A few years ago, University of Washington professor David Levy studied the effects of mindfulness meditation on multi-tasking. He trained his subjects, human resource managers in Seattle and San Francisco, for eight weeks in mindfulness meditation. Those who learned the techniques tested with lower stress levels and switched tasks less often.
Now Levy is applying these methods to our digital culture.
“Our lives are so powerfully digital, it can be hard to let go of a device even when we recognize we’re not doing anything productive with it,” Levy said, speaking to KUOW's Ross Reynolds.
“Our minds have a natural tendency to wander. We all have the ability to focus on one thing or another, but keeping it on a particular object of focus generally requires training,” Levy writes in his new book, “Mindful Tech.”
In it, he guides the reader through a series of exercises to become more conscious of how we use technology and to even try unplugging from it.
So what if we trained ourselves to focus on email rather than be annoyed by it? Or noticed how we felt after floating around on Facebook for an hour?
“Let’s investigate for ourselves when such states are healthy and productive and when they’re not. There’s not one rule that works for everybody,” Levy said. “The work of mindfulness is to actually pay attention to what’s happening to your mind and body when you’re online. Sometimes those states are quite beautiful and healthy, and sometimes they’re not.”