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Put Down Your Phone Posted on June 17, 2019

By Mental Health speaker, Matthew Johnstone

I have to admit I sometimes I feel like bit of a walking contradiction. A couple of my books have been on meditation and mindfulness; two ‘best friend’ practices that keep my life sane, balanced and for the most part, calm. 

If there was a Ying to my Yang it would have to be technology. I love it and loathe it equally. I have a website, an online shop and a blog I vaguely try to maintain, I also dabble in most aspects of social media.

I have to say a lot of my social media offerings makes me feel like an old guy in a night club, dancing badly while trying desperately hard to fit in.

As it is for many, technology has become an integral part of my life; everything I do is based around it.

A lot of it is absolutely brilliant but I swear it’s making us blunt, mentally tired, and more stressed.

The research would also suggest that we’re becoming increasingly addicted and it’s not doing much for our mental health.

Thanks to our ‘smart’ devices, we now know everything and yet know very little.

My phone can tell me how to spell, calculate numbers; it holds all my passwords and phone numbers so I don’t have to remember much. It reminds me of events and tells me how to get there. I can look up anything I don’t know.

Basically there is truth in the saying ‘Use it, or lose it!’ -  I know this to be so, because I just ‘Googled’ it.

Next time you’re on public transport or at the airport, do a quick stock take on how many around you are ‘zombie scrolling’ their phones. Sadly the art of conversation, day dreaming while looking out the window and god forbid - being bored; seem to be a thing of the past.

These technologies and the very clever apps that reside within them, are designed so that we keep coming back repeatedly and the only people who are truly benefitting are physiotherapists because we’ve all got rooted necks and shoulders. 

Next time you go to boot up the ‘Black Mirror’ of your phone (yes, that’s what the series is named after). Study your reflection and ask your ‘good’ self : ‘Is this best the use of my time? Am I really going to benefit from looking at other people’s holidays, achievements, clever kids and breakfast acai bowl?’  

Much of our self-esteem has become propped up by the dopamine hits from the external sources of likes, shares and comments. Each time we get an alert we also get a hit of cortisol, the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone. We become more anxious if we’re ‘unread’, not included or invited and then there’s the dreaded ‘k’ response.

Instead try replacing these iHabits with having an actual conversation, being in nature, being in the moment, reading a book, writing a book, creating some goals, having some fun with out having to record it. Next time you meet with a colleague, friend or partner; leave your device behind and you’ll literally be more ‘connected’. Don’t let your phone be the first or last thing you look at during your day, banish it from the bedroom, they’re not good for good sleep. Get an old school alarm clock and make your bedroom a sanctity for reading, the occasional bonk and rejuvenation. 

When I want to get stuff done I engage in a super simple app called Forest. I set a timer for how long I want to be productive for and if I don’t touch my phone for the set time I grow a tree. If I touch my phone, the tree dies – sad emoji. Once you get enough credits they plant a real tree somewhere in the world. How cool is that? 

Like anyone I struggle with finding the right balance but I’m getting better at turning it off, leaving it behind and keeping it out of the bedroom. My mental health and general concentration is grateful and less fizzy as a result.

As is with chocolate, alcohol, chips and binge watching TV shows – everything is good in moderation … including moderation.

Matthew Johnstone is an author and illustrator of 9 books many of which have been local and international best sellers. He is also a seasoned keynote speaker around mental health, resilience, stress and mindfulness. His work has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation, Edward de Bono, Stephen Fry and Google. If you'd like to know more about Matthew CLICK HERE or call us on 1300 55 64 69