Technology confronts all of us with many challenges to our well being, from dealing with the “always on” work patterns facilitated by mobile technology, to managing the fragmented global communities of social media. With the rate of change of digital culture unlikely to slow down any time soon, the exploration of how we can live with greater presence, meaning, and mindfulness in the technology age is more essential than ever.
Technology is not the answer, but neither is it the problem — what matters instead is awareness, engagement and wisdom. We see more and more software that combines cutting-edge technology with modern mindfulness, melding plugging in with unplugging. How can mindfulness mitigate technology’s downside and ensure that we get the most from our gadgets without succumbing to their potentially less healthy consequences? Here are four simple tools to improve our wellbeing and our minds:
GPS for the Soul
This is the Huffington Post’s answer to combining technology and stress reduction, a great passion of Arianna Huffington’s, as she is on the vanguard of the “Digital Health Revolution.” If you do nothing else, this app tells you once a day to check in with yourself, to help you relax and refocus. GPS for the Soul also has a built-in sensor to gauge your emotional state, which is another useful tool for tuning into your stress levels. If you want to go beyond a check-in or stress sensor reading, you can launch a guide from a myriad of choices, from a breathing exercise with Dr. Andrew Weil to a meditation with Mirabai Bush. The app also has a hypnotic visual breathing pacer as well as calming nature scenes and musical selections. You can even go social and see your friends’ activity or your own previous check-in results.
f.lux (free for Mac OX and Windows) adjusts the lighting of your computer screen to match the time of day, allowing you to move more in concert with natural rhythms, which has many advantages for your wellbeing. You can customize your night lighting (candle is lovely), brightness and transition speed, and you can also disable it for an hour at a time (and you may always brighten your screen back up). As technology and harsh lighting at all hours become more pervasive, our natural sleep cycles are being thrown off. This software is a pleasant reminder to become more quiet at night and more energized in the morning, leading to more productivity, better sleep (which is crucial to our health) and a healthier balance between connection and disconnection.
This is a meditation timer, featuring a simple, authentic array of bell chimes and the ability to connect with other meditators around the world. Set your desired duration and bell and you are ready to rock. You can save your presets and meditate with friends or even make new meditation buddies, bringing a sense of global community to your practice. And social accountability adds a layer of commitment that helps make new habits stick. Try Insight Timer for just two minutes today, and notice how you feel. This app brings new meaning to the words of Sharon Salzberg, a great meditation teacher, who said: “Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.”
This is Dr. Rick Hanson’s app based on his book by the same name. With over 50 simple contemplative practices, this app is a series of excerpts, complete with “How” “Why” and “Self-Care” sections, should you wish to delve deeper. Aside from the app’s beautiful icon image, Dr. Hanson provides a lovely counterpart app to his book and blog, where you can read a few sentences and try a simple practice, or learn more at your leisure. If you want learn more about neuroscience and meditation while also relaxing, check this app out. If you aren’t sure you want to commit, subscribe to Dr. Hanson’s “Just One Thing” newsletter to start.