Digital Mindfulness

Making a difference via social media

Although I study marketing and public relations, I somehow managed to get accepted into a closed Facebook group run by occupational therapy students called “The Mental Health and Happiness Project”. To summarise, the group acts as a community forum, where members share articles relating to mental health and happiness. There are posts on topics such as understanding anxietycaring for ‘sad’ people ,  autism and animal therapies and glamorised soup kitchens . There are also posts on chickens, more chickens, even more chickens, and my personal favourites, the memes.

 

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This group has created an environment that cultivates empathy, support and compassion. As someone who is not supposed to be a part of the group -and is currently laying low- I still feel so much pleasure in checking notifications from this group. Sometimes it’s not even the content, it’s the concept of ‘happiness sharing’ and this community of positive thinkers.

I belong to various groups on Facebook where we like, share, comment and laugh at each other’s posts. Albeit not of a mindfulness topic, they create a warming sensation of belonging and acceptance, which, according to Wendy Zukerman is closely linked to happiness.

So if we can promote happiness through social media groups, then why aren’t there more groups like this?

Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a mass of studies that encourage social media in encouraging happiness among users.

We fail to acknowledge that for many people, using Facebook is a gratifying experience that can even lessen depression” (Tandoc, Ferrucci and Duffy 2015)

The paper provides case studies of people experiencing mental health problems who are using social media as part of their recovery, to live well and to challenge stigma. […] many people are using social media for peer support, shared learning and to decrease isolation” (Betton and Tomlinson 2013).

We did not find evidence supporting a relationship between SNS [social networking sites] use and clinical depression” (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno 2013)

While some researchers argue otherwise

media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety (Becker, Alzahabi and Hopwood 2013).

“‘media amplification’ has been used to explain post-traumatic stress responses […] with media exposure even more strongly associated with stress than direct exposure” (Goodwin et al. 2015).

higher amounts of personal social media usage led to lower performance on the task, as well as higher levels of technostress and lower happiness[…]. These results suggest that the personal usage of social media during professional (vs. personal or play) times can lead to negative consequences” (Brooks 2015).

It is a scientific debate that has taken place since the dawn of social media.

In accepting the facts presented by studies both for and against, I would suggest that the use of social media is equally destructive as it is invigorating; it is intent that differentiates our online experience.

In this way, social media opens a huge avenue for promoting mindfulness, gratitude and happiness, IF done in the correct manner.

And if that means sharing weird chicken videos, then count me in, let’s use technology for the better!

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Meditation in the 21st Century

When we tell ourselves to be happy, it more than likely ends up having the opposite effect. It brings with it pressure, which can lead to stress, which is definitely, not happiness.

So how can we make ourselves happy?

According to studies by O’ Leary and Dockray (2015) and Khanna and Greeson (2013), mindfulness is one of many practices that increases happiness and thus overall well-being.

*Mindfulness: the intentional and nonjudgmental awareness of all thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur in the present moment (O’ Leary and Dockray 2015).*

I like to think of mindfulness as the meditation of the 21st century. It’s not sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat overlooking the rolling waves of the ocean; it’s time we take to remove ourselves from our emotions. This can take place in different forms: from cooking, running and swimming to painting, writing and cleaning. In fact, I find one of my most meditative states is in the shower. These mindfulness practices should be done somewhere without human interaction. A place where the only dialogue is internal. Talk to yourself but more importantly listen to what you have to say.

Ask yourself questions.

A really great practice I learned from the Headspace App, is reflective questions.

Close your eyes, take a breath. In your mind ask, ‘How are you feeling today’ as if asking someone next to you.
Now let your mind be silent. Imagine floating. And without pressure, let your mind visually show you the answer.
Don’t shape the answer, don’t be ashamed of the answer, don’t suppress the answer, don’t try and interpret the answer. Let it rest there.

You can do this (eyes open) while you’re running, while you’re on your way to work or while you’re in the shower.

And once you know these answers, you can begin to understand not only why you feel this way, but also how to change it. Eckhart Tolle describes this interaction of your mind and your thoughts as a higher evolution of humanity and the foundations of enlightenment.

Finding a way to meditate is easy.
Be productive: work-out, create, clean.

And by doing these activities each day, with the intent to meditate, you will find happiness. It’s scientifically proven.

References

Khanna, Surbhi and Jeffrey M. Greeson. 2013. “A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction”. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 21 (3): 244-252. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.008.

O’Leary, Karen and Samantha Dockray. 2015. “The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being”. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 21(4): 243-245. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0119.