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tree in field nature reduce screen time

How to Reduce Screen Time for Adults:
A Yogic Perspective

A more comprehensive article on various other forms of addiction is available in our article on the “spiritual” benefits of abstinence.

How Adults Can Limit/Reduce Their Screen Time: A Self-Awareness Approach

A self-awareness approach to reducing screen time, phone usage, and blue light exposure—and changing your habits/self (so you can spend more time on meaningful goals/projects). 

There are simple actions we can take to reduce our screen time which are worth testing. As examples, we could simply delete the apps upon which we spend our most time that we know serve no meaningful purpose in our lives (and even make us feel worse about ourselves.), or we could make these apps less accessible by storing them on page two/three and/or in app folders. Or we could render our phone interface in grayscale, effectively making our phone screen less compelling. However, these (and other) methods are easily reversible unless accompanied by a mindful commitment to spend less time and attention on technological devices or, preferably, more time/attention on meaningful goals and projects—rather than frittering away hours of time unthinkingly glued to a screen (and dealing with the consequences of excessive blue light exposure, especially at night).

A mindfulness-informed perspective on excessive screen time emphasizes becoming aware of your motivations when you find yourself automatically (and unthinkingly) reaching for a screen (e.g., phone, TV, tablet, etc.): the mere use a screen is not as destructive as the instinctive reliance on a screen to avoid unwanted thoughts and painful emotions, and including the very people/situations that produce these unwanted thoughts and feelings—such as the discomfort that accompanies having “nothing” to do. Become aware of instinctive reaching for your phone/screen (either in thought or in deed) is not intellectual, but is rather become acquainted with what it feels like to want your phone/screen. “Awareness” in yoga is not intellectual. (And in yoga, self-awareness is self-transcendence.)

As we become accustomed to protecting ourselves against our anxieties with mindless habits, we also become increasingly intolerant of discomfort. While instinctively reaching for our phone/screen may allow us to avoid particular anxieties (including the anxious experience of boredom/nothing or craving), it simultaneously reinforces our inability to remain with discomfort. As our avoidance behaviours become more entrenched—as they become a part of our instinctive self—they prevent us from pursuing our most meaningful goals and projects, which often require experiencing the discomfort associated with personal growth and the cultivation of qualities that personal growth demands, including fearlessness, resilience, self-acceptance, self-confidence, connection, creativity, etc.

Mindfulness is a tool of self-awareness. By becoming aware of the ways in which our attention is habitually and automatically pre-occupied, we become aware of our habits before we are consumed by them. Mindfulness meditation helps us to cultivate the capacity to remain with our unwanted thoughts and painful emotions so that our lives aren’t determined by (avoiding) them.

 

We are then able to think clearly, seriously, and carefully about how we are spending our limited time/attention. We are better able to identify our own intrinsic motivations and values (and needs) so that we might re-allocate time (hours and hours of our screen time) to pursuing meaningful projects. We are better positioned to spend more time making connections with those who share similar interests (a generally underrated approach to finding opportunities in this digital age). We can spend more time developing new skills that are related to our motivations (feeling more capable and confident as a result). And, as difficult as this might seem, we spend less time focused on what we lack, and more time focused on our contributions and productive qualities. Notice that we are not emphasizing focusing on what you should reduce/limit/lower/cut/decrease/minimize in your life, but rather on what you can pursue/gain/obtain and how you can expand/grow. This begins with becoming aware of how you are spending your time (including your screen time) right now. 

trees nature reduce phone usage
While instinctively reaching for our phone may allow us to avoid particular anxieties (including the anxious experience of boredom/nothing), it simultaneously reinforces our inability to remain with discomfort. As our avoidance behaviours become more entrenched—as they become a part of our instinctive self—they prevent us from pursuing our most meaningful goals and projects...

Further Reading

This article about how adults can reduce screen time is a part of the Yoga Practice section of our Essential Guide to “Spiritual” Yoga, which also contains a comprehensive guide to the purpose of meditation in traditional yoga.

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