The need for constant stimulation — the addiction of the 21st Century
What does your idea of taking a break include? Does it involve taking a break from external stimuli and giving your mind some time to rest and relax?
Spending some time alone with our thoughts, away from external stimulation shouldn’t be such a hard thing, right? Yet somehow it’s something we as a society seem to be struggling with due to the endless ways to keep ourselves entertained on our devices.
We have become almost terrified of spending gaps of time alone with ourselves, lest that we may become bored.
Whether we are waiting in a line, having food, or even in the bathroom, it seems many of us can’t simply resist the urge to use our phones.
So we jump from one activity to the next and desperately keep our minds engaged even if that means aimlessly scrolling through our phones looking to find something to amuse us.
The need for constant stimulation has become one of the biggest addictions today, but unlike other forms of addictions, it is socially acceptable since it’s become far too common in our society.
Dandapani, a Hindu monk, half-jokingly remarks in his Ted Talk, that the moment our phones beep, we immediately turn to it as if to go “Yes master, how may I serve you?”
Satisfying our urge for constant stimulation can come at a great price, whether we may consciously realise it or not.
It’s robbing us of our time to think and disturbing our mental clarity by cluttering up our mind with needless information. It’s affecting our productivity by diverting our attention.
It can also make it tough for us to slow down and savour life. And whether we would like to admit it or not, our need for stimulation affects our relationships and interactions with those right beside us.
But there are indeed some steps we can take to gain control and overcome the need for constant stimulation, so keep reading.
Rethink your perception of urges
Urges and cravings are like a stray cat – if you keep feeding them, they will keep coming back.
Therefore, to break free of the cycle of constant stimulation, we need to stop feeding the urges that compel us to seek mental stimulation without a break.
As I have explained in an earlier post, it’s important to note that all urges arise and pass away and tend to last no longer than 15 minutes.
While the urge arises, it can seem like the only way out is to give in and satisfy it. And that’s where the understanding that all urges, are temporary and will pass away can prove to be very helpful.
As blogger Leo Babuata of Zen Habits says “the urge isn’t anything urgent, isn’t a command, but rather just an interesting sensation that we can distance ourselves from.”
While day dreaming might have been a natural part of everyone’s lives not so long ago, today with our devices grabbing most people’s free time, it’s not something many engage in.
Day-dreaming tends to have a bad reputation, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes when we are day-dreaming. As boredom researcher Dr. Sandi Mann says,
“Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place.”
Studies indicate that when we are day-dreaming, we tap into an alpha brain wave state which is associated with heightened creativity and intuition.
Note : I wouldn’t suggest daydreaming while engaged in some task.
Having a practice of daily mediation is one of the most effective methods when it comes to dealing with urges and overcoming the need for constant stimulation.
Studies have shown that meditating for even as little as five minutes per day over just ten weeks thickens the size of the prefrontal cortex in our brain, which is associated with self-control and will power.
Let go of multi-tasking
Multi-tasking has become very common in our society and it would seem that it helps us to become more productive.
However, contrary to popular perception, studies indicate that our brains are not built for multitasking, and it impairs our ability to concentrate and decreases our productivity. What’s more, it also makes us more stressed and makes our heart rate and blood pressure go up.
Avoid the temptation to eat food and watch TV / use your phone by engaging all your attention on the taste of your food. Doing this will not only help you to savour your meal, but you will also find you will need to eat much less food to be satiated.
Track your time
Apps such as Usage Time on android show the duration of time spent on each application as well as the number of times you unlock your phone throughout the day.
For some of us the numbers may be startling and serve as a wake-up call, and using this app can help us to set targets on our desired screen time and track them.
Find alternative ways to give yourself a break
To give your mind some needed break every now and then, engage in some alternative methods to such as taking long walks, a power nap, doing deep breathing exercises, observing nature or taking a cold shower.
While cold showers can feel a little uncomfortable at first, it helps to put me in a relaxed state of mind, and it can also be invigorating.
Taking time for mental relaxation is absolutely necessary if we are to function at our best.
But slowing down and taking a mental break somehow doesn’t come naturally to us, and therefore it will require conscious effort to overcome our inner resistance to it.
However, the rewards for doing so, such as more energy, better mental clarity, productivity and peace of mind will make it well worth the effort.
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