Taking Mindful Breaks

Picture this: it’s one in the afternoon, and you’re sitting in your ‘Burbs house with an hour to kill before class. You have a million assignments hanging over your head, but you don’t think you have enough time to start anything major. How are you going to fill your time? My best guess would be scrolling on your phone. I know this because it’s exactly what I would do.

I’m addicted to my cell phone. As much as I hate to admit it, I know it’s true. Honestly, I don’t even really enjoy it anymore. But with days full of mentally draining online lectures, the mind-numbing sensation of clicking on post after post is the only thing that even feels like a “break” anymore.

Let me explain. Whenever you’re given the choice to do something or to do nothing, it’s always easier to choose nothing. That’s why it’s so easy to choose your phone over your hobbies. Even though your hobbies are things you like doing, it still requires the choice to spend energy to do something. 

And that’s the beauty of the smartphone. You can fill as much or as little time as you want, whether it be a quick glance or an hours-long rabbit hole. All it takes is the click of the button and then you’re on your way, and when you’re done you simply put your phone down. It’s an at-your-fingertips dopamine hit that’s free, fun and easy. Even though you’re scrolling, you’re not really doing anything. Even though I have hobbies, I’ve hardly done them in years because of how quickly my time gets eaten up by my phone.

I used to think my excuse was that I didn’t have time to read, write, draw, take a walk or do just about anything. Now I realize that simply isn’t true. My screen time, like many other students, is around five or six hours a day. If you take out answering texts and emails, quick mental breaks and some late-night scrolling, that’s at least about four hours that I’m wasting throughout the day. That means I have a choice to make.

Instead of choosing my phone when I have an hour of down time, I am going to doodle. I am going to write a poem. I am going to play animal crossing, or do yoga, or bake box mix brownies. When I’m procrastinating homework, it feels counterproductive to use my energy to do a task that isn’t what’s due tomorrow. How could I possibly choose to make art when I need to be reading research articles? What I’ve realized is that if I’ve committed myself to “wasting” an hour on my phone to avoid schoolwork, I could just as easily spend that hour doing something I actually like. Once I get the hang of it, it’ll become part of my routine to choose things that make me happy over mindless scrolling.

I think this is something we could all get better at. Now that COVID-19 has us all spending more time alone, we all have the choice of how we’re going to spend our free time. I’m not saying that every second of your day has to be spent doing something productive. You don’t have to start a business or lose 20 pounds when you get a break. What I’m saying is that before you pick up your phone when you have an hour to kill, ask yourself, “Could I be doing something that makes me happy right now?” If scrolling on your phone would make you happy in that moment, then that’s great! But if you’re feeling a little bit like me, like a zombie who has given all of her time to her phone, I think it could be a good idea to put it down and do something else. If you’re not sure what your hobbies are, think back to what you did when you were twelve and start there. We might never go back to the carefree kids we were before social media was popular. But we owe it to those kids to do what we love again.

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