My Digital Detox Experience - A Mindful Exercise

This blog post records my one-hour digital detox experience, in which I refrain myself from all means of electronic and media uses.  The purpose of this digital detox is not to meditate, but to find my present self and to pay my attention to the way I pay attention.  For this digital detox, I have decided to spend an hour sitting in a quiet park nearby my university apartment while refraining myself from my phone and any other technological devices.  I picked this outdoor setting because I much preferred the fresh air outside to an indoor environment.  At 1 p.m., the park was not crowded and almost empty.  Therefore, I was able to be alone with my own thoughts for the entire hour without much distractions and external stimulations. 

During the first few minutes, I was gradually feeling the tranquility filled with the natural components of fresh air, green trees, and occasional bird whistles while being disconnected from the always-on media.  The initial time of the digital detox was indeed quite pleasant, calm, and peaceful.  However, my mind started to contemplate and wander from thoughts to thoughts after the initial minutes passed by.  At this stage, approximately fifteen to twenty minutes of the detox exercise, my thoughts mainly focused on the current tasks that I needed to accomplish, from how I would write a research paper for one of my summer courses to when I should go to the DMV for my driver license renewal.  Sitting under the glowing rays of sunlight, I started to think of my summer travel plans - recalling where I stored my sunglasses and swimsuits, and pondering about which items I would pack in my suitcases.  Referring to the neuroscience concept, these thoughts that did not take much time and effort to operate were conceptualized as the narrative network, which is a mentally rehearsed framework of current plans and past memories.  My perpetual thoughts about incomplete goals and unpredictable future quickly captured my head and imagination, leaving a succinctly unpleasant and distressing moment inside my mind.  After a while, my anxiety started to escalate while I felt fearful about those unfinished checklists that I needed to accomplish soon.  

When I consciously realized that I should really pay attention to the present moment instead of the past regrets or future doubts, I acknowledged of those worrisome thoughts and gradually invited a more relaxed mind filled with calmness and serenity.  I then reflected my memory and started to pay attention to my breath and the vivid park view.  The attentive breathing patterns, or direct experience network, helped me to welcome more positive thoughts about the present moment.  Observing my breathing patterns, I paid more attention to the exquisiteness of nature that is brimming with an abundance of calm, warmth, and freshness.  When I looked at the people jogging by and walking their dogs, I felt my mirror neurons firing and I recalled the time when I walked my dog at home in Vietnam.  According to many scientists, including neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, mirror neurons refer to the cognitive capabilities of paying attention to others.  Understanding how our brains pay attention to other people allows us to learn by imitation and adapt others' points of view.  On the other hand, I suddenly felt the empathy when I saw some parents walking their children home.  My oxytocin hormone stimulated and reinforced my mediated feelings of connections and bonding with people.  This hormone might explain my occasional homesick/empty feelings without using my phone to connect with my family and friends at home, especially during my study abroad journey here in the U.S.

As I noted how much time that I spent thinking about traveling to some faraway places during the detox, I felt the pleasure, blessing, and value of the present and surrounding local beauty.  In spite of countless times passing by this park, I had never stopped myself to visit the park, even when it located minutes of walking distance away from my apartment.  Sitting down on a wooden bench at a small park surprisingly became meaningful, thoughtful, and quite mindful. 

Drifting away from the media noises, I have realized what a busy life we all had on a daily basis.  Most of us tend to prioritize our schedules to selectively focus on the main tasks and the media surveillance that we missed our attention to serendipitous information and the mindful process.  This digital detox was undoubtedly helpful in light of refreshing my busy thoughts and practicing my metacognition process, which is denoted as the act of thinking about thinking, despite the fact that the one-hour detox was somewhat challenging to go through as it was not previously attached to my daily/weekly habits.  

My usual routine is to fulfill my day with regular doses of tasks, goals, plans, and media consumptions.  Despite knowing that this information overload and my multitask habit (in fact is "switching task") are not mentally and physically healthy for me, I still find myself constantly relocate and reorient my focus on my main tasks over other things.  As how the author and other scholars avoid technological determinism, I also do not blame the digital media for this social norm of the always-on media routine.  Instead, it is critical for us to understand our brain mechanisms and manage our conscious attention in order to mindfully and effectively engage in the media practices and any other activities.  After all, I believe we can always use a good mental break on a daily/weekly basis to improve our focus and attentional process for more meaningful and mindful life. 

Lastly, I want to share some useful links in regards to the topic of how to practice executive control and pay attention to filter out media distractions:

♥ The Rosemary Life 

All content is Copyright  © 2016 The Rosemary Life by TTran ® All Rights Reserved.  Do not copy and republish content/images without the author's official permission. 

No comments