Put the phone down!

I was rather shocked at several recent events to see the extent to which most participants seemed attached (literally!) to their mobile phones.

As the day was starting and speakers had started talking, phones could still be heard ringing, pinging and vibrating. In many cases, still in their owners’ hands. In several instances, instead of switching the devices off as soon as people realised they were on, they answered and simply walked out of the room talking, oblivious of the disruption created. Most were playing with the phone in their hands, looking at it, responding to emails or simply fidgeting.

Now, this is not unheard of and we have all seen it done, in meetings, at the restaurant…. So why was I shocked there? Because the events in question were, you may have guessed… meditation and wellbeing types of events! So, of course, I had assumed all present would share in my feeling that on those occasions, mobile devices should hide away silently switched off at the bottoms of bags to better focus on our inner selves! Well, as I keep repeating my students: never assume! Who am I to decide everyone has to feel similarly on such an occasion?

But seriously now, doesn’t that raise the question, often raised but rarely acted upon, of how we interact with our mobile devices? The mobile phone is so easy to have at hand, when do you actually put in down and leave away from you, in another room even? No, don’t look away, answer that one! Mobile phones and other devices have so far modified our behaviours (and our brains!) that we now have specialists working on technology addictions. You can take the London Nightingale Hospital test online to check whether you qualify! But even if, hopefully, you do not, becoming aware of the way you use your mobile phone could be interesting.

In 2005, research from the University of London showed that texting and emailing throughout the working day can « fog your brain » as much as smoking cannabis, knocking 10 points off your IQ.

So if you value your brain, not to mention your relationships or peace of mind, here are a few pointers:

  • switch off all alerts on your phone;
  • if you are feeling brave, switch off the ringtone, unless you are waiting for a particularly important phone call;
  • only check your phone a few times a day;
  • leave it on a desk, table or in your bag during the day, not in your hand;
  • switch it off and leave it in another room at night;
  • do not take it out on the restaurant table, do not check your phone at dinner time at home or at any other social times.

Oh, did I mention, on the events I mentioned the organisers had to remind the delegates politely but firmly to switch their phones off during meditation times… and the phones did not reappear afterwards. Everyone seemed calmer, more serene and in no need of a technology fix at all after that.

So… meditate more and put the phone down!

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