1st December 2016

Happy December! I hope you have a wonderfully festive month and enjoy lots of great food and time with loved ones. Today's offering will question your use of technology and offer some tips on avoiding a noisy mind from a techno overload!

Reading time: 5 mins

“Are you using technology, Or is technology is using YOU?”

In an ideal world, modern technology would be making lives easier on all fronts. Unfortunately it’s created a few unforeseen problems that we are struggling with. Technology has made us inactive and sent our minds into overdrive!

I once learned about the Amish and their reluctance to adopt the car into their lives. They favour the horse and cart because they believe in taking their time, not letting machines quicken the pace of life. This is just as important for the gadgets we use everyday.  

On another note, they also say that when a car is beyond repair you have to buy a new one, with horses you just breed another one! Perhaps something worth thinking about?

Technology develops so much faster than we appreciate and it’s only going to get faster. Are we equipping children and adults with the skills they need to manage their use of technology? I don’t think so and I’m concerned about its impact on our declining mental health.

For many years now I’ve been on a quest to understand what’s going on in my head. Behavioural and evolutionary psychology fascinates me, but these are mere intellectual pursuits. My practical education of the mind came from meditation. Without meditation I was unlikely to understand the complexity of my unique psyche.

When I sat in silence for ten days straight my mind was transformed. Without any human or technological distraction, I gave it a chance to see what was going on in there. I saw how reactive and self defeating my mind was at times. And I saw through all the lies I’d been telling myself for years. 

I realised that my self defeating thoughts were holding me back. So I made a promise to myself that I would continue to work and go back for one ten day course a year. The benefit of all this work is a more peaceful mind. A less reactive mind that no longer derails all my attempts to be healthy. 

  Credit: James Ford   Where I first learnt to meditate!

Credit: James Ford

Where I first learnt to meditate!

Since being more in tune with my mind and my habits, I’m much more aware of how I use technology. A few years ago when I went to live in Italy and I decided to leave all my tech behind. It became a two month techno detox I’ll never forget. I lived on a farm, working on the land and in the kitchen. I spent lots of time eating, chatting and star gazing. There was no TV or internet just a few books and lots of people coming and going.

When I returned home it didn’t take long to go back to old habits. Clearing emails, catching up with Whatsapp and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook! Despite my detox and education in the mind, I was still reaching for my phone whenever I was on my own.

Smartphones and social media seem to be just as addictive as processed food, drink and drugs! We have become hooked on technology and it’s all due to this:




 And this:

 That’s   Dopamine   by the way, also known as the feel good drug of the brain!

That’s Dopamine by the way, also known as the feel good drug of the brain!

The giants at Silicon Valley have spent a lot of money on hiring behavioural psychologists to work with software engineers. These apps are designed to make us feel good and keep us hooked! What do you get when you combine great design with devices that are never far away? A breeding ground for powerful habits. 

When we feel down or bored we go to our smartphones for our fix of dopamine. To keep us hooked we're notified by apps with frequent buzzes and tings. Add this to emails, text messages and phone calls and we create a chaotic and busy mind. Spending all day reacting to our smartphone frazzles the mind and takes up so much of our attention.

“To a mind that is still,
the whole universe surrenders.”
— Lao Tzu


Once we're conscious of your tech addiction and the negative effects, we need a strategy to tackle it. Here are a few tricks I’ve developed:

Tip #1 - Disable, detach and disconnect

When was the last time you spent more than a day without a smartphone? Maybe you’ll benefit from a techno detox like I did? If that’s not possible then start to disconnect once every day. I’ve come to love the aeroplane mode, could it become your friend too?

I learnt that smartphones in pockets reduce sperm count, so I switched my phone on aeroplane mode a bit more. It also helped me avoid roaming charges when I was travelling. Since then I’ve used it to increase productivity and to be more present with family and friends. If I want quality time with someone, I don’t want to hear the rings, dings and tings!

Your friends and family need you to be there for them, not preoccupied with something else. This trick will improve your listening skills, an investment worth making.

Tip #2 - which apps do you want pestering you


As a rule I have notifications turned off, with a few useful exceptions of course. Apps will pester you all day if you let them, reminding you that something wants to say hello and give you a little dopamine boost. A boost that makes your subconscious feel good for a second but then just leaves it hanging, craving for a little more!

I want to live life on my terms, I don't want to be at the whim an algorithm! I’ve worked hard to reduce my mind’s reactivity and I don’t want to invite it back in again.

Tip #3 - using tech against tech

To be more productive and less reactive online I use apps that help me stay on task. A few of my favourites are Momentum, Facebook news feed eradicator, and Distraction Free YouTube. These reduce the likelihood that I'll get distracted from the task in hand.

You can even pay for services that lock out websites of your choice for a specific period of time.

Tip #4 - Learn to meditate

The answers we seek never come when our mind is busy, they come when silence speaks loudest.

The benefits of meditation are hard to ignore. So get down to the local Buddhist centre or download an app like HeadSpace. Or go sit in your local church or park and close your eyes for an hour. It doesn’t matter how you learn or what you learn, you will find a method that works for you.

I benefited from committing to long retreats and they had a lasting impact on my mind. But for others this might be too much, so start small and build up.

Tip #5 - Run away

Sell all your tech and go live inside a cabin in the woods!

I hope you enjoyed these tips, if you have any of your own, why not share them with me. I’d love to hear how others manage their use of technology in a healthy and wholesome way.

A few more resources:

Missed the last blog on anxiety and technology? 

Want to learn more about how tech giants keep you locked in? Check out Hooked by Nir Eyal.

As ever, thanks for taking the time to read my work and I sincerely hope it provides you with the insight you need to become healthier and happier.

Your feedback is always welcome, so don't be shy and don't forget to forward this email onto friends and loved ones. The healthier we all are, the better the world will be, for everyone.

All the best

James @