Finding myself checking my cellphone this holiday season - observing how families spend our precious time together texting, playing games, checking Facebook, or going online - I resolved to change my relationship with my cell phone as part of my mindfulness practice.
By 2017, more than a third of all people around the globe will be smartphone users, with the US being second only to China. While the average American spends roughly 58 minutes a day on their smartphones and check their cellphones about 150 times a day, it is sad to know that the average amount of time spent with partners was only 97 minutes per day and that our obsession with checking our phones exceeds the estimated number of times we hug our loved ones in any given month.
In school and at work, the impact of our behavior is reflected in research results. In a Kent State University study, greater cell phone usage affected users' happiness and satisfaction indicators negatively, as well as lowering GPA scores.
At work, the internet is the greatest productivity drain, distracting 64% of employees who visit non-work-related sites every day.
The quality of our life is at stake in an increasingly mobile world. Our capacity to be present in our own life, to pay attention to those we love in the brief moments we have together and the long-term benefits of personal fulfillment are compelling arguments to limit our cell phone usage in the interest of our own happiness and the relationships we value.
App developers have noticed and responded with an app to mirror our cellphone usage that urge us to "put down your phone and get back to your life."
The need for mindfulness has technology leaders like Google paying attention. Google hosts Mindful Lunches featuring spiritual leaders like Thich Nhat Hanh to inspire employees in juggling their work-life balance. Meditation is central to employee training as a way to cultivate emotional intelligence that is vital to productivity in the workplace. Creating a culture of compassion and making it fun is a reflection of corporate values that lead the way to mindfulness in this digital world.
May the New Year inspire us to cultivate a new relationship with ourselves so we use our cell phone in ways that magnify the good we can do for others, bring us together as family to engage in meaningful conversations, and serve as a tool that connects us to work while allowing us to take time to unplug and be fully present as we connect with those we love!