More than 1,000 mindfulness and meditation courses are available to us in the UK today. Some of the key reasons people turn to this ancient Buddhist discipline are to tackle problems of stress, anxiety and insomnia – all issues which some people claim are symptoms of our constantly ‘switched on’ society.
The jury’s still out over whether these 21st Century ailments are caused by the rise of social media, mobile phone technology and our increasingly accelerated culture. But many high profile influencers - from Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington to the late Steve Jobs – all praise it for being an essential survival tool within our increasingly hectic lifestyles.
Rohan Gunatillake, founder of the buddhify meditation app, is a mindfulness expert who says we don’t need to reject the accelerated digital culture to protect our psychological wellbeing.
But rather he says, we need to use mindfulness to enable us to interact with it in a healthy and positive way. Here, he shares the key five reasons for practising mindfulness and meditation in the age of the accelerated world.
1. Keeping up on the inside
There’s no doubt that it feels like the world is getting faster. It seems like every day there’s a new app we just have to try, a new video to share, or a new global news story to get our heads around. Then there’s our email inbox. Like it or not, this rate of change is only going to get worse.
What mindfulness helps us do is build up the inner resources we need to deal with these challenges of the outside world. If life on the outside is changing and we don’t do anything about it, that’s when we struggle. If we anchor our inner lives, we will deal with the speed of events around us much more effectively.
2. Dealing with distraction
Whatever our particular information vices are - be it social media, blogs or news - there is effectively, an infinite amount of it out there to distract us. This is not so great when we’re at work and we just need to ‘get stuff done’. Meditation helps us train our attention so it stays where we want it to be by building up neural pathways associated with better concentration. It also helps us develop our self-awareness and how we react to potential distractors, so that we catch the mind moving away from where we want it to be, much earlier in the process.
3. Managing stress and anxiety
A lot of anxiety is related to us constantly going over things that have happened, or worrying about things that are yet to happen. Mindfulness helps us focus on what is actually happening, therefore helping us gain some space from these difficult thoughts.
With the help of meditation and awareness techniques, we are able to better distinguish between thought patterns and concrete reality. It can take time to develop this discipline but eventually, it allows us to handle difficult situations in a more logical manner and therefore reduce our levels of anxiety and stress.
4. Getting to sleep
Over the course of a day we build up a lot of mental momentum and having such an active mind can make going to sleep really challenging. By using various mindfulness techniques, we can learn to move our attention away from the machinations of our thoughts and into the relative peacefulness of the body. We can also work directly with our thoughts so that they lose their hold over us. The result is better sleep patterns, or at least, a balance and acceptance when it comes to our sleeping patterns.
5. Changing our relationship to technology itself
There is a common misconception that the only way to be mindful when it comes to technology is to turn everything off. Taking a break from our devices can be very useful.
But our lives are now so dependent on all things digital, that the only sustainable way forward is to learn how to evolve our relationship with our devices so that they are actually supportive of our wellbeing. By adopting some basic mindfulness techniques, we can be in control of the accelerated world, rather than it being in control of us.