FOMO, in case you don’t know, is Fear Of Missing Out. And I think that’s what I would get when I don’t have my phone to hand. It started creeping up on me, this need to keep checking my phone, over the last couple of years.
It looked a little bit like this;
- going out with a friend, keeping my phone on the table and checking it. For no particular reason.
- reaching for my phone whenever I had to wait; at the dentist, for my takeaway, in the supermarket queue, when my kids were coming out of school.
- doing work at home in the evening, important work – with a deadline, but also joining in chats about my favourite crisps from the 1980s on Twitter.
- reading a bedtime story and checking if the Boots online sale had started at the same time.
I had to do something about it.
Through my growing self development and my learning and development of mindfulness I’ve been able to live a little differently. I’ve previously been very smug about my mindful moments and meditation but wasn’t able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Mindfulness involves being actively engaged in your surroundings. This means participating in an event or whatever you are doing and being aware of what is happening around you, whether it be on the bus, at a café, or in a queue. It’s also about being able to sit with and accept whatever emotions come up. It’s the ability to sit with that initial uncomfortable feeling of perhaps not knowing what to do without the crutch of your phone and recognise it and realise that it will pass and that you don’t need to escape it.
The worst thing is that my kids saw me with my phone far too much. I’m already concerned about their screen time, both now and in their future. I don’t want their brains to be overstimulated and overloaded, chasing images and them being unable to just be happy sitting – sitting in their own skin, their own thoughts and in their own interesting boredom. I need to be their role model and teacher.
So this is what I am doing….
Making a decision to NEVER check my phone when I am talking to, having a drink with or out with a friend. It is incredibly rude and there is no excuse.
Waiting and being alone. And being OK with this. THIS IS THE BEST BIT! I now love waiting. Well that’s not always true, I don’t want to go over the top, but I do appreciate the time since deciding to use it as opportunity to be a bit more mindful. So, at the dentist I just sit, have a couple of moments to just check in with how I’m feeling, be aware of my environment and relax. Its a little treat to just have this few minutes with absolutely nothing to do. The first few times I did this it felt a bit odd. I sometimes noticed that I was alone in actually not looking at my phone. I felt a bit ‘exposed’ without the barrier of being engaged in something, open to anything or anyone. But now I look and listen; at my surroundings, the sky, the traffic, the people (admittedly people watching is my favourite but I need to try to do it more discreetly, especially now I am not using my phone as a cover). I feel; the breeze against my face, the rhythm of my breath, my shoulders relax. I think (about how I am feeling, about my beautiful family, about the creative ideas I have (hmmmm, still working on this one) and I watch these thoughts pass.
Talking to more people. I need a connection with others. Since I’ve not reached for my phone in the supermarket queue or when picking up the children from school, I’ve talked to more people. Yesterday I complimented a woman on her boots in Tescos and we ended up sharing shoe inspiration and laughing together. I chatted to a new parent in the playground and discovered a shared interest in flooring (admittedly mine only fleeting, hers career based). Now, I’m fully aware that some people get out their phones so they don’t have to talk to people. On public transport for example, it gives the signal that you’re busy and therefore shouldn’t be disturbed. But an openness to engage with others can start chance encounters, magical stories and just fuel that need for human connection. Even a smile can make a difference (and you can’t do that when your head is down looking at your phone).
Putting my phone away or turning it off at times. I started off with an hour after I get up and an hour before I got to bed. This was a tricky one at first. I would do it, but then have a look at my tablet or laptop therefore completely defeating the object. So what I did was actually put them away. In a drawer. This was good – out of site, out of mind. I felt a great sense of freedom. So I put them all in a bag and chucked them in Trittiford Lake. Only joking about the last bit – I’m not mad. But some days I leave my phone at home (ok mostly accidentally, but I can cope and often feel that same sense of freedom).
Having a good start to the day. I’m trying, to make sure that, as much as possible, I develop a morning ritual that makes a positive start to the day. Admittedly this is work in progress. I’m not checking my phone but haven’t quite got to the stage of yoga, stretching, meditation and preparing a healthy breakfast. I’m at a happy medium at the moment. I am happy to cuddle my little boy when he creeps into our bed at ridiculous o clock, I have a couple of minutes to positively affirm the day ahead and I do one sun salutation before toast and coffee. Small steps and all that.
Reading. When I go for a coffee or to lunch alone, I really enjoy sitting and reading a book or a newspaper. But I notice that I’m sitting and reading. And I notice that this is making me happy. And if its a week day when people are working, I feel especially lucky to be able to sit in a warm coffee shop, just sitting and reading and feeling happy. And noticing it.
It feels good. Fancy joining me?