This week my son did well in his sports day and being the proud mum, I decided to take him out for a pizza to celebrate. Just as we were leaving the house I decided to leave my phone at home, something I consciously do quite often to get a digital break. In addition, I wanted all of my attention to be on my son and our time together. digitally dependent
We were having a great time and my son said “oh take a picture”. “Great idea” I said, reaching for my bag to take out my phone. Two minutes later we had moved onto talking about football and I was talking about the France-Ireland game of 2009 when Thierry Henry hand-balled the ball and Ireland lost as a result! I wanted to google the video to show him how it had happened and so, once again, my hand automatically reached for the bag and the phone! A few minutes later we are chatting about inviting one of his pals over. “I’ll text the mum now” I said. At that moment I also had the inspiration for this weeks Positive Pause. Guess what? I usually use my phone to note down the idea! By now, my brain had caught up and instead of reaching for the bag, I smiled and asked the waiter for a pen!
Many of us have become so digitally dependent that our phone has become the go-to device for answering all questions from our work to our personal life. Growing evidence shows that our brains are literally overwhelmed with information and we are caught in a vicious “reward” cycle of checking our phones for the latest information hit, whether it is a text, email, Facebook or Twitter update we switch quickly from one to the other. Such immediate gratification and apparent multi-tasking over stimulates the brain and dumbs down the higher-level thought centres in the pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for decision making, concentration and emotional intelligence.
The consequences of this lead to increased anxiety, poor concentration and loss of train of thought. This week, consider how device dependent you might be and take steps to control it. Simple ‘rules’ such as ‘one screen at a time’ (research shows that many people who are watching TV are also on their phones); turning the phone to “do not disturb”, keeping the mobile out of the bedroom and out of the room at meal times can really help. Observe how often you reach for your phone and every third time you reach for it, resist checking it. Train your brain to resist the urge and give it a well deserved break. Set aside allocated times for being online. Leave the phone at home when ever the possibility arises.
I may have no photo on my phone of the dinner I had with my son, but I do have a wonderful imprint on my memory of our time together. Real time, real people and real connections stimulate our mental well-being and cannot be replaced no matter how much information our devices hold!