How many times a day do you unconsciously reach for your phone when you’re bored, stressed, or want to avoid the work at hand?
Before I got my phone habits in check, I’d mindlessly scroll through my phone about 20 times a day. (Not kidding!)
Checking your phone can be a quick fix for all of the above, but how often does it leave you feeling better than before you picked it up? Personally, I tend to feel stressed or deflated after a solid mindless scrolling session, and my guess is you've experienced this too.
Instead, those few moments can be spent mindfully, and they can add up pretty quickly throughout the day. Let’s say you scroll about 10 times a day, 3 minutes each time. Over the course of the day, that’s 30 minutes that can be spent adding to your life, not depleting it. Over time you might even feel more grounded, present and simply happier throughout your day, just by making itty bitty shifts.
So when you get the urge to reach for your phone, I invite you to experiment with these mindful practices instead. They can be done anywhere from your work desk to in line at the grocery store.
1. Listen to the sounds of your environment
One of my favorite meditation techniques is to simply listen. Really tune into the sounds around you, even the seemingly small ones. Do you hear birds chirping? A truck rolling by? Cash registers, footsteps, creaky floors? Just listen and observe. Chances are you’ll notice sounds you weren’t aware of before!
This simple exercise helps you focus on presence and awareness, which can translate to other parts of your life, too.
2. Take a few calming deep breathes
If you’re reaching for your phone to distract yourself from stress, pause. Take a few deep breathes -- the deepest breathes you’ve taken all day -- and focus on your inhale and a long exhale. Breathe tends to get shallow or quick when stress or anxiety creep up, and consciously breathing deeply can help counter this.
One of my personal favorites is the 4-7-8 breathing technique by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s a simple method meant to calm and relax the nervous system. Check out his video for a demo!
3. Mentally list 5 things you’re grateful for, and get really specific
I’m talking about super specific, real-to-you type of gratitude. Being grateful for the sunny weather is great, but does that really drum up a sense of wow, I’m actually feeling grateful within you?
Getting into the itty bitty details of gratitude tends to create more of an emotional connection to it, so you can really feel it in your body.
I could say: I’m grateful for the sunny weather.
But to get more specific: I’m grateful I get to sit on this bench and soak up the sun for a few quiet moments.
Sense the difference?
When you get the scrolling urge, shift to gratitude. Imagine if you did this multiple times throughout the day for an entire week. How do you think that’d shift your mindset?
4. Start a conversation with someone around you
The other day as I was waiting for a train, I looked around and noticed every single person on the platform was looking at her/his phone.
I have so many people telling me they feel lonely while our society becomes more and more “connected”. The disconnect is the absence of true human connection; simply talking to another human being and seeing them as another person on this earth, too.
Now imagine if every person on that train platform was talking and connecting with one another!
I’m always redesigning how I use technology, but one thing remains constant: when I choose to talk to someone rather than scroll through Instagram, I feel much calmer, happier and more connected to the world.
Never underestimate the power of human connection.
5. People watch
Humans are fascinating. As an introvert at heart, I’ve loved people watching for as long as I can remember and I especially began to love it when I was studying theater in school. Being an observer can teach you a lot about humanity.
I love it because it reveals time and time again that we’re all virtually the same. People from all walks of life also experience excitement and sadness, have insecurities, laugh in silly ways, get impatient, and just want to be loved.
So wherever you are -- your office, a coffee shop, a park bench -- just observe people for a few moments, without judgement. It’s yet another way to cultivate presence and awareness.
Experiment with these practices, and keep adding to this list as you discover new ways to be mindful in those phone-less moments.
And, if you need a little more incentive to put the phone down, check out Forest. It’s an app that plants real trees while you stay off your phone.