There is so much discussion in the media these days about excessive attachment to the internet and the importance of unplugging. So, what is the truth? Is it really bad for us? Maybe. In a Huffington Post article written by John Swartzberg, M.D., Chair of the editorial board for BerkeleyWellness.com, he shared his view that the jury is still out. He cites research that shows that young people who are heavy technology users have a higher risk of sleep disturbances and mental health issues. He explained that just the presence of a cell phone can be distracting enough to impede performance on mental tasks. Other studies have demonstrated that using light emitting devices at bedtime disturbs sleep. He admits there is no hard evidence that being unplugged will improve your health. However, he also points to an issue that may seem more subtle but is important for people on their family building journey. This issue concerns avoidance.
The rise and popularity of mindfulness and meditation may prove be one of the antidotes to our addiction to technology and other methods of distracting ourselves – from ourselves. We have all done it, avoided paying bills, doing the laundry and going to the gym. But what about the moments that are not so obvious? In the 12 Step circles, there is an acronym for moments when an addict is vulnerable to relapse. It is called HALT. It stands for, Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. These are times when we are all vulnerable to not acting with our best interests in mind. When we are overwhelmed, tired, resentful, hurt, anxious or worried, it is hard to care for ourselves. These are times when we may grab an extra cookie, skip the trip to the gym and spend way too much time checking our email and Facebook account.
Avoidance may feel comfortable, and we all need it at times, but it can be the worst of both worlds. You are not fully involved in the thing you are avoiding and therefore, not learning from it or gaining the benefits from it, and you are not intentionally letting yourself off the hook and deliberately taking a break from the thing that is so stressful.
I would never suggest you torture yourself. Struggling to build your family can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. If you feel like you are not ready to take a break from avoiding, try to take a real break. Get a massage, take a fun road trip with your favorite person or go out to a movie in the middle of the day. However, if you feel up to taking some time, even an hour, to step away from your screens, you may gain insight into what you are feeling and may also have some unexpected pleasurable experiences.
When you think about our electronic devices in this way, you can see how you can risk missing out on a great conversation with our loved ones, or watching your niece’s perfect cartwheel or all of the other the sights and sounds around you. Equally importantly, you may also miss things that are happening in your inner world.
When you give yourself a chance to unplug for a little while you may have an unexpected joyful or fulfilling experience. It can be as small as enjoying the way your dog looks at you, or catching the first whiff of spring. If you are willing to go a bit further, a few minutes of meditation every day can provide a space for amazing insights to arise and can help you feel calmer and more connected to yourself. If you are willing, try this one:
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit on the floor or a chair with your arms resting on your legs, palms facing upwards. Say these words, “I surrender to what is. I let go of my past stressors and embrace a grateful moment right now, and happy future with my family”. Imagine your new family in your mind. This takes practice. If you need help, cut out pictures that look like your perfect family from magazines and paste them to your bathroom mirror so you can see them each day. Then focus on your breath. Take 10 slow breaths in through your nose and 10 slow breaths out through your mouth. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. It is your mind’s job to wander. It is your job to gently, and kindly bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Picture the breath being a gold stream of light going in to your body and then releasing. Imagine it is washing through you, filling you with hope and light.
If you are interested in more meditations or stress reduction techniques feel free to reach out to us at www.familybuilding.net. We are here for you every step of the way and available to help make your journey easier and less stressful.