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A moment of mindfulness

This is the time of year when many will resolve to give up something or do more of something else in the coming year. Others will scoff at New Year’s Resolutions, citing the fact that it sets people up for failure. But January 1 seems to be a nice benchmark for creating a new chapter or a clean slate.

I have been researching the relationship between mindfulness and cellphone and social media use for a while. When I ask my students how long they spend each day on social media — or simply on their phones — they have no idea. They are aware of Apple’s new OS that allows them to monitor their screen time, but they don’t WANT to know.

But this awareness is helpful. If I look back the past seven days, I have used my phone more than 27 hours. Granted, my health and fitness apps account for more than 11 of those hours. However, 4.5 hours have been for social media use.

Think about that. What was learned in those 4.5 hours? Yes, I was invited to a Super Bowl party. Ok, so someone wants me to like her new multilevel marketing page. And I posted a bunch of pictures from my trip to New York City, so I would check to see if anyone commented on my pictures.

This is mindfulness.

When we consider how often we impulsively check our phones, we are NOT engaging in mindfulness. If we stop for one second to ask ourselves why we are picking up our phone, we are engaging in mindfulness.

So here’s a New Year’s Resolution that is more of an intention than a success/failure: being more mindful of your digital device. Can you watch a movie or television show without checking your phone? Can you put your phone on Do Not Disturb while you’re with friends? Can you (gulp) leave your phone in your car while you’re at the gym?

This is not about reaching a specific goal of reducing your screen time by 25 percent or whatever statistic achieves a sense of accomplishment. This is about recognizing the world around you rather than what’s on your screen.

Written by

Former TV person, current college professor and media researcher. Ironman triathlete, meditation teacher and yoga instructor.

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