There're a cracking article in Conference News that talks about the benefits of mindfulness in the office. This extract tees up the problem nicely:
More of us than ever are suffering with mental health problems, often feeling constantly exhausted, highly stressed and stuck in a rat race that we don’t want to be a part of, repeating the same daily routine in a robotic fashion.
We travel through cities mindlessly, battling the crowds to reach a workplace where we repeat the same activities with little enthusiasm, and live for the moment on Friday when we can re-claim our lives for two days before collapsing into a Sunday night slump, dreading the pressure we have to return to on Monday mornings.
This may paint a pretty grim picture but unfortunately it’s a stark reality of how many of us live our lives. Experts are calling it the disease of our modern world – the barrage of technology, the pressure of our jobs and our device-led culture means we barely get a chance to switch off. In short we are suffering from information overload.
One solution, is for enlightened employers to allow members of staff to take time out during the working day to engage in mindfulness or meditation. The article argues that taking time out does lead to a happier, healthier workforce and that has to be a good thing.
Are you addicted to you smartphone? Really? Are you sure? Do you go to bed with it on your bed-side table? Do you break out in a sweat if you can't find it? Or are you completely relaxed if it runs out of battery?
If you're not sure, have a go at this test. It's part of a longer piece about smartphone addiction and how to get round it. Go on, give it a go. If nothing else, it makes you think.
There's a whole news discipline focusing on digital addiction. Apparently, it exists and it's all down to dopamine - a feel-good chemical that gets released in the brain. And the more it's released, the more we want it.
Writing in Psychology Today, Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. explains that 'with the internet, twitter, and texting you now have almost instant gratification of your desire to seek'.
'Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type your request into google. Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Go to Linked In. It's easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text,' she wrote.
But there is a downside. As Dr Weinschenk says, 'this constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting. And the constant switching of attention makes it hard to get anything accomplished.'
Or in other words, constant digital interaction can leave you exhausted, brain dead, weary - frazzled. What's more, the constant digital interruptions can see your productivity plummet.
The answer? Turn off your smartphone. Walk away from your computer screen. Go somewhere that is a digital hotspot. Disengage from your digital life. And breathe...
In 2010, journalist and digital thinker William Powers published a best seller Hamlet's Blackberry - A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. In it, he makes a passionate argument about how we need to balance technology and life. In particular, he coined the phrase 'Walden Room' or 'Walden Zone' - a space that is free of digital technology that gives us time to think and be quiet without constant digital interruption.
Students of American literature will immediately recognise the reference. In the mid 1800s Henry David Thoreau wanted to write a book reflecting on simple living in natural surroundings. So as not to be distracted by the modern world around him, he headed to the woods, built a log cabin and wrote his American masterpiece Walden; or, a life in the woods.
By latching onto this reference, Powers is echoing what Thoreau craved for more than 150 years ago - peace and quiet, time for yourself, and the ability to get away from it all. And in today's constantly-connected world, the need for a Walden Zone becomes ever more acute. Of course, not all of us can head to the woods - chichis why, Powers argues - we need somewhere free of constant digital distraction.
Back in 2014, the BBC reported how German vehicle-maker Daimler offered its staff an 'email holiday', so that when they returned from leave all the work emails they received during that time were deleted.
Newsnight's Technology editor, David Grossman, asked 'whether we are too wired-in to work and looked at the latest trend - the digital detox'.
Fast forward to today and the BBC has just completed a week-long experiment with children from Tarporley High School in Cheshire.They were faced with the task of powering down their social media. That meant waving goodby to and Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter et al and surviving, instead, in the analogue world.
Asked what going without would mean, one student lamented: "The thought of having real conversations and maybe even reading a book seems to be way too much to handle.'
The results of the study have yet to be published. The fact that people - even young children let alone work-hardened adults - need a digital detox says much about the modern world.