Woman walking while texing

Photo: Flickr user Nohodamon

Look up! Yes I’m talking to you, the person who has her head engrossed in her phone while she walks down the street.

I’ve noticed it more and more recently. People who try to multitask walking and reading their phones. What could possibly be so interesting and important that it is stopping you look where you’re going?

There’s the obvious issue with it – it’s incredibly dangerous. We’ve all heard of the terrible stories of people who are walking along absorbed in their phones then get swiped by cars. The Pedestrian Council have been doing ads for years to try to get people to stop looking at their phones. There are studies that say it could be as risky as using the phone while driving.

One doctor even told ABC’s 730 Report that using your phone while walking is as risky as being drunk.

Trauma director at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Dr Tony Grabs: “It is just like having alcohol on board, you don’t realise what is going on around you, so the phone is almost like a drug.”

But what I’m concerned about it how disconnected it makes people. When you’re on your phone, you’re not seeing the world. You don’t notice the beautiful blue sky on a warm winter’s day. You don’t notice the first flowers of spring as they pop up through the barren grey lawn. You don’t notice the lingering hug between a new couple who will pine for each other all day. You don’t notice anything. Because you’re looking at your phone.

Why is it important to notice the world? Other than the obvious (because you’re living in it!), it’s really beneficial for your mental health to be mindful.

I used to be the walk-texter. I needed to know what was going on in the wider world at all times. I felt it was necessary for my job to be in constant communication, that I was important enough to need to respond to emails on the run. Yeah right.

A personal tragedy and a few months of psychology changed me forever in 2012. I learnt about mindfulness and about how to teach my mind to slow down and really see things.

One of my challenges was to sit and really look at a raisin. Ridiculous sounding I know, but I stared at it, observed its grooves and bumps, smelt it and finally tasted it. If I could observe all that in a piece of dried fruit, imagine how much I could see if I opened my eyes in the real world?

So I vowed to try. I now walk down the street and I see things. I feel the sun on my back and the breeze on my arms. I hear the sound of people talking, the birds or the planes in the sky. I look at the flowers, I stop to observe things that catch my eye.

What I realised is how much lighter I feel. I get back from my lunch break and feel like I’ve had a real break. I’m seeing the city with new eyes, as though I’m a tourist on my very first visit to Sydney. I love looking down south down George St and seeing the juxtaposition of the old fashioned Dymocks sign against the shining metallic and mirrored buildings behind. I particularly love the view of the Queen Victoria Building – such a wonderful piece of architecture.

It’s also lovely when I’m walking with my daughter in the pram. I try to see the world as she would see it, we point out birds, say hello to the neighbourhood dogs and cry out ‘plane’ whenever one flies overhead.

Mindfulness is much bigger than just ditching your phones and there are lots of people who are much more qualified to talk about it than I am. If you want more info, there are heaps of websites around, like this article about it on Reach Out.

I’m still practising mindfulness and have a long way to go but for me personally, it’s helped with my anxiety and it’s helped with my relationships and it’s definitely made my life more enjoyable.

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