I am a complete beginner in my mindfulness journey, and I already feel like I am learning so much about myself, about today’s culture, and the way we program our brains in a manner that encourages stress.

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t believe my experiences are unique. I’ve learned I don’t know how to simply BE. I’ve allowed my brain to get addicted to constant input- but it’s not even valuable input. It’s junk knowledge.

I was listening to The Minimalists recently and they said “Scrolling is the new smoking.”

Wow- let that sink in.

What value do I get from scrolling on my phone? Other than the immediate pleasure centers of my brain lighting up, feeling more secure that I’m not missing out on anything? Except by constantly scrolling, I am missing out on everything around me.

Now, I’m not trying to say aimless scrolling on phones is going to give us all cancer, but I do believe there are detrimental mental effects. I know I feel more agitated and restless on the days I spend more time consuming social media. It’s easy to lose large chunks of the day. It’s easy to compare my failures to everyone else’s highly curated (and fake) instagram life.

Now wait, you may say, I don’t sit on my couch for hours at a time staring at my phone. I know- neither do I. But every pick up adds up, 15 minutes at a time. And I also acknowledge I may be more phone-addicted than others.

It’s good to be bored

While I don’t use my phone while I’m driving, I find myself reaching for it at every red light. An urge to check it for notifications, to do a quick scroll through my favorite apps while I’m just sitting there. “Just sitting there” has become uncomfortable as my brain has been trained for a steady stream of input. I’ve taken to putting my phone in harder to reach places to force myself to reacquainted with boredom and stillness.

This is awkward and uncomfortable to admit. But surely I can’t be the only person like this!

Boredom is where creativity has a chance to come forward. Constantly entertaining our brains keeps them from resting, from idea generating. And I do believe this because my best ideas come in the shower or while washing dishes- both times where I cannot have my phone.

Don’t get me wrong- I love my phone and I’m not advocating getting rid of it. It keeps me organized, it keeps me in communication with others, among many other benefits. Instead I am spending more time examining my relationship with my phone.

Stillness as a practice

I’ve started a meditation practice and while I am completely terrible at it right now (I still can’t make it to 10 breaths without my mind wandering and losing count) I am already feeling positive benefits. Giving myself a daily space to sit quietly and non-judgmentally observe my thoughts and feelings has me already feeling less anxiety. It’s like exercise for your brain, and it’s okay to be a beginner with lots of room for improvement.

And as I get more and more used to the stillness, I hope it encourages me to rely on my phone for mental stimulation less and less.

There is no bad place to be in a mindfulness journey. Everyone has a starting point, and there is no end goal. Just a path to walk that is different for everyone. Your journey will look nothing like mine, will look nothing like anyone else’s.

silhouette of 3 kids in the sunset, by jen snyder

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