This is a guest post from Lucy Wyndham.
Social media is meant to unite people from all walks of life yet studies have shown that it often misses its mark, with many users feeling depressed, anxious, and stressed after using it. Buddhism has existed for thousands for years yet it is amazing to think that its eight-fold path houses the antidote to the stress of modern technology. Right mindfulness, the seventh in the path to enlightenment, is at the very heart of Buddhism. Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh rightly notes that in many ways, it embraces all the other parts of the path: “When Right Mindfulness is present, the Four Noble Truths and the other seven elements of the Eight-fold Path are also present.”
What is Buddhist Mindfulness?
Buddhist mindfulness essentially involves alertness; whole body-mind awareness of the present moment. It is a state in which we recognise and accept our thoughts and emotions – even when these are sad or negative. Mindfulness theory espouses that by denying these thoughts and emotions, we only give them more power over us. By gracefully acknowledging them yet seeing them as impermanent waves we can ‘ride over’, we can begin to regain the calm and mental clarity we need to be the very best version of ourselves.
Why does Social Media Cause Stress?
Research has shown that social media can be a source of stress. One interesting study by scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that the more social circles a person has online, the more likely social media will be a source of stress. Another study found that negative experiences that can be encountered on social media (including bullying, unkindness, unwanted contacts, or misunderstandings) can bring about a higher likelihood of depression. Other studies have shown that people can feel worse after using sites like Facebook, because they can compare their own lives to the seemingly ‘perfect life’ presented by others.
Buddhist Mindfulness as an Antidote
When one’s mind feels overwhelmed by the negative sensations after using social media, taking part in a mindful activity can help. The four foundations of Buddhist mindfulness include our body, feelings, mind, and the world around us. By taking part in mindfulness training, we can see our reality with greater clarity. The marks of our existence are impermanence, suffering, and insight. By understanding that the anguish we feel after unpleasant social media experiences are impermanent, we can come to a deeper understanding of the little importance they have to life.
If you find social media use stressful but you don’t want to cut ties with friends abroad or those you have met online, consider mindfulness to give you greater balance. There are many ways to do so; choose the one that has the best effect on you. Controlled breathing, visiting natural sites and opening your sense to the surroundings, and meditation are just a few ways you can reach a deeper state of mindfulness. By simply being in the present moment, you can stop regretting past mistakes or worrying about what you can or cannot achieve in the future.
Thank you Lucy for this excellent guest post.
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