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Mindfulness and Technology: Friends or Enemies?

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Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword or a fad. Research has shown the positive impact of Mindfulness-based interventions on well-being and performance. Mindfulness means being present, fully engaged in the present moment in a non-judgmental way by being aware of our emotions, bodily sensations, and thoughts. When we practice it, we are intentionally using the mind to improve our mind.
Mindfulness and technology seem to be opposites. On the one hand, Mindfulness entails the faculty of voluntarily bringing back wandering attention and focusing, that are the drivers of excellence. On the other hand, it has been said that technology is driving us to distraction and the Internet is making us dumber.
Statistics show that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds now. Losing focus and multitasking can decrease our performance and well-being.
We work with high tech laptops, we live with high tech phones full of appealing high tech apps: this constantly drives our attention away from what we are doing or feeling. We are living in a world overwhelmed by information and saturated with appealing distractions.

What if we could make friends with technology and use it to help us in our challenge to be more mindful?

This is a real challenge: mindfulness can help people change their disruptive habits, above all the most unhelpful ones. For example, if you easily get distracted, or stuck on automatic pilot, mindfulness can help you become more present. But is it possible to do so using a tool (a smartphone) that often distracts us?
Can technology be used mindfully? Can digital design create products that allow us to become more mindful? In order to tackle these wicked problems (i.e. highly complex and multi-level),we need a human-centered approach to innovation like Design Thinking.
Is an essential and innovative process. It can help create products that remind us to be aware, to step out of the autopilot and engage in what we are doing. A lot of people think that Mindfulness is not for them, because they believe they don’t have the time or that it is a spiritual practice. Digital technology can allow these people to gain the benefits of Mindfulness using the devices which are part of their life, letting go the misunderstandings about this practice.
Smartphones can teach us mindfulness as well as enhance our practice. There are apps for one-minutes meditations or for guided meditation. Other apps are meant to help people eat mindfully and maintain healthy habits. Moreover, there are apps that help people remember to be more present in an everyday situation, like brushing their teeth or washing the dishes.

Modern life tools are not necessarily “our enemies” in the search for improving wellbeing and performance. Actually, if used wisely and mindfully, they can become our helpers.

We can design a modern Mindfulness for all.

Antonella Buranello and Gaia Gottipavero

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