• It’s time to stop being a stage five clinger to your devices and set some boundaries. (Pexels)Source: Pexels
If you constantly feel stressed or burnt out, it might be time to disconnect from your devices and reconnect with the present.
Jody Phan

31 May 2016 - 8:40 AM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2021 - 3:41 PM

Advances in technology have changed the way we stay connected with others. Computers, smartphones, tablets and even televisions are all serving information, which we are constantly consuming, sometimes simultaneously.

But as we condition ourselves as a society to become engaged in stimuli from multiple devices at a time, we lose the ability to focus deeply on any one thing.

Kevin Hume, Director of Sydney Meditation Centre, believes breaking a screen addiction by learning to focus on one thing at a time not only lowers stress and anxiety, but also “improves short and long-term memory, as well as boost productivity.”

Here are some of his tips to make the break from your screens a little easier.

Use your commute to relax

“Most people on public transport are locked into what’s in front of them on a screen because they think it’s relaxing,” says Hume. “But it’s actually ramping up stress and anxiety levels because you’re not doing anything that allows your body and mind to relax.”

Next time you’re on the bus or train, or walking to work, try to leave your phone or tablet device in your bag. It’s a fraction of the day that you get just to yourself, so use it wisely. Hume suggests counting your breaths or repeating a phrase or mantra in your head to anchor your attention to the present. Your emails can wait until you get to work!

Get a watch and an alarm clock

Finding out the time is a great excuse to look at your phone. But does it ever stop there? If you need to look at your phone to tell the time, chances are you’ll see some sort of email or text notification and be tempted to check them.

Many people use their phone as an alarm clock, which makes them more inclined to also use it for other purposes such as checking news or social media as soon as they wake up.

Using exercise to distract yourself from screens not only benefits your physical health but also helps to calm the mind.

“This causes people to enter a slightly anxious state as soon as they wake up,” says Hume. “For example, people checking their emails in the morning are also making executive decisions about what to do with those emails.”

Go old school: get a watch and a regular alarm clock to lessen the temptation to check your phone.

Korea’s Internet Addicts
Some teens in South Korea are so addicted to gaming, they can no longer distinguish what’s real and what’s not. Dateline follows them as they go through intense month-long digital rehab.

Get outside and get physical

Using exercise to distract yourself from screens not only benefits your physical health but also helps to calm the mind.

“When you relax the body, you force the mind to also relax,” says Hume. He advises people to engage in physical activities, which can range from going for a walk to cycling or swimming.

Once people experience the calming effects of exercise, they’re more likely to make it a regular habit, which in turn reduces their screen time.

Resist the urge to be always available

Hume's clients who attend his meditation classes are often burnt out from stress. “Corporate culture demands that people are available 24/7. But people burn out consequently, and their ability to focus and productivity deteriorate in the long run,” he says.

Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology says multi-tasking is an illusion.

Checking emails outside of work hours is now a normal thing, and we’d feel bad if we don’t respond to texts and Facebook messages instantly. Research from the University of British Columbia found people were less stressed when they reduce the amount of times they checked emails throughout the day.

Hume’s advice is to “make a decision to switch off.” It’s okay to leave your non-urgent emails and messages unanswered. After all, it can’t be an emergency if the person hasn’t bothered to pick up the phone and call you.

Stop multi-tasking

Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology says multi-tasking is an illusion. He explains that the brain can only “do one thing at a time” and when we think we’re multi-tasking, what we’re actually doing is switching very rapidly between tasks. Every time we make the switch from one task to another, the brain is “losing cognitive power on each of those thoughts.

People who multi-task during meals are at risk of overeating, according to a study at the University of Bristol. Meanwhile. another study found that people who focused on their food without distractions have better “meal memory,” which helped them stay full for longer.

You can watch Are You Addicted To Technology?  from April 21 on SBS On Demand. iOS & tvOS apps only. Update or download the latest app version. Minimum requirement OS 13.5.  

Related reading
Is technology making us sick?
Life is easier than ever for most of us, but advances in technology have not seen a corresponding rise in happiness. A new book by futurist Richard Watson warns that convenience cuts both ways.
Is it a good idea to share photos of your children on social media?
Parents love to post photos of their children on social media, but one expert says you should never share photos of your kids online.
Power over pain with mindfulness - better than a pill?
Mindfulness is the state of being aware of the present moment. Besides improving breathing and sleep, mindfulness meditation has now been shown to be an effective form of pain-relief. With this in mind, here are some handy apps that could help you become more mindful.