigger irony is that even Guided Mindfulness Meditation programmes are available on digital devices as apps.
Many of us fall asleep just mindlessly surfing through devices and then wake up in morning to start scrolling again even while in your bed. If this is you, then it’s time to get mindful because your mental well-being is under assault. Incessant behaviour like mindless surfing on gadgets all day, scrolling through screen before sleeping or checking phone first thing in the morning quickly gets ingrained as your lifestyle because your ability to use willpower during such times is limited.
In my field of Mindfulness and Leadership Development, research confirms, mindless use of technology poorly influences people’s health and performance. The choice rests with you to use technology as an enabling tool or not. It’s noteworthy to understand our use of technology impacts our lives accordingly.
16 steps to bring mindful awareness to get best out of your digital life:
- Start by doing short Mindfulness Meditation
- Allocate the time you want to be on your device
- If you need to answer your mails, then only finish emails
- Stop jumping from one app to another
- Switch off your social media notifications, or keep them on silent
- Put your phone to sleep at least an hour before you go to bed and wake it up an hour after you have woken up
- Keep notification and ringer only for urgent calls and messages
- Use conventional alarm clock as wake up alarm
- Use paper and pen to take notes and write ideas
- Do regular workout in morning and evening
- Do Mindfulness Meditation and breathing practise to deal with any kind of stress and anxiety
- Do not over consume alcohol and stay away from other kinds of intoxication
- Eat regularly and eat healthy (avoid junk food)
- Keep your room properly ventilated
- Keep environment tidy clean and healthy
- Assign yourself time to finish work and then take a short mindful break. When you feel overwhelmed, take short breathing breaks in between tasks.
Our positive digital and online behaviour can bring joy, meaning, growth, self-expression and inspiration to oneself and others. Give high importance to ‘No gadget’ or ‘Offline downtime”, and remind yourself that you are not missing anything. We can live without FOMO (Fear of Missing out).
This is the vital key for a healthy physical, mental and virtual life! We are lucky we are getting this opportunity to experience and witness this change. Let’s make full use of time and bring awareness and compassion.
Manish Behl is Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence coach, Neuroscience based Mindfulness educator, mentor and trainer. Founder of Mindfulness India Summit and Mindful Science Centre. Creator of Mindful Leadership Course and 8 Week Mindful Living Program in Mumbai. He offers practical strategies for leadership transformation, increase performance, transform anxiety and negativity into calm and focus. He has over 25 year of leadership experience and his workshops facilitate physical and mental wellbeing and cultivate inner peace.
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