E#38: How my smartphone is my distractor
In this week's episode I am making a confession about my recent struggle. I feel it's silly but I felt I should be transparent.
(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)
I have a confession to make. It's a current challenge that I am struggling with, and I was a bit hesitant to do this episode, but I suspect there will be a lot of people dealing with this type of addiction. And it is somewhat embarrassing because this podcast is all about how to be better at what you're doing, but as I often say to my wife when I can't find something in the refrigerator or closet, or when I flub up on, "well honey, nobody's perfect, especially me, and I am a huge work in progress."
The challenge I have been working is the addiction I have to my cell phone. Lately, I have found it increasingly harder and harder NOT to keep looking at this phone. I find I'm waiting for a text, checking my emails, looking at any Facebook posts and now I'm on Twitter, and I know this constant attention or desire to look at this thing (phone) is something I need to ease up on -because I know it can slip away on me and distract me even more.
Lately, I have found it increasingly harder and harder NOT to keep looking at this phone.
I don't know if you are facing a similar type of tension?
I remember growing up without phones, without any type of distractions and life was good. I got to say I still feel reasonably balanced; however I do find myself wanting to look at the phone at times when I shouldn't be, for example when I just checked it 5 minutes ago, or when I'm out walking with my daughter we're having a great conversation, but my mind moves towards my pocket and wanting to pull out that phone and that's when I realized I've got a problem.
Now don't get me wrong, I think the cell phone is exceptionally handy to get some things done, especially on the fly or if you need to do something urgently. But it can get out of hand easy enough as I've discovered many times in my life.
So I've been asking myself, "why do I do this? And why do others do this or have this feeling of always needing to check their phone? Part of it is that it is a physiological addiction that we create with our neurochemistry, and we get a hit of dopamine in our brain, which is a feel good hormone, which reinforces the behaviour.
But the other part is that I think we feel that there is something, or somewhere, more exciting, more interesting, more unique than what's happening right now in our present state. And our phone is the place to find that answer, which is only inches away in our pocket. Whether it's new information, a new post, a new text from somebody we know or don't know, a fun video, something to take the boring, quiet moments away that allows us to escape in that minute or even a few seconds even. And the reality of this will always be ongoing until we hit our grave. There is always something new popping up that ultimately distracts our real purpose and presence.
why do I do this?
So I'll share with you the two things I'm doing that is helping me. The first is I consciously, and out loud, ask one important question every time my hand touches the phone, and that is, "how is my phone contributing to my best use of time? Does it serve a higher purpose or my intention of what is happening right now and what I need to do versus what I want to do to entertain or distract myself?
This gives me a moment of pause and brings some awareness back into my present state and allows me to reflect and decide. That's the point where I can make a choice.
I find every time I ask that question, the answer is not "scroll social media to see what's happening, text something to a friend of mine" No, it's to be more present with the people around me. Talk to my spouse, kids, work on my project, go for a walk, something better.
The whole purpose of our lives is to create awareness about what we are doing. To live an intentional life means to be acting intentionally and not reactively. This allows us to be the ones in control of our peace, happiness and joy.
And you know what, it's okay to have moments of silence, gaps in the day where nothing is grabbing your attention. It's okay not knowing or thinking about anything because it's in those moments of space and silence is where ideas, insights and essential things happen- and even time for nothing to happen. It's in those moments we can get clarity about what we are supposed to be doing that day, week, month or year.
We don't always have to be productive, and that's a hard mindset to change for many of us, as most of us get a sense of self-worth by what we've done or do."
it's okay to have moments of silence, gaps in the day where nothing is grabbing your attention. It's okay not knowing or thinking about anything because it's in those moments of space and silence is where ideas, insights and essential things happen- and even time for nothing to happen.
One rule I have is that I don't pick up the phone when I'm eating, and I won't answer it unless I'm on call for the hospital. That's because I believe it's essential to be attentive when you're eating, so you taste your food and eat more mindfully, joyfully and prevent overeating.
Now, The second thing I am doing again is physically taking a break from the phone for extended periods and days. Technology free time zones, and technology free Thursday. Especially if I'm at work and have access to a computer, I block out time in the day to check messages and electronic tasks.
I have watched a couple of Netflix series and become addicted to them.
Same thing with Netflix. It's okay to feel guilty or useless while watching too much Netflix. It's not helpful to make it a habit. TV series and programs were designed to trap you and feed you what the creators want, and that pulls you away from really finding alternate ways to relax and be entertained. I'm not saying don't engage in it, but be mindful of the amount you use. I'll share with you my little secret/confession regarding any Netflix series...I have no control.
I can't tell you how many different series that I've heard from people that are fantastic to watch. People have told me you've got to see so and so series on Netflix - and they look great too! And I have watched a couple of Netflix series and become addicted to them.
I had to put a strict no start policy on watching a new series because once I start, I find it incredibly hard to stop. If I start one episode in one series, I know I'll want to watch the next one.
The problem with me is that if I've started a TV series, when I get home, I am subconsciously, and most times consciously thinking, "I want to watch the next episode and see what happens" Does that ever happen to you? It happens to me all the time.
Have you and your partner been in the middle of a series and you and your partner look at each other and say, "I wonder what will happen next? It's only 22 minutes, let's take a quick look." The next thing you know, you've binged watched an entire season, and you've lost the weekend. And you justify that in your mind that we are spending quality time with each other.
Once in awhile, it's okay, I guess, but hours on end, I don't think so. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching TV and movies etc. That's how I made it through medical school. Friday night was always movie night, and still is, but, as I get older, I think there are so many better ways to use my time.
We are meant to grow and improve our lives and live with more purpose, create and grow. Little positive moments add to our well being and dreams. The average person will watch about 13 yrs of television. You don't want to end your life and say, "yep, I saw 7000 episodes on Netflix, and I'm better for it" or "I saw all my FB posts and really connected with people" I just don't think that happens.
I've joked with a friend of mine that one day I want to have a weekend retreat where I'd take a bunch of people near a lake, we'd gather wood, make a bonfire, no technology, set up fabric housing and learn to prepare food on the open fire" He said "that sounds cool, what would you call it? I said, "I'd call it "camping. I'd call it camping."
So I don't want to be preachy but wanted to share with you my real struggle, and if this is something you go through, please email me and let me know how you deal with it. I'd love to hear from you and what the ways you use to stop a behaviour. What's your trigger or power move? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve?
Thank you for listening.
I hope this podcast served you in some way, if you've enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share with a friend or colleague and subscribe to us Apple podcast, Spotify or your favourite podcast app. And if you go to the TheIntrovertedDoctor.com and sign in there, you'll get my weekly emails about the podcast episode that's coming out.
I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you so much for listening. Let's together make a greater, more effective community so that you live with greater passion, harmony and magic in your life and help others do the same.
Have a fantastic weekend!
I would love to hear any comments about this podcast and what would you like to hear in future episodes?