Most of us have ready access to technology through computers and smart phones. This means that we are virtually never without access to information. We are also likely never far from our family or work. While this can be comforting to a point the constant availability can also be stressful. In this way technology increases our stress levels.
While this has enabled us to be more flexible with our time it can also increase stress if we aren’t able to set good boundaries around our use of these devices.
What’s the issue?
For many smartphone use has increased to the point that we are using them even in the midst of other activities. We’ve all seen it; folks who’ve made an effort to get together all sitting around looking at their phones. In many instances people still say they are “lonely” or feel “alone” much of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my smartphone as much as the next guy, but it can get in the way of relating sometimes. We have all had those moments when our partner gets home and we are deep into that audiobook or scrolling through social media. You find it hard to set it aside and lose that precious time with a loved one. Even though that’s what we were told that technology would do for us–free us up to do fun things with each other–and yet time and again we opt for tech over real world connection.
What will it take for us to use our devices when it is helpful and set them aside when we want to connect with others?
What to do?
I have a few ideas on this and the first and foremost we have to rejuvenate our capacity to sometimes be uncomfortable. We have to build a tolerance for boredom.
That’s right. We have to be willing to be bored to enter into a creativity zone, a connection with other people zone, a zone of having our own uninterrupted thinking. As a culture we’ve gotten away from that and I think it does us all a disservice.
After reading Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamorodi as well as Atomic Habits by James Clear I am even more convinced. (Disclaimer, I am not receiving any compensation from either of the authors I just really enjoyed their books and provide links for your convenience.) Both authors discuss the role of boredom in how we get hooked into habits. And to be sure we are quick to fill any empty space in our days as if we fear what we may find.
We also have to be willing to set limits on our use of technology. That can be a little more difficult if your work revolves around use of technology, but even then we can set some limits on what we are willing to allow. In limiting our reliance on technology we may also decrease our stress.
The next time you find yourself with some alone time.
- Try not being “connected” to your device.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off that audiobook and don’t reach for the radio or television.
- Silence your phone.
- Just be alone with your thoughts.
- Look at what thoughts come up.
- Do they have a theme?
- When the 5 minutes are up take another 5 to write down what you noticed.
If you find you are having difficult thoughts try looking at a previous post on thoughts, feelings and behaviors here.
You can also take 5 minutes and do the exercise in the post 5 minute stress management here.