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Being fully present in a technological world

Welcome to the age of technology. Over half of the global adult population is set to own a smartphone by the end of 2015 and over 75% of Americans own them right now. We now can multi-task wherever we go- and are running into each other like crazy. Many of you have seen the video of the man who almost ran into a wild bear on the loose in Los Angeles because he was texting. There is even a city in China that is testing out a special lane on their sidewalks for people texting and walking so others won't bump into them. We have reached a new low, people.

Recently, the staff of "New Tech City", a podcast created by NPR, addressed the issue of how much time we spend on our phone all day. They presented a challenge, starting this first week of February,  called Bored and Brilliant: The Lost Art of Spacing Out. It asks people to think about the last time they were truly bored- and to figure out how much time they are spending on their phones using on the apps they suggest. I personally downloaded the free app called Moment, which tracks all time spent on your phone, and I was very surprised. What are the effects of filling our minds 24/7 with e-mails, Internet searches, and texts? You can sign up on their website for daily tips to be sent to you; one recent challenge was to have a photo free day, when you don't take photos with your phone. Americans take over 10 billion photos a month, and some think this may actually be harming our memories. I encourage everyone to look into this challenge just to shake things up this month and see if you can change your relationship with your phone.

So what can we do to help ourselves slow down and be present? Ironically, one resource that might help us overcome our bad habit of being attached to our phone and help us focus on the one task of relaxation is the phone itself. I took some time to test out the various apps out there for mindfulness and relaxation and here are my thoughts. I hope you "take some time" to breathe, download one, and start using it regularly to help your brain and body relax.

The Mindfulness App by MindApps ($1.99) This was the first Mindfulness App I bought and have recommended to my patients. I really like the 6 guided mediations that come with the app and give the options of choosing a 3, 5, 15, or 30 minute meditation. It also allows you to set reminders so that you receive a text throughout your day to remind you to meditate or eat mindfully.

Breathe2Relax (free!) This app lets you customize everything but has only one guided meditation that is too repetitive for my liking. It first has you measure the length of your inhale and exhale.  This measurement is used for meditations, and there is a bar on the side that guides the rhythm of your breath. You can choose a background scene as well as background music. There was no option for any guided meditation, it was merely someone counting your breaths and telling you to relax over and over.

Omvana (free!) This app is fully customizable to help you fully relax. There are thousands of audio tracks (most of them must be purchased), sounds, and voices you can mix together too make the perfect meditation for you. It comes with a 5 minute or 20 minute meditation, as well as two instructional guides for beginners.

Calm (free!) This app is customizable- you can choose your scene and the sound for when your session ends. It comes with seven tracks to help give the user an intro to meditation. It also has a free guided body scan that comes in seven different lengths.

Stop, Breathe & Think (free!) I saved the best for last. This is my new favorite app that beats all the others. There is a great intro for those who haven't meditated before that reviews how meditation works and what mindfulness can do for you. It starts by having you check in with yourself and logging your mental, physical, and emotional status. From there, it guides you towards which of the 15 free guided meditations might be good for you. Some of these tracks have different options for length, such as 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, which is great feature.

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