It’s no secret that modern life is hectic. Our smartphones and apps are designed to capture as much of our attention (and convert it to revenue) as possible, or even to addict us, with industry insiders (like ex-Googler Tristan Harris) going rogue to help improve tech industry awareness and regulation. Brits checks their phones once every 12 waking minutes on average (or 80 times per day for Americans), and usage-trackers, like iPhone’s “Screen Time”, or “Digital Wellbeing” for Android, highlight how much we subconsciously scroll.
Smartphones, and the increased general busyness of our always-on modern lives, fill in the natural pauses humans would have historically experienced throughout our day — perhaps where we would have connected with others in-person; watched a sunset; smelled a flower; or simply had some mental down-time. The complex machinery of the human brain may even be designed for such pauses, with research suggesting that moments of boredom can actually be beneficial to our productivity and creativity levels.
Instead, 21st century life is full of distractions, and our connectivity and work pressures accrue a need to feel contactable 24/7 across time zones. We can stay busy browsing information ad infinitum, and being notified at all hours (unless, God forbid, we run out of battery!). Without awareness of where our attention is going, we can easily get sucked into being perpetually distracted; and 2009 Stanford University research found that, even though we might feel like we’re getting a lot done, tech multitasking actually impairs our focus and productivity.
Can meditating help?
So that’s the bad news, but I’d like to share with you how, alongside practicing better tech hygiene techniques (like those described in the seminal book “How to Break Up with Your Phone”), developing a regular meditation habit has increased my ability to stay more calm and present in a modern world full of distractions.
Like “exercise”, the word “meditation” is an umbrella term for many different practices, but it can generally be defined as intentionally changing our state of consciousness from our normal waking state by calmly focusing using our mind, body or breath for an intentional period of time.