“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
In today’s world, it can be a challenge just to enjoy the individual moments of our lives. Information overload from tweets, status updates, the TV, and emails, combined with the constant stress of work and personal life, make it a challenge to stay in the now. We’re flooded with information everywhere from the subway station to the grocery store. In 1976 there were just 9000 products in the average grocery store. Today, that number is over 40,000. It’s a sign of the times: a day and age where information overload is everywhere.
The average person today takes in five times as much information as the average person in 1986 did. And we have not evolved to handle this influx of information.
Information overload can cause everything from headaches to anxiety to simply making It impossible to focus on what we’re doing. Being happy, productive, and successful means dealing with information overload. Mindfulness is one solution.
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment and focusing on what we are doing, without judgment.
Here are 5 mindfulness tips that help stop the damage of information overload.
1: Set aside time to just be
Our daily schedules usually consist of work, family time, and chores like making dinner, cleaning up and so on. We’re constantly doing something. And when we’re not working, we’re usually watching TV, checking our emails, or surfing the internet. In other words, there is next to no time in which we are just being.
It is important to remember to set aside time when we are not doing anything other than simply being.
Sitting in the garden watching the birds; listening to the waves at the beach; taking a walk through nature; these are wonderful ways to live in the present moment and to just be. Activities like these offer moments of mindfulness, which are like little holidays for the mind. These moments restore mental balance and give us a chance to destress.
So the simplest and most effective mindfulness tip is this: just be.
Meditation is arguably the best way to deal with information overload.
Information overload means having too much information entering the mind. Meditation means focusing on one isolated thing for an extended period. In other words, meditation is the opposite of information overload, and because of this is offers a powerful remedy.
But kind of meditation is best for beating information overload?
Essentially, any focused meditation (a meditation in which we are focused on one isolated thing) will help counteract the effects of information overload.
For beginners, the best kind of meditation is breathing meditations. Simply spend twenty minutes focusing on the breath as it moves through the body. This quietens the mind, increases focus and removes all that unnecessary information.
According to the Nielsen Company, the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming media, and the figures are similar elsewhere around the world.
Simply put, the majority of us are suffering from screen addiction, and this is the number one cause of information overload.
Turning off all screens, if only for a short while, is a fantastic way of giving the mind a break. When we turn off the screens we escape the constant stream of news and stories, and we give the mind a chance to slow and to heal.
This can be a challenge depending on our lifestyle. For some people, work responsibilities make it literally to go without the internet for a whole day. The good news is that even if we can only manage a few hours of time away from the screens we will reap the rewards. For maximum benefit, the National Sleep Foundation recommends turning off all screens for at least one hour before bed. This reduces cortisol and helps the brain to produce melatonin, which is essential for a healthy night’s sleep.
4: Find ways to make the internet more Zen
In 2017, the internet is responsible for the majority of information overload. Constant access to the internet means we are never far away from the deluge of stories, status updates, tweets, and emails. Turning off all devices is the natural solution, but oftentimes this just isn’t possible.
When we do need to be online, we can be proactive and make the internet more Zen. For instance, there are apps like Facebook Purity that we can use to customize social media. These apps let us remove unnecessary parts of social networks, effectively removing many of the sources of information overload. Then there are apps that can block certain sites for a period of time (for instance, the Chrome extension Stay Focused). And there are apps to remove images, videos, and so on.
By being proactive we can remove unhealthy aspects of the internet and make our online lives much more Zen.
5: Do we really need to check the cell phone while watching TV while reading that magazine while…?
Individual activities, like checking our emails, can be a cause of information overload. Things get far worse when we multi-task. If watching the TV is bad, then watching the TV while checking the cellphone while reading a magazine is far worse.
Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and a leading authority on divided attention, says we are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”
This constant jumping from one thing to the next means the mind is never at rest, and we’re never really focused. When we multi-task, all we’re doing is training the mind to be erratic and restless.
One of the best mindfulness tips, then, is to simply do one thing at a time. Fine, check the email, but just check the email. Do that one thing, then move on to the next.
These mindfulness tips are simple and healthy ways of dealing with information overload.
Getting a handle on information overload is imperative to our mental health and happiness. The key is to focus on what matters, to do one thing at a time, and to take moments to just be.