Is your attention free? Can you stay focus on the present moment or you need to react to every “bip” and “bing” your smart phone produces?
We are all aware that Internet and social media are addictive. But still, we can’t help to check one more time our screen to see if something new has popped up in the last 3 seconds.
The irresistible need to check at our devises is an automatic reaction triggered by apps designed specifically to attract constantly our attention. Regain control of our attention may be a challenge.
Time off practice
- Turn off your devices 1 hour before go to bed, it will protect your sleep quality.
- Turn off during lunch and dinner time, and even if left alone, don’t take your phone out of your pocket. Instead look around you.
- Turn off during week-end and dedicate all your attention to your family / friends or the activity your are practicing.
- Turn on only 30 min after waking up and start your day focusing on what is alive: your self, your partner, your pet, your plants. Enjoy your cup of tea!
Even if it can be uncomfortable, take some time off regularly. Take some hours or even better some days to disconnect from the virtual world, so to let your brain digests and rests.
Nowadays, the combination of psychological knowledge and technology is indeed incredible efficient in manipulating us. Making us believe that we will be happier, sexier, smarter or better is a very efficient way to influence our choices in term of shopping, consuming services and even voting.
How do we get manipulated? By submerging our brain with emotions through 3 mental mechanisms that originally are supposed to enhance our adaptation skills and support our evolution: diversity, rewarding and controlling.
These are interconnected with each others and contribute to the processes of pleasure and feeling secure.
- Our brain is very happy when it receives various kind of stimulus – this is why we love so much stories.
- Rewarding is our greatest motivator to mobilise our energies towards a goal – this is why we love so much to achieve something and to receive an applause.
- Control helps to make sense about what is happening around us and contribute to build security – this is why we like to know what is happening and to prepare accordingly.
Those mechanisms are biased towards automatic reactions, short-cuts to immediate emotions.
Let’s have a look to some examples(*):
- YouTube auto-plays more videos, so we forget to leave.
- Instagram shows new likes one at a time, so we keep checking in.
- Media turns everything into instant, breaking news.
This manipulation is so powerful that when we take time off, our brain, our attention will produce some uncomfortable responses. Specially if our phone is close to us.
We may experience then that something is missing. We may become restless or moody. We may observe our attention asking again and again about what is happening in Facebook or how many responses our last post received or what is the last twit of a famous personality.
Time off practice can be challenging and even uncomfortable.
Why it is so important to do that? The reason is very simple: mental health.
Like other addictive products – sugar, alcohol, etc – regulating quantity is very important. We need to take care of our attention as we take care of our diet, our hygiene and our physical form.
We can assess mental health – how much busy and full our attention is – through 3 dimensions:
- Flexibility: it is the ability to build new connections inside the brain and not just to float above the superficial noises.
- Inner focus: it is the ability to focus on what is going on inside us, our intuitions, our sensations. Those information need some space in order to emerge inside our conscious mind.
- Calmness : the constant stimulation of our brain become a state of stress that can impact our sleep, lead to burn out, provoke anxiety and obsessive behaviours.
(*): Time Well Spent
Picture of Michelle Sabatini – Arte Sella