Digital Mindfulness: Mental Well-being

Technology is a double-edged sword. It lets us log in remotely and work from anywhere but it also keeps many of us perpetually tethered, even when we need a break. The lack of role models or guidelines for digital etiquette makes it even harder to create healthy boundaries with our devices.

When smartphones arrived in 2007, we didn’t anticipate the negative consequences because we fell in love with the many benefits. Suddenly, a single device allowed us to let us stay in touch, take photos, listen to music, learn new things—and more. What could be the downside?

The Digital Divide

Today, most of us can’t go very long without checking our devices. They are the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we interact with before bed. We interrupt conversations with loved ones for random notifications. We spend vacations responding to work emails. We go through life half-present, with our bodies in one place and our minds somewhere else.

Catherine Price, Miraval’s Digital Wellness Ambassador and the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, spent more than half a decade investigating the effects of our relationship with our devices and discovered that the frazzled feeling you get after a long day of screen multitasking isn’t imaginary. Splitting our attention between browser tabs, emails and texts exhausts our brains. With every beep and buzz, we breathe more shallowly, move less and produce more stress-related hormones that make us feel anxious in the moment and can harm our long-term health.

Here are some simple steps you can take to create a healthier relationship with your devices:

A phone

1. Set Boundaries

Create guidelines for digital etiquette at work. If possible, avoid sending emails outside of work hours or accessing your work accounts while on vacation to reduce burnout and ensure that you come back refreshed. Check your inboxes at set points during the day and call co-workers for urgent matters—a technique that greatly boosts productivity because it reduces the number of times each day people are interrupted by new messages.

At home, designate “no phone zones” where everyone knows that phones are allowed, no discussion or arguments required. The best two places to start are your dining room, so that you can enjoy your meal and connect with whomever you might be eating with, and your bedroom, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

Say “no” to notifications. Most notifications are there for app makers, not us—and they’re one of the biggest sources of distraction in our lives. Set aside a few minutes to adjust the notifications on your phone (and your computer!) so that you only receive the notifications that you want; you can always re-enable any that you actually miss. Then, when you’re trying to concentrate and get work done, put your phone on “airplane” or “focus” mode, so that you are not interrupted.

2. Create Speedbumps

We often reach for our phones on autopilot–that’s why we frequently find our phones in our hands without knowing how they got there. The problem is that you can’t change a habit if you don’t even know that you have it. That’s why it’s so important to create speed bumps, which are small obstacles that force you to slow down and make a conscious decision about what you want to do next. Try putting a rubber band or hair tie around your phone so that you’ll be reminded to notice that you picked up your phone—and can ask if doing so is really what you want to be doing at that moment.

Try to do just one thing at a time. Many of us multitask because we think that doing so makes us more productive. But in reality, the opposite is true: the more you multitask, the less efficient and productive you will be. So limit the number of browser tabs you have open and don’t leave your email open in the background. If you’re on a phone call, focus on the phone call; don’t simultaneously answer emails. Similarly, if you’re watching a movie, just watch the movie; don’t text. 

A phone

3. Moderate Your Social Media Use

Despite the claim that social media apps exist to “connect” us, they often make us feel isolated and alone. While there are certainly cases in which social media can be used for good, when we spend too much time on it, we often trade authenticity for “likes,” self-worth for external validation and real-life community for online followers. Feelings of social exclusion and lowered self-esteem have become some of the unwanted byproducts of social media use.

Social media companies hook us by manipulating our brain chemistry. Their apps are designed to trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that keeps us coming back for more. If you’re like many people, you may be following a lot of people whom you don’t care about, or whose posts make you feel bad. Set aside some time to go through the accounts you follow, and unfollow anyone whose posts do not add to your life.

And remember, if an app is not on your phone, you can’t be distracted by it (and really, if an app is stealing your life from you—literally from underneath your nose—it doesn’t deserve to be on your phone)! Consider deleting the apps you find most tempting. If you truly want to use them, you can always reinstall them.

4. Make a Mantra

When you’re making a shift, mantras can help. Remind yourself that “my life is what I pay attention to.” When you’re using a social media app, ask yourself: Does this make me feel good or bad? Am I living right now—or am I performing? What would I do right now if no one was watching? Set aside some time to consider which activities, relationships and aspects of your life are actually important to you. Notice where social media ranks on that list—and brainstorm ways to better align your actions with your values. How much of your limited time on earth do you want to spend on your phone?

5. Look Up

When you are out and about and have a few minutes—or even seconds—of downtime (say, while you’re waiting in line), get in the habit of looking up rather than staring down at your devices. It’s much better for your posture—and it also lets you notice beauty in your surroundings and connect with the people around you. And remember: if you’re on social media, you’re not present for your life. Our minds can’t be in two places at once. If you’re staring down at your phone, you’re missing everything else.

Mindfulness is the core of the Miraval Resorts philosophy. From check-in through check-out, they encourage all guests to put down their digital devices and enjoy life in the present so you can enter “Miraval Mode.” Their digital device-free environment empowers guests to participate in the Miraval experience fully and free from distraction—and gives you permission to unplug entirely. This makes our lives more rewarding and can also boost our productivity and focus.

You don’t need to be at Miraval to experience the benefits of Miraval Mode—you can recreate it simply by setting some boundaries for your devices and choosing times to deliberately disconnect.


Miraval Berkshires Resort & Spa

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CRC 5924696 09/23