In today’s ever-connected world, the plane is one of the few places where we get a few hours’ respite from our mobile phones. So is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Speaking as a psychologist, I have often noticed that our technological age seems to bring out ADD symptoms in many of us. Because we know that we can access instant entertainment just by picking up our phones, we often find it hard to concentrate on tasks that call for a period of sustained focus. I know that I often have that problem, and for that reason I have cherished plane travel, as it is one place where I can definitely concentrate better if I’m focusing on a task – because I know there is no point in reaching for my phone!
Struggling with being in the present moment.
Unless you go to a remote location, or indulge in a hobby that calls for remaining in the moment, I find that people have relatively few opportunities to be truly mindful on a daily basis. I even struggle with this myself at time while at the same time, as a psychologist, I know that taking the time to be mindful is very important for everyone’s well-being. It is certainly something that I often suggest to my clients. Among younger clients in particular, I have found that many really struggle to find the quiet space they need to focus on being mindful once in a while. They grew up with, and are used to having on hand at all times, technology that offers instant gratification. Because of this, they never really “switch off”, and use the little down time they allow themselves to have to mentally run through their to-do list, fret about things that might never happen, or agonise over things that happened in the past.
The Importance of a Quiet Space
We all need some time to just sit and think. To truly feel and process our emotions. All of this is therapeutic, in and of itself. In fact, it is one of the most productive ways in which we can spend our time. We’re all so busy that it can be hard to stay in the moment, but the reality is that, when we have a problem, spending a little time really, deeply thinking about it, and processing our emotional reactions to it, is a seriously good investment that will help us not just with problem-solving, but also with getting, and remaining, in touch with our emotions. We adults often tend to shut off our emotions and neglect to deal with them, compromising our ability to be genuinely intuitive. Children are naturally mindful, as they tend to reside in the present and the very near future, and not to fret constantly, as adults do, about the past and the distant future. Giving ourselves permission to really engage with ourselves in a quiet space allows us to tap into the quality of mindfulness that we once had in childhood.
The Unexpected Blessing of Having no Wi-Fi on Planes
Most of us spend so little time truly disconnected from our ever-present gadgets and the psychological tyranny of the media, I sincerely believe – as a person who suffers from gadget-dependence and as a psychologist – that we should cherish our rare opportunities to be offline for hours at a time. When we are flying, we are in a place apart from our everyday lives. We are literally above it all, and we are often not even in a specific time zone when flying. It is perfectly fitting for us to be offline, too. We can’t work, chat to our friends or browse our favourite news or gossip sites. We have no choice but to be in the here and now. I actually feel that it is a shame that now so many long-haul flights offer Wi-Fi, even if it does make working while we travel a great deal easier.
Choose to Disconnect!
I urge anyone who ever struggles with taking time out to actively choose not to connect to the Wi-Fi every now and again – whether or not they are in the air. The world won’t stop turning if you are offline for a few hours, and your mental health and well-being will be much the better for it. If necessary, sign up to a mindfulness group or an exercise class, or take yourself to a remote beach or mountaintop, and learn how to enjoy your life in the here and now. You will be glad you did!
(As I write, seated on a United Airlines flight, I am painfully aware that I will be able to post this article right away because of the Wi-Fi online. Oh, the irony! Thank you, @united!)
Who can I speak to further about the issues in this article?
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