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Being Mindful with a Smartphone

A couple of months ago, I finally broke down and got an iPhone. I’d been resisting for a long time, partly because I really didn’t have a need for one, and also because I saw how phones sometimes (or often) took over other people’s lives. But with more travel, I quickly discovered that it’s almost expected for you to have a smartphone, so here I am. It has been both challenging and helpful in ways I didn’t necessarily expect.

One of the first things I discovered is that my phone acts as a pedometer and counts my steps. That almost immediately put me in the mindset of the Walking Challenge at work a few years ago, when we were given (not very good) pedometers and encouraged to see who could walk the most. As with that challenge, I started focusing more on numbers of steps once I got the phone, trying to get the recommended 10,000 steps, rather than doing movement I enjoyed that might not be tracked. It also tempted me to ignore how I felt and just go by the numbers, instead of thinking about if I wanted to do more or less. I’m shaking that off, choosing instead to regard the number of steps as interesting information, not something to guide my behavior.

The bigger issue, though, is the temptation to constantly use the phone. It’s so easy, after all, with so much available just a few taps away. I’ve read comments that smartphones can make people more productive by maximizing the use of time, but that’s exactly what I wanted to avoid. I’d been trying to do better about not cramming every moment with doing, and with taking extra minutes – at the bus stop, in lines, etc. – to simply breathe and be, or perhaps do some stretching. But why do that when you can check e-mail, play a game, check Facebook, or look up something online? I’m now making a concentrated effort not to do those things, even though I can, and to continue leaving space for being vs. doing.

On the flip side, I’ve found some things I really enjoy. Having my calendar easily accessible is one of the biggest perks. I can put in whatever I need, whenever I need, with alerts and reminders. This means I spend less mental time and energy worrying if I’ve forgotten something, or trying to remember to put it on my calendar at home.

Having a built-in map and GPS is also extremely handy. When I’m somewhere new and want to go for a walk, I can be more relaxed, knowing even if I get a little turned around, I should be able to get back without too much trouble.

A few other benefits come to mind. Being able to take good photos and easily share them sometimes makes me pay more attention to the beauty around me. Whenever inspiration for writing strikes, I can make a quick entry in my Notes, so I can reference it later. I enjoy listening to podcasts when I’m cleaning; since cleaning isn’t something I particularly enjoy, this makes it more palatable. And I would be remiss in not mentioning a very nice Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Virtual Coach app that can help analyze where the desire to eat is coming from and offer suggestions for other activities as well as focusing on your hunger/fullness levels.

All in all, I admit I am enjoying the phone, but I’m trying to be mindful of how I use it, so I can keep enjoying both it and other aspects of my life.

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