What’s crowding your mind?

What’s crowding your mind?

Like most of you I have a love and hate relationship with social media and my smartphone. On one hand it’s great being able to keep up with friends and family living continents away. But then comes that sinking feeling when you realise you’re 20 weeks deep into some famous person’s profile page. We rely so much on social media to distract ourselves and then yearn for those filtered and flawless lives we see depicted online (because the #nofilter doesn’t mean a thing online these days). This can quickly turn into a toxic environment and we might not realize it at first, but our mental health suffers because of it.

Spend 30 minutes on social media and guaranteed you’ll see someone getting attacked in the comment section and in more extreme cases but unfortunately not uncommon, comments telling someone to harm themselves.

A recent Atlantic Magazine article in the US looked at the iGen (people born between 1995- 2007) who have been most affected by dependence on devices.

“Psychologically, however, they [iGen] are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

“Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.) One piece of data that indirectly but stunningly captures kids’ growing isolation, for good and for bad: Since 2007, the homicide rate among teens has declined, but the suicide rate has increased.”

These are alarming statistics that show how much social media can give us anxiety and FOMO (Fear of missing out) that are amplified when we don’t receive that instant gratification we’ve become so reliant on.

Clinical psychologist, Danielle Einstein in an ABC article stated that we need to help children build up their resilience to the anxiety of uncertainty that is perpetuated by social media. Parents can find resources here to help deal with this.

Both adults and children need to learn or relearn self-regulation when it comes to social media and technology. And yes, I do see the irony that this will probably be shared online and you’re most likely to be reading it on your iPhone or I dare say Android. But with all this doom and gloom there is a benefit in trying to change our online behaviour and being aware of the effect social media has on our mental health. From here we can use social media to our advantage and regain control over these devices that can inadvertently dictate our lives.

Journalist and author Manoush Zomorodi wrote the book entitled ‘Boredom and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self’. She makes the interesting points, backed up with scientific evidence, that when we are bored we activate the creative network of our brain. So before you scroll through Instagram for the 100th time, embrace boredom and see what your mind could create. Better still, listen to Manoush’s podcast Note to Self for more helpful information about how information overload is shaping our lives.

It comes down to the question: Why are we so afraid of deep-thinking? Because that’s why we turn to our phones right, to tune out?

When your mind is crowded it affects your heart and if I speak in more spiritual terms it ultimately affects your soul. Understand that if your mind and heart is crowded, you leave less room for your spiritual growth and for Jesus. As corny as that may sound, think about this—instead of worrying what others are thinking or doing, focus on your own actions and how they align with your faith. From here you could improve the decisions you make, form healthier relationships and be more present and active in society.

At Insights we’re keenly aware of the important role digital ministry has in providing tools and speaking into a space were people, especially the younger generation, are able to grow in their lives and in their faith.  Face-to-face conversations are the most engaging, but there is no denying that online conversations are uniquely important too as we navigate the digital landscape. You can read more about our digital ministry news here.

So where to from here? Well, why not start small with these tips you can start right now.

Top 5 tips you can try this weekend

  1. Delete that app

Now before you panic I’m not saying throw your phone away, I’m just saying  delete the app or apps you check constantly for one weekend. Not accessing Facebook, Instagram or Candy Crush for two whole days is an achievement in itself.  It’s all about those little challenges.

  1. Don’t take your phone to bed

Fact: It’s a health hazard. There’s stories of phones overheating and singeing sheets. Not to mention the light emitted from phones when using it before bed can disrupt your sleeping patterns making it harder to fall asleep. Sleep is precious and messing that up is, well, not worth it.

  1. Don’t pick it up

How many times do you glance at your phone? Or check it every 5 mins just incase a message came through? Now Imagine what we could get done or see, if we didn’t touch our phones for 30 minutes, an hour or a whole three hours.  Goodbye procrastination!

**Full disclosure here, since I started writing this article in the morning, I decided to not touch my phone and it wasn’t easy.  Update: I picked it up at lunchtime, a record for me.

  1. Take time out

No technology for at least an hour, I’m talking sitting in the garden, reading a book or meditating. Take the time to be still, you’re allowed to take that time for yourself. Having a digital sabbatical is a great way to make small changes and listen to the still small voice of God again, instead of Spotify.

  1. Take the Infomagical Challenge

The Infomagical Challenge is all about deeper-thinking and wow is it mind-blowing stuff. Cut through that information overload with this weekly challenge that you, your family, congregation or school can take part in. Here’s to taking back control of our devices!

Watch Manoush Zomorodi’s TED talk for more information

Melissa Stewart

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