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Technology & Mindfulness

Written by: Varleen Kaur

Edited by: Jacqueline Cheung


Dear CCP readers


Welcome back to the CCP blog! This week we are again discussing mindfulness and how to be mindful when using technology. Secondly, we will be looking at how technology can support our journey in mindfulness. Research has shown mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have proven beneficial in reducing stress and improving self-awareness, anxiety, and emotional and behavioural reactivity among youth experiencing homelessness.


If you would like to learn more about the current state of homelessness in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), welcome! We have many blogs on this; check out our website. If you are returning for more information about the challenges faced by youth experiencing homelessness and those with animal companions, welcome back! If you are new to our blog, welcome to the community and thank you for your interest in learning more about issues regarding the homelessness crisis in Canada and beyond - you are one step closer to becoming a changemaker in your community, and you are in great company.


Has FOMO made you feel anxious? Are you worried about how much time and effort you devote to your devices? According to this scoping review, increased technology usage in the younger generation can lead to poor self-esteem and detachment (1). The amount of time and effort people put into recording, taking pictures of, and sharing their happy experiences on social media has multiplied in recent years. How frequently do you attend holiday dinners when most guests take pictures of the food? How frequently do people check their social media accounts at family get-togethers to see what others are doing? The real question here is: are we using social media mindfully?


Our motive is not to stop anyone from using social media and technology. Social media can be an outlet for some or a career for others. Instead, we want you to pay attention to how you feel in relation to social media. Acknowledging your feelings may give you a clearer picture and help you form a healthy relationship with them.


In this era, a decent amount of our work and certain careers like social media manager, marketing manager, the role of social media influencer are centred around the use of technology and being up to date with the latest trends. The change in working style and work-from-home option due to the Covid pandemic has also increased our usage.


Here are some problems that may arise from prolonged use of technology and social media:


1- Physical health issues - I think we are all very familiar with posture issues that come with prolonged use of computers. For example,, carpal tunnel syndrome due to inappropriate posture causes the shoulders to roll forward, shortening the neck and shoulders muscles and squeezing the neck's nerves. This epidemiological study states that the issue might not be severe, but can impact the wrists, fingers, hands and neck pain (2).


2- Mental health issues - People are less likely to engage in meaningful social relationships because they spend so much time on technology, potentially resulting in isolation. Sometimes, the internet can be a source of social comparison, feelings of exclusion, and cyberbullying, amongst other things. Check out this study on social connectedness, mental health and screen time (3).


3- Technology Addiction - Addictions to technology can seriously impact a person's mental health, including anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the long run. This large-scale clinical trial confirms addictive Internet use is related to ADHD-like symptoms (4).


How can mindfulness aid the use of social media?


In our everyday lives, we get distracted, and our thoughts can drift very easily; during a business meeting, we might daydream about a grocery list, a hypothetical quarrel with someone who had offended us before, an obnoxious song stuck in our brains, or random environmental stimuli. According to the Udemy In Depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report, 70% of workers feel distracted.


Between these conflicting distractions, mindfulness invites us to remain in the present, even if only for a moment. If you want to learn more about mindfulness, you can check our previous blog here.


The use of technology mindfully operates on a similar note. The premise is that we are continually subjected to technological distractions and are enticed to use technology far more frequently than is appropriate or healthy.


Research has shown Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a structured and well-proven way to reduce stress, increase focus, productivity and an enhance feeling of well-being and happiness (5).


Principles of Mindful Technology Use:


This section explores some useful applications of mindfulness when using a computer or any other device.


1- Be mindful of posture: The idea here is to be mindful of your posture. This is very important as we spend a lot of time on our computers these days. If possible, you can invest in an ergonomic chair and mouse, along with a height-adjusted table, which allows you to move your table according to your height and if you wish to stand and work. You can even invest in a walking pad that can be kept underneath the table and contribute to your daily step count.


2- Take breaks - This systematic review identified seven recent studies investigating the acute effects of physical activity interruptions in healthy individuals (6). Three of the seven studies suggested that taking regular physical activity breaks from sitting offers short-term benefits for cognition in healthy adults. However, they concluded that further research is required, and initial results still look promising to try. In your breaks, you can go for a walk or maybe try a home workout.


3- Be mindful of your breathing: Pay attention to how you are breathing. Faster and shallow breaths are signs of stress, while slower and deep breathing can be healthy. You can even try doing short guided breathing practices to take a break between work. Here is my favourite 10 min breathing guide.


4- Control the notifications on all your devices: According to a research study, most people get 63 notifications per day(7). That might mean you have to look at your phone 63 times a day and 63 times interrupt your work. You can try to stop notifications for all the non-urgent apps. You can try using ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to have maximum focus while working.


5- Single tasking instead of multitasking - You might not believe this, but multitasking is actually bad for your focus. Simply put, your brain goes back and forth between two things, making it more difficult to finish both. This method of working is less effective, leads to more errors, and eventually depletes our mental energy.


6- Work in time blocks - Set time blocks for all similar tasks in your calendar. Switching between different tasks depletes your energy and specifically when they use different parts of the brain. For example, you can do all your phone calls simultaneously and then go to the next task, for example, writing. Going from making a single call then writing something down, then again back to phone calls can result in poor productivity.


7- Plan your day - Make a schedule which makes you happy and makes you look forward to the day one day before. Try sticking to your schedule; this could mean waking up and sleeping at the same time every day.


8- Check on yourself - Positive feedback on social media can make us feel quite ecstatic. Receiving even one unfavourable comment, though, can be heartbreaking. Set your boundaries and consider this a part of the journey. Positive affirmations and compassionate thoughts towards yourself can keep you grounded.




How to use technology to improve mindfulness:

  • Using mindfulness apps - There are mindfulness apps like calm, insight timer, stop, breathe and think, headspace, buddhify etc., to meditate. This plum website has many resources on various apps. Instead of trying all the apps at once, try each one at a time and look for what suits you best.

  • Mindfulness-enhancing games- There are some mindfulness-enhancing games, too, like Forest, PAUSE, Just Sleep - Meditate, Focus and Relax.

  • Using wearable technology - Fitness trackers and smartwatches come with heart and breathing rate monitors. There are some other gadgets specifically made to reflect awareness and attentiveness. EEG headset by Neurosky uses electroencephalography or EEG to establish a feedback loop that measures how relaxed we are while meditating. According to Neurosky, “The Meditation Meter algorithm indicates the level of mental “calmness” or “relaxation.” The value ranges from 0 to 100 and increases when users relax their mind and decrease when they are uneasy or stressed. The Meditation Meter quantifies the ability to find an inner state of mindfulness and can thus help users learn how to self-correct and find an inner balance to overcome the stresses of everyday life.”

  • Listening to sounds that promote mindfulness - Sounds of rain, sounds of waves, and sounds of birds chirping could be very peaceful for the brain. You can benefit from listening to music that promotes mindfulness, such as binaural beats, chanting, or classical pieces by Mozart, Hindustani, or Chinese composers.


We examined both how we can utilize technology as a tool to increase our mindfulness and how we may develop it while using it throughout the day. I hope these tips will be helpful to you.



Why does Mindfulness matter to us?


At the CCP, we organize ‘Mindfulness & Art Workshops” for youth under the age of 25 currently residing in shelters across Ontario. Research has shown the positive impact art and, specifically, painting can have on lowering one’s stress. This guided art workshop begins with 10 minutes of mindfulness. The guided painting offers youth the opportunity to get creative and focus on being mindful in a calming and reflective environment. All of the supplies needed are provided in care kits for the specific workshop and age range.


“I loved the art workshop it was a very positive way to express myself through art. It was very helpful and very fun to do.” This is what one of our participant has to say.

If you want to organise a similar workshop or just wanna help us, check out our website.



References:

1- Bozzola E, Spina G, Agostiniani R, Barni S, Russo R, Scarpato E, Di Mauro A, Di Stefano AV, Caruso C, Corsello G, Staiano A. The Use of Social Media in Children and Adolescents: Scoping Review on the Potential Risks. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Aug 12;19(16):9960. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19169960. PMID: 36011593; PMCID: PMC9407706.


2- Andersen JH, Thomsen JF, Overgaard E, et al. Computer Use and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A 1-Year Follow-up Study. JAMA. 2003;289(22):2963–2969. doi:10.1001/jama.289.22.2963


3- Pandya A and Lodha P (2021) Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence. Front. Hum. Dyn 3:684137. doi: 10.3389/fhumd.2021.684137


4- Leménager T, Hoffmann S, Dieter J, Reinhard I, Mann K, Kiefer F. The links between healthy, problematic, and addicted Internet use regarding comorbidities and self-concept-related characteristics. J Behav Addict. 2018 Mar 1;7(1):31-43. doi: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.13. Epub 2018 Feb 15. PMID: 29444606; PMCID: PMC6035020.


5- Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008

6- Chueh TY, Chen YC, Hung TM. Acute effect of breaking up prolonged sitting on cognition: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2022 Mar 15;12(3):e050458. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050458. PMID: 35292487; PMCID: PMC8928248.

7- Martin Pielot, Karen Church, and Rodrigo de Oliveira. 2014. An in-situ study of mobile phone notifications. In Proceedings of the 16th international conference on Human-computer interaction with mobile devices & services (MobileHCI '14). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 233–242. https://doi.org/10.1145/2628363.2628364




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