The Happee Times
Invest In Your Happiness
Sensory Diet - A Prescription For Your 5 Senses
Taming Your Monkey Mind
Redefining your relationship with Mr. Dopamine
The Cycle Of Mindless Scrolling
“Ping!” ~ Your wish is my command
Imagine yourself waking up in the morning, turning your alarm off and giving your day a fresh start by logging on to Instagram first thing in the morning. You are physically still in bed but your mind is running at a speed of 100km/second as you scroll through tens and hundreds of reels per minute. As you finally get the courage to stop scrolling mindlessly and decide to get out of bed, you start getting bombarded by tons of notifications about work, news, study, entertainment, etc. After working for several hours in front of your laptop screen and resisting the urge of looking at your phone every time a notification pings, you decide to watch a movie as you wind down and habitually, go on your phone whenever an ad comes up. Before you realize, it's midnight, you are still in front of a screen with all your senses activated and alert.
In this digital world, it seems like there is an invisible cord that has plugged us to our devices. No matter where we go, we always have our phones with us and most of our work is done in front of a screen too. We want to relax, but we find ourselves switching to yet another screen to entertain ourselves. According to research, smartphone users spent twice as much time than they actually estimated.
The constant pattern of re-checking our phones every now and then can become a vicious cycle and decrease our span of attention which is essential for working on important tasks. Moreover, the blue light emitted from screens is known to have adverse effects on our sleep by suppressing the release of melatonin and knocking off our circadian rhythm. Researches, for years, have shown that along with attention deficit symptoms and sleep disturbances, excessive digital usage also leads to increased irritability, impaired social and emotional intelligence, and increased isolation.
We are bombarded with notifications that demand our attention and it seems like the only attention that is not given to, is to ourselves. We forget to check in with ourselves and gauge our thoughts and feelings. To those who are reading this, it’s time to close the multiple tabs, mute the notifications, tune down the noise, and look inwards. Let’s take a break from the metaverse, and dive into our inner-verse. We've compiled a list of the most useful techniques for keeping track of your sensory diet.
I. Sensory Diet - A Prescription For Your 5 Senses
While setting goals to have a healthy food diet this year, let’s also be mindful of our sensory diet. Yes, that’s a thing. What we take in from our five senses has a lot of impact on our emotional, mental and physical health. Continuously hearing about the rise in covid cases while navigating through your Instagram feed, while passing through the room where your dad is watching the news, while talking to your relatives and so on will make you think about it constantly and evoke an emotion of fear. Whatever you see, whatever you hear will dictate what goes on in your subconscious mind and might even manifest through physiological responses like anxiety.
We can follow a sensory diet by being mindful of the timing, frequency, intensity and duration of various sensory inputs.
Replace being on your phone before bed with reading a book.
Some studies even show that looking at greenery tends to be soothing for your eyes and eye muscles.
Lighting a fragrant candle or essential oils are said to calm your mind, help you regulate your emotions and make you feel more present in the moment. Lemon, lavender, sandalwood and jasmine specifically are known to alleviate stress and ease your mind.
Replace putting on earphones while going on a morning walk/run with hearing the chirping birds, the rustling leaves and other sounds created by nature.
Give your ears a break from the constant background music that you play and be in silence for some time.
Sitting with your loved ones and holding their hands.
Cuddling and playing with your pets.
Try to avoid eating your food while watching TV or checking your phone. When you sit at the dining table and eat your food free from distractions, you are giving yourself a chance to truly savor its taste. Also, you would be aware of the portion sizes and will avoid overeating.
II. Taming Your Monkey Mind
Excessive screen time and our increased need for sensory input has transformed our mind to what we can call it, a ‘monkey mind’. We are constantly switching from one app to another, from one device to another, thinking about various things at the same time. This causes a lack of mindfulness and eventually a feeling of disconnect or a foggy brain.
This is what brain fog can look like: You are sitting with a friend and engaging in a conversation but you feel, almost like, you’re not mentally present there. You might get feelings of zoning out or living in a blur. The cause? Excessive use of technology.
With the world that we’re living in, we are bound to be in front of the screen for a certain amount of time, for work/study but we need to try and make time for digital detox every day, even if it is for an hour.
Our aim here is to close all the tabs that are open in our mind, one by one and focus on where we are in the present and only on what’s important in this very moment.
Ways To Practice Digital Detox
Don’t go on your phone for at least 1 hour after you wake up.
Put all screens down 1 hour before you go to bed.
Avoid being on your phone while you have a cup of tea/coffee, take time to look around and be mindful.
If you feel overwhelmed with the amount of sensory input you’re facing and feel a sense of disconnect, take a few seconds to practice this grounding technique.
Relax your body, take a deep breath and try to activate all of your senses in the following way. First, fix your eyes on one thing you can see around you right now, keep looking at it. Next, try to point out one thing you can hear, it could be as simple as the clock ticking in your room. Observe what smell you can pick up in the room. Slowly touch one thing in your reach, it could even be the chair that you’re sitting on. Lastly, notice what you can pick from your sense of taste. Do all of these at the same time and be alert that all your senses are active. The main motive here is to become increasingly aware of your presence in this moment and letting your mind slow down.
III. Redefining Your Relationship With Mr. Dopamine
We all have read about the ill effects of increased screen time and most of us try to reduce it too but why is it that most of the time it seems so challenging to go through with the plan?
We have all heard of our good friend, Mr. Dopamine or most often known as “the happy hormone”. Mr. Dopamine is really fun to hang out with, spending time with him gives us positive feelings of happiness and pleasure. The concern here is that Mr. Dopamine is really picky with the activities he likes. He’s also known for loving screen time so if we’re using our phone or watching Netflix, he will make sure to spend quality time with us but as soon as we keep our phone aside, he leaves. Craving those positive feelings, we’re compelled to scroll on our phone for some more time. We’re basically in a toxic relationship with him.
The solution I’d like to present is to find some alternative, healthier activities that Mr. Dopamine likes.
Insider information on what Mr. Dopamine likes: exercising, dancing, meditation, getting some sun and playing sports.
Another great way to limit your screen time is to start checking it on a regular basis. Digital devices these days have built-in systems that do all the work for you. They calculate your screen time, show measures like daily average and even show graphical charts, categorizing your screen time as social, entertainment and productivity. This awareness will surely make you think for a second before you pick up your phone for no good reason next time.
IV. The Cycle Of Mindless Scrolling
When we are overcome with negative emotions, we open the door to social media and start scrolling mindlessly thinking that our strong feelings would go away by themselves. But we enter risky territory and are often triggered even more if we start comparing our lows to others’ highs. If you are guilty of this, don’t worry.
Being mindful of a problem is the first step towards solving it. The next time you feel overwhelmed and find yourself trying to open an app, stop yourself right there. Instead, throw your phone aside and just try and sit with your feelings. You could go make a warm cup of tea and just sit and acknowledge what it is that you’re feeling and try to find the root cause of it. Try and talk to yourself the same way you would talk to your best friend and just check-in with yourself.
V. “Ping!” ~ Your wish is my command.
You hear the sound “ping” and get an instant urge to check your phone. “Who could it be?” “Could it be something important?” “Did my order get delivered?” Notifications have become our weaknesses. We just cannot seem to ignore them and the urge to check them the moment they arrive. Notifications work similarly to slot machines and on a concept called “Variable reward schedules”, first introduced by psychologist B.F. Skinner. According to it, we respond to reward-associated stimuli more frequently when we know that the rewards would be random. It is the reason why we check our phones constantly when we are expecting a message from a special someone.
One way to curb your addiction to notifications is to delay gratification. When you hear your phone buzz, tell yourself “I can wait for a while before checking my phone”. In fact, many successful people do not check their phones the first thing in the morning and try to delay using their devices at least until 1 hour after waking up. Taming the notification bell is one of the best things that you can do for your productivity. Put your phone on silent and vow not to check it until you have completed your work. Turning on ‘work mode’ on your smartphone is another useful tip.