A healthy relationship with technology starts with awareness and emotional regulation.
Awareness of our relationship to the behavior of reaching for a screen is essential if we are to learn how to live with technology rather than to be ruled by it. In life we have many behaviors that we must be aware of and regulate.
For example, we must be aware of how much alcohol we drink, how much food we eat, how much sleep we get and how much work we do. If we do not pay attention to these behaviors and examine our needs then we can develop a serious problem or addiction.
The key to living well is being aware of why we are engaging in a behavior and using this information to guide our choices in the moment. For example, if you are out with friends for dinner after a post-work happy hour you might ask yourself some questions before you decide to order another drink. You might ask, “How am I feeling in this moment? Having a good time? Nervous? Tired? At ease? The answer to this question will lead you to decide to order a seltzer or another drink.
The act of turning inward and asking yourself how you are feeling before you engage a behavior is how we develop regulation. This example can also be applied to using technology, too. When you hear a text, news, email or call notification PAUSE for a moment. Ask yourself how you are feeling in that moment. Be curious about where your body, mind and heart are and if they are in a place ready to receive information from technology. If not, you can wait. Using screens has become such an unconscious behavior that if we bring it to consciousness then we can ask ourselves, “Do I want to engage with this right now?” This choice of whether to engage with technology is crucial if we want to live comfortably and with overall wellness in the midst of the demand of technology. I have listed five ways that I believe strengthen our ability to be aware and regulate.
- Meditation– This can be as simple as listening to your breath and noticing when your mind wanders. This exercise builds your capacity to return to the present moment.
- Self compassion– Self compassion involves being on your own side and loving yourself no matter what. This can help when the feeling of guilt starts creeping up that you have not texted someone back, or you are taking time off from looking at your screen.
- Sharing with others about your experience – Being vulnerable can be scary. Most people do not want to be vulnerable, but report feeling connected when others are vulnerable with them. Share with others honestly about your struggles with technology. See how others cope with this challenging issue. Share with friends when you feel like you are overloaded by demands and you need a break. Be real. The more real you are with others the more real you can be with yourself.
- Gratitude list – Our brains are velcro for bad experiences and teflon for good. We evolved to remember where the danger was, not where the joy was hiding. So, we need to actively focus on what is working in our life. Gratitude lists are a great way to do this because they prime you to look around during the day for positive experiences. I typically recommend to clients that they should use small moments rather than large ones. Often when we think “I am grateful to be healthy,” but it is too vague and hard to feel in the moment. Whereas if we say instead “I am grateful to have been able to carry a heavy box up three flights of stairs” you can feel the accomplishment in your bones. Focusing on the positive helps when we are bombarded with negative images and stories from 24 access to technology.
- Moving our bodies– If we are moving our bodies than we are most likely not looking at a screen. Our bodies need to be moved in order for stress to move through them. Also the more we move our bodies the more open and ready we will be to ground ourselves when interacting with technology.
Have you tried any of these methods of self-regulation? How have they worked for you? We’d love to hear – leave us a note in the comments.