Mindfulness: Debugging Ourselves
What is Mindfulness?
In a world full of mobile devices, deadlines and to do lists, it can be hard to remain present, to live in the moment as it were. If we’re not worrying about what we’re going to have for dinner later, we’re worrying about how to spend our weekend productively.
When you stop to think about what you think about, you might realise that you’re not really living in the here and now but rather from moment to future moment.
Mindfulness is a state of total awareness, a conscious decision to recognise your emotions and to essentially attempt to switch off everything else. Letting go of all of the thoughts in our mind, even temporarily (some meditation sessions last just three minutes), isn’t as easy as it sounds. We all have an inner monologue, sometimes it’s important to use it.
Talking to yourself (in your own head) is a good way to acknowledge or question your existence at any given moment. Asking yourself what you’re doing and remembering why you’re doing it is one way to practice mindfulness.
We’re not saying that over analyzing situations is the way forward but it’s one way to really concentrate your thoughts at any given time. Mindfulness is not about getting frustrated with the people around you, it’s not about the flawed mindset of ‘why is everyone always on their phones’, ‘kids don’t play outside anymore’ or ‘we’re not connecting the way we used to’.
Everything is what it is, orange isn’t the new black and smartphones are not the new cigarettes.
Stop thinking about other people. It’s about you. If you want to do a digital detox because you spend too much time on your phone, that’s up to you. People learn by example, not by being belittled into feeling like there’s something wrong with them.
What other people do isn’t any of your business, focus on yourself, you’re your business.
There are several ‘gurus’ out there writing articles where they’re angry about the way the world is, they preach about ‘millennial problems’ and ‘the dangers of remote work’. Please. No one wants to read that nonsense, it sounds like it was all written by old suits on coke, that’s the past.
Remote working millennials are the present, they’re the roleless ‘woke’ entrepreneurs of the future. Developers who are writers, founders who are rappers, designers who are athletes. No more boxes. No more passive aggressive startup gurus who swear every three sentences because they’re terrible content writers.
They aren’t practicing mindfulness, no matter how often they claim to do so. No one living in the present has that much pent up hostility. It can lead to burnout.
Stay still. Controversial, we know. Now that most people tend to work long hours, sitting in a sedentary position is the last thing we would recommend but that’s not to say that staying still isn’t a good idea. Just try it, go for a walk and find a bench or just stand still.
The natural reaction nowadays is to reach for your pocket and pull out that phone. Don’t do it. Just stay still. You’re a cowboy in a duel, your whole life depends on this moment of stillness. Just wait. So, you’re standing (or sitting if you found that bench) still.
You’re not sure what to do with your hands, cross your arms, put them in your pockets, whatever you want. You could even look at them. How often do you look at your hands? Try it. Look at the creases of your skin, any scars or freckles you have, how clean your nails are. Look. Be present.
This may seem like a useless thought experiment but how often do you concentrate on the things you take for granted? You use your body to connect to your devices. If we don’t use a device, it sits there until we do. Muscle memory is something you need to think about, picking up a device is something we do without thinking, especially when we’ve had a device for a while.
Your fingers press the buttons, they’re connected to your hands, you use your hands and fingers to move the mouse or slide across a touchpad. Your wrists connect those hands to your arms, arms to elbows, elbows to shoulders and so on. We’re not at the Ghost in the Shell stage yet. Our devices are not yet such an intrinsic part of us that we can’t put them down.
Focus on you. Know yourself.
Why is the use of a smartphone so natural to us? Why is that a problem? We don’t tend to focus on debugging ourselves but we all need to find and resolve issues that mess with our functionality. Mindfulness is one way of helping us search for the defects causing us to operate inefficiently.
If you struggle to sleep, even with reduced blue light on your phone, it might be a smart idea not to sleep with your phone. It’s just common sense. Practice mindfulness in bed before going to sleep, pull your sheets up close, how do they smell? What’s the temperature in the room? Is your pillow comfortable or could you use another one? Take off your socks, feel the covers with your toes. You’ll find yourself drifting off faster than you would if you spent all night checking Twitter.
In the words of Simon Sinek: “Buy an alarm clock.” (Sinek Interview Transcript)
We know where your mind goes next: What about my alarm? My phone is my alarm clock. How many times do you press snooze in the morning? Buy an alarm clock and put it far enough from your bed that you can hear it but you have to get up to turn it off. It works.
The Importance of Being Outdoors
This might sound cliche but it helps. The sound of birds, the colour of the sky, the smell of the plants (or pollution), the taste of the air, the buildings, the people, the cars, these are all things that affect our senses but we rarely focus on them.
They’re just there, they just exist. Let’s add some mindfulness, you walk outside, what’s the first thing you do? Stop, look down. How often do you look at your own shoes outside? What are you standing on, what’s the ground like? Can you smell anything? What’s the weather like? How does it affect the environment around you?
I hear you, you don’t have time for this, you have places to be and people to see but, do you? Take a few minutes to just live in the moment and if it’s too hard, there’s an app for that. Controlled meditation can really enable you to get better at living mindfully. Most apps give you several options, from three minutes upwards, with starting and ending chimes and a narrator to help you manage or control your own thought process. Some people need this kind of guidance at first.
Push notifications that get you to stop checking your notifications.
Most of the time, the narration on these applications (try YouTube for videos too) will get you to breathe, they’ll get you to think about your breathing, every inhalation, every exhalation, air in and air out. You’ll find yourself wondering how your lungs work. You’ll be concentrating so much on your body, on its physical actions and reactions that your mind will feel clearer.
We’d also recommend using a Mindfulness app outdoors. If you’re in a city and you can’t get to a park, try a bench or sit by the side of a building, put your headphones in and think. If you have time and you’re able to drive, cycle or get out of the city, try that. Lakes and mountains work well.
Trust us, when you’re trying to understand every muscle in your face, it’s hard to care about MVPs, emails, data or reports.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and technology, or how to live a more mindful existence, you might like Mudita, with them, we develop healthy solutions for our digital world.
We’d Love to Hear from You
Have you ever practiced mindfulness? Would you like to recommend any methods or applications you’ve found useful? Is there anything you’d like to add, have we missed anything?
Please feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments below or via social media (send us some photos or videos too), you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, let’s connect!
All images used are CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).