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What is Digital Minimalism?

What is a Digital Minimalism

“Digital Minimalism”: a book everybody should read.

Technology and cell phone use. Because our lives have become so dependent on utilizing both, this will be an on going conversation about how to use them wisely.

This is a topic I have written about before, and will probably write about again in the future. I was just re-reading my blog from two years ago about mindful cell phone use. I felt strongly about this topic then, but I’ve learned even more in the last two years and the more I learn, the stronger I feel about continuing to educate and increase awareness about the impact our technology driven lives is having on our health. That may sound dramatic.

Are our phones, iPads, laptops etc really affecting our health?

I believe so.

Through documentaries such as “The Social Dilemma” we are beginning to learn more about how our devices are programmed, and therefore programming us. It’s actually wiring our brain to want more-more “likes”, more games, more texts. How many times a day do you feel an urge to check your phone to see what notifications you have?

I imagine a large number of people are strongly addicted to their phones/technology, and the majority of the rest of us are at least somewhat addicted.

How could this not be affecting our health?

The mind and body are connected, so if something affects us mentally and emotionally, there is a physical component as well. When we don’t tend to our mental health, it is more likely to affect us physically.

I’ve experienced it myself and through my own digital detox I’ve seen a difference.

I was finding myself, especially at night, having trouble relaxing. For any that know me well, know that relaxed is my preferred state, so it was unusual for me to feel sort of revved up in the evenings. When it was time to sit down with my family, unwind, watch a show, my body just felt like it couldn’t relax like it used to. I started referring to it as feeling overstimulated, and I do believe that’s what it was.

The unlimited amount of information available to us can be great and helpful, but it can also be information overload and wildly over stimulating to our systems. I noticed I kept feeling a pull to check my phone, play a game on it, check email (for the millionth time), check Facebook, etc.

I didn’t even want to do those things, but felt compelled to and since I didn’t feel relaxed at least this distracted me. But it was affecting my sleep and I just didn’t like how it felt. As I started to realize that this was related to my own cell phone addiction, I began to take steps to change how I use my phone.

Because I had seen “The Social Dilemma”, I was aware of how my urge to check my phone was not unusual, but actually what the technology is designed to do. This sort of made me mad, and I didn’t like the idea of something controlling me so it added to my fuel to change my relationship to technology.

My family and I have a book club and I suggested a book called “Digital Minimialism:  Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport. All eight of us found this book interesting and useful.

We each had to look at how we use our phones and what works and maybe what doesn’t.

What we truly need and what we don’t.

I highly recommend this book to everybody I talk to about this topic. It’s really helpful in working through your own detox in order to become a digital minimalist. And I can tell you from my own experience, I rarely have that overstimulated feeling any more. And when I do, I can see that it’s because I’ve been on my phone too much.

Not everybody will experience technology overload the same way I did, but it’s important to be honest with yourself about how it may be impacting your life. It can affect sleep, mood, distractability, relationships (this could/should be a whole other blog topic about the frustrations with partners/spouses and their cell phone use).

When my nephew started his digital detox, he felt very tired and fatigued. When we talked about it, it sounded to me like a true detox. His system was so used to constant, or at least frequent, stimulation. His primary use of technology is gaming, and without that his body could finally rest and turn off.

I likened it to caffeine use. If you stop drinking coffee after having it daily, your body will need to adjust to not having that stimulant. By stepping away from gaming, my nephew was able to engage with friends more often and develop other hobbies like reading and woodworking.

This is a process and individual for everybody.

It’s not that my nephew will never play video games again, but he’s finding a way to do so mindfully and not be ruled by the urge to play.

I feel very passionately about this topic, if you have any questions or want to discuss further or could use help with your own digital detox, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Be well.

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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