I Started Meditating Before Touching Any Electronics — and It Stopped My Mindless Scrolling for Good

published Jan 12, 2022
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Credit: Getty Images / Marko Geber

My average daily screen time shot up during the pandemic. I started spending eight-plus hours on my phone with little to no breaks in between. I didn’t realize how much power the screens in my life had over me. 

I used to wake up in the morning and grab my smartphone to check the notifications before I got out of bed. Then, I’d turn on my computer to check work emails before I brushed my teeth. I spent my lunch hours in front of the TV, and my free time was devoted to going down internet rabbit holes on any one of the five screens that always surrounded me.

My life was starting to shift completely online, like one of those dystopian tech movies where the protagonist starts identifying more with their on-screen avatar than the real world. I justified it by saying “everything is online, so I have to be too,” but a part of me knew my routine was growing unhealthy. It wasn’t just the hours spent on my phone that bothered me; it was how I spent my time and what it took away from me. I frequently caught myself engaged in doomscrolling at the cost of losing my workout time, losing sleep, and even missing deadlines. 

This had to stop. I tried the typical willpower games of putting the phone in another room while I worked or using website-blocking apps, but these were mere Band-Aids. I wanted to understand the core issue and work on it inside out. 

A coach helped me understand I’m trying to solve the wrong problem. “You’re trying to force yourself to reduce your screen time, but the issue lies in how you’re approaching tech,” she said, stirring an aha moment in me. 

I was embarking on an unnecessary uphill climb. I was forcing myself to un-screen my life, which isn’t quite possible nowadays, especially for someone like me who makes her living online. You can’t stop using technology overnight, but you can change your relationship with it, my coach suggested, triggering yet another sit-up-and-take-notice moment. 

She encouraged me to be mindful about when and how I reach for electronics. Every time I had an urge to grab a device, I started asking myself the following questions:

  • Do you cling to screens when you’re anxious?
  • Does being online and connected to the internet make you feel safe?
  • Is technology a way to pass time when you’re bored?

Soon, thinking about these questions turned into taking a deep breath before touching electronics. The one breath turned to five, and before I knew it, I started meditating before going online. Without realizing it, I had started practicing an effective technique to break or at least interrupt my mindless tech use patterns. 

Why does this work so well? 

“Meditation teaches us to return, as often as necessary, to our present experience, reminding ourselves to be kind towards our mind’s proclivity to wander,” says Barbi Schulick, a mindfulness teacher who hosts weekly meditations. “This same practice can be applied to the pull we feel when wanting to check email or social media far more often than is either healthy or useful. That pull can act like a bell that reminds us to return once again to the breath, to the feeling of our feet on the ground, to the satisfaction and freedom that comes from not checking our phones.”

Using this strategy, I became more aware of my thought and eventually behavior patterns. Now when I had the urge to grab my phone out of boredom, I did a quick meditation, turned my attention inward, and sat with the compelling urge for a couple of minutes waiting for it to pass. And it did! 

At first, avoiding the temptation of mindless scrolling seemed impossible, but meditation helped put space between the urge and the reaction. “One of the benefits of meditation practice is developing the capacity to pause and notice this space,” Schulick says. “The more we practice, the more we’re able to rest in this space and not be so taken by our impulses and the many temptations pinging from our devices.”

If you’ve found yourself in a similar place like me, know that you’re not alone. Technology is designed to tempt you, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel the urge to spend tons of time online. Work on changing the habit if you want, but do it from a place of self-love and not self-criticism. Know that being aware of your thought and behavior patterns is already a huge first step. And over time, Schulick says, “you’ll discover that being at home within ourselves is ultimately far more compelling than anything our phones can supply.”