Inside Yoga 236 (25/6/2018)
According to news reports last week the rise in addiction to online activities has become a medical problem with medical bodies such as the NHS providing support for this, and this problem is not going away but getting worse.
Computers and the internet was once seen as wonderful inventions which were going radically improve our lives, which in many ways they have, but these stories of addictions to the screen is a wake-up call that there is a time bomb ready to blow up in some people’s lives (and already has in many cases).
We can look at this story and feel it is someone else who is affected but like many things in life, we might not realise that we are becoming addicted ourselves? Just look at our habitual need to look and check our phones, tablets and computers more often than we need. And then ask ourselves, did we really need to spend so long on the screen? Often, the answer would be no, we spent longer than needed.
These stories were about the worst cases of addiction where health has been affected or the addiction has resulted in financial problems, especially from online gaming. Novelty becomes routine, which becomes habit then it becomes addiction. Do we really know how far we have travelled down the line of addiction?
The first step of learning how to control our own online/phone habits is to become aware of them. And to acknowledge them, in the same way Alcoholics Anonymous ask participants to say first “I am an alcoholic”. Now, I am not suggesting we are all addicted, but I do think many of us are not aware of what these wonderful hi-tech gadgets are doing to the way we live.
This is where skills learnt as a meditator and yoga practitioner come into their own, because our practice asks us to not only stop other activities such as checking our messages while practising but its practice asks us to look at ourselves and see how we can regain balance in our lives.
Yoga is always asking us to quieten things down, to reduce the mental chatter (the online chatter perhaps?), to calm the restless body and to focus on stillness. And if we have been at our screens too much we will notice how distracted and busy we are, and possibly tired.
Returning to yoga practice, regularly and often, is a simple way of reducing habits such as an addiction to our screens, because our practice is a good way of stopping these activities and simplifying things – and in the calm of practice we could see how we live.
While reading these stories my main thought was that these addicts who are struggling, especially the gamers, with examples that some will pee themselves rather than stop their game, will probably end up being given drugs to reduce their addiction. My next thought was that instead of drugs as a remedy to this addiction problem, a yoga practice, especially some meditation, is the solution.
And that is my thought for the day…and, the contradiction is not lost on me, that you have read this piece online because this technology has its uses, for good as well, but its learning how and when to use them which is important. And understanding and establishing a healthy relationship with them is the key.
To read newspaper reports about internet addiction, see https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/22/nhs-internet-addiction-clinic-london-gaming-mental-health
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