Digital Detox

Is your technology habit hijacking your brain?

Fall, each year, signals the arrival of new Smartphones. And now we have either chosen to hold on to last year’s technology or move onto faster, better and more techno time.

A serious problem exists, and is not going away until we rewire our own life.

It’s no surprise that we are in the energy flow of mobile device attachment. Yes, attachment to our mobile devices. Do you know that at least 46 percent of participants in a Pew Survey from 2015 said that they “couldn’t live without” their devices. Snapchat, Instagram, and the biggest time-sink of them all, Facebook, now occupy more than five hours of the average US consumer’s day according to the Flurry Analytics. In fact, you don’t even have to spend time with a human to celebrate your birthday when there is a “virtual” birthday cake. Is anyone paying attention to what this movement is doing to the very molecular and cellular aspects of the human organism? Or do we know, and we just “choose” to ignore not really understanding that our brains are de-evolving to that of a reptile at most?

As smartphone use swells, it brings with it inevitable side effects when used without skill. Some of these include:

Sleep Disturbance:

According to the National Sleep Foundation 71 percent of people sleep while holding their smartphone or having it in bed with them or on their nightstand. According to a study in the Science Translational Medicine from September 2015, the amount of caffeine in a double espresso has less of an effect on our sleep than staring at a mobile device before bed. Computer’s included.

Attention span:

The goldfish has possibly be incorrectly given the reputation of having the shortest attention span in the animal kingdom. It might actually be the fruit fly, or perhaps, the human being. I would bet to say that most of us, have a shorter attention span, since we have used smartphone soundbites over and over again, without full presence. According to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.

Loneliness & Isolation:

Smartphones and any social media used out of its context, is causing a breakdown in the human communication systems. Have you ever seen happy people eating at a restaurant who were texting while waiting for their food? They don’t engage each other, they engage with their mobile device. One-third of smartphone users or even more, use their phones during dinner diverting face-to-face exchanges thereby undermining the depth of human connection.

Anxiety and sadness:

Multiple studies have come to the conclusion that our always-connected world is leading to an epidemic of anxiety and depression diagnoses. On average, according to this study, the daily use of a mobile device for a depressed person was 68 minutes, while a healthy subject used these devices, on average, for just 17 minutes. Although some people speculate that use of a smartphone works on the dopaminergic receptors in the brain, causing an addiction, I am not quite sure that this is the sole reason. The answer lies deeper than a simple transmitter response. Findings on Anxiety and depression with cell phone use can be found in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior.


Research from the American Psychological Association began to detail the increasing amount of stress caused by time spent on smart devices. Being connected, in some regards, means you’re always “available” and able to answer email, texts, and social media messages. Some actually experienced “phantom vibrations,” a sensation that left them to believe their phone was vibrating when it actually wasn’t.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Smartphones have also been linked to eating issues, a decrease in physical health, anatomical damage to fingers, nerve damage, and an increase in smartphone-related accidents both on the road, and while walking.

The obvious answer is a digital detox, but we may have reached a point where it is too late. There are other studies that details significant withdrawal when digital usage is stopped. These include:  mental and physical distress, panic, confusion, and feelings of extreme isolation.  So how do we unplug from a habit that may indeed contribute to physical and emotional burnout.

A systematic meditation training could be part of the solution, or at least offer a clue in how to finally move beyond the lure of sensory stimulation and take back your brain.

What’s most amazing about meditation isn’t immediately apparent, since it does require you to do the work and not some techno gadget to do it for you. Keep in mind there are some out there that claim in 10 minutes you too can meditate, but this is a false “profit” and creates yet another dependency for you. The most fulfilling part of life is having the ability to learn and do something for your personal development. To have the clarity and confidence to make choices. When our brains are hijacked, we lose that freedom and suffer extreme loss without even knowing it.

It’s worth pointing out that as human beings we have an expansive capacity with a highly evolved cortex in some cases.  When we choose distraction over focus, we slowly lose our ability to access our higher cortical functions and thus, lose the capacity to find freedom and fulfillment in life. Remember from a previous blog post, that our brain has the ability to change – neuroplasticity – and this change can be for the better or for the worse.

Take notice. When you lift your phone to check email, or see who beeped in the chat box, chances are your browsing doesn’t stop there. The hijack has begun.   You might find yourself on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. If you’re anything like most people, you might start doing one thing on your smartphone, but an hour later you’re doing something else entirely, all under the guise of “checking email real quick.” This is called distraction, and you are leaking your vital energy and hurting your brain.

There are reasons for this hijack to happen.

  1.  You may have FOMO. FOMO is fear of missing out and the anxiety and dejected feelings that come with that. Not sure if the DSMV has classified this yet as a condition, but most of us know it without having it in a psychiatric classification manual.
  2. You may just not have a focused intention to start with, or you don’t really enjoy what you are doing, so your mind takes you somewhere else.
  3. Or, you may want to connect to the social media world because you are feeling isolated and lonely and think that will help you feel better. There is an epidemic of loneliness but the very usage of social media deepens the “loneliness” groove in our mind.

There are certainly more reasons, these are just a few. The point here is to become aware of your habit so that you can collect your energy and focus your mind. You can be a healing force for positive change and learn to enjoy and utilize the technology available; while not letting it hijack your brain. Here are some solutions that I have provided for our community of seekers.

  1. Schedule specific times to check email. You have heard this before, but, set the timer.
  2. Set a specific time in the AM that you will turn on devices. I suggest only after meditation practice. You need time to tune up the mind, before you bombard it with external stimuli.
  3. Leave your phone at home when you are going to lunch, dinner or a walk or bike in the park. One of the saddest sights is when people are walking in the park or having lunch and their face is glued to their smartphone. Just LEAVE IT HOME.
  4. Learn to meditate. When I say meditate, I don’t mean just sitting down and being mindful of what you are doing or not doing, I mean learn a systematic training so that you learn to sit still, breathe, relax and experience how to collect and contain your energy. Meditation needs to be systematic if you want results.
  5. Take one day per week or a time segment within a day each week and perform a digital detox. Remove yourself from anything that is digital in sight. Breathe and take a moment and connect to that which makes you human and connects you to all other life on the planet.

Follow any, if not all of these steps. You can stay connected to the point you don’t experience FOMO.You’ll still get your text messages, your email, and phone calls, only now you will have less incentive to respond right away and more incentive to be with yourself.

As mobile devices continue getting bigger, you must be skillful if you are going to maintain intelligence and mental freedom. My advice is to pay attention to what you are doing and do not take your human brain for granted.

Become the healing force of positive change by training your mind with awareness and focus.  Because the energy of the mind is the essence of life.