Mindfulness in 2020

by Tab Moura

What does it mean to be mindful and present in a year like 2020. We have everything from virtual class, virtual work, virtual yoga, virtual birthday parties… the old advice of “put away the phones and tablets, be present,” is becoming impossible, but being present is more necessary than ever before.

Well, I won’t suggest ditching your device; heck, I’m literally writing to you on my phone. What I will say is, consider how many different people you hear from each day, without seeing them in person.  Social media is a gift of connection in times like these, but it also makes it possible to receive an unnatural amount of social input in a short amount of time.

How many friends’ posts do you read daily, how much emotional traffic is passing through your brain? If you walked into a room full of people, all sharing about their days, their hopes and dreams, their anger… what’s more, they aren’t really speaking to one person, they are just hoping someone will listen… How would you react?

We don’t think of places like Facebook in terms such as these, perhaps it’s just been in our lives for so long that we are numb to it to some extent. Physiologically, I cannot imagine what it does to our nervous systems to take in so much, with limited places to put it.

Science tells us that our brains cannot differentiate between physical and emotional pain. The same part of the brain lights up. Same for joy, reward, anger. We also know that our brains grow and develop in the direction of our strongest thoughts and feelings. We create wider and wider highways, making it easy access.

So what does this all mean? If I’m not advocating for less screen time, what *am* I saying? If your news feed brings up more anxiety and stress than you would allow in a face to face encounter, it is time to make some changes. There are so many ways to stay informed about current events, there is no glory or virtue in making yourself suffer if social media makes you anxious or angry. You can download news apps that send notifications on current events you’re following, you can adjust your social app to show you ‘close friends’ first so you scroll less, you can adjust your phone settings to remind you to spend less time in certain apps.

You can also go a completely different direction and just focus on settings goals for family activities or community activities that you feel comfortable with— you don’t have to focus on adjusting your screen time if you are organically keeping yourself busy.

And let’s not forget the importance of exercise and meditation during times like these. If you cannot go to a gym, you can use streaming sites like YouTube to give you workout inspiration. If you need help with meditation you can find hours upon hours of free meditation prompts online, just a click away.

The question is; are we willing to create new paths, so we can create new roads, so we can create new highways? Creating new habits is possible, even now— especially now. I know it can take a while to remodel or build a new highway, but it’s time we stop treating technology like it only takes away from mindfulness… when we just have to learn to use it in new ways.

 

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