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How to Manage your (Personal) Life in a Digital Age

Published on 05/13/2016

In a world of constant “infotoxication” how can we manage our life without neglecting body and mind? David M. Levy, Professor at the University of Washington Information School, life coach and author of “The Mindful Tech” gives us a few ideas.

Why did you write this book?

I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time how to live in a fast world and manage it with a slow life – as someone who meditates - and learn to make better connections between body and mind, professional and personal life. This book tries to link the two worlds, it addresses a recurring problem in today’s society.

You’ve said we tend to forget we have a body when we’re online. Do you have any tips to help us remember?

We must learn to be more observant of ourselves! Your body tells you what’s happening on the inside and what you should do next even when you’re online. If you feel a pain in your neck, it’s because you’re not sitting in the right position – and we all do that. That’s one of the reasons yoga classes are so popular! We lose our body in so many ways in our digital lives. We live in a disembodied culture and the challenge has become how to get back into the present. In my classes one of the most basic things we work on is the importance of breathing. I also teach physiology basics: if you’re not sitting properly you’re not necessarily respiring correctly and the whole body will rapidly become depressed. 

Do you have a recipe for not getting overwhelmed by digital information overload?

I teach an exercise called mindful checking. It’s all about being aware of the quality of breathing, emotional state, tensions and how comfortably we are positioned. Simply being able to observe oneself will help to change small things that will improve our everyday lives. Also, learn to train your mind to stay in the present; when the mind is unaccustomed it wanders back to the past it can be very hard to stay connected to the moment.

How do you train your brain to stay in the present?

In my “Information and Contemplation” course (I’ve been teaching it for 10 years at the University of Washington) the least complicated exercise is simply breathing and paying attention to inhaling and exhaling. The other part is knowing where you want to be right now. Combining attention with intention gives you the ability to improve and the more you train yourself, the easier it will be. For me the single biggest lesson of all is recognizing the triggers that cause complicated emotions, whether inside ourselves or online. A recent study shows that there are two emotions that lower the quality of time spent online, boredom and anxiety. Once you start noticing that which motivates these feelings you’ll be able to react and change.

Are you on socal media?

No I’m not. Although I’m online most of the time I’ve never even been on Facebook. I have an iPad, an iPhone, all of the tools, yet since 25 years I’ve been giving myself one day every week in which I totally abstain from being online. People are talking more and more about having a digital Sabbath, quality time unplugged.

 

The Mindful Tech, by David M. Levy (Yale University Press)

 

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