Keeping an open mind: mindfulness, technology, intimacy and modern life
Save Intimacy is your guide to exploring barriers to intimacy. With devices an everyday presence in our lives, we set out to question our habits and examine the relationships between technology, personal connection and intimacy.

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Mindfulness is on people’s minds. And it’s on more people’s minds than ever. Google Trends shows that interest in the term is growing every year.

But what is mindfulness? And how can it help us create a balance between the technology that’s an unavoidable part of our lives and the intimate relationships that can be neglected by its pull?

‘Mindfulness’ is not a precisely defined term. What most definitions share, though, is an acknowledgement that its modern use developed from Buddhist meditation practices and that its practice is designed to promote happiness and mental health.

A useful place to start understanding the concept is this quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of translating religious meditation practices from the East for the secular West: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

How can it help?

Unless you’re willing to go full off-the-grid hermit or you’re a journalist pitching a ‘digital detox’ article that’s going to end up online anyway, living your life without your phone, your computer and the apps living inside them is not possible. In most cases, it’s not even desirable. They’re how you connect with your intimates and there’s nothing wrong with that. Rohan Gunatillake, creator of the mindfulness app Buddhify, says that “instead of a digital detox, we need to develop our ability to change our relationships with technology”. And that’s a change that a mindfulness practice can help you make.

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The relationship to relationships

There are two obvious ways a meditation practice can help you deepen and maintain intimacy with people: giving you more time away from technology to spend with them, and helping you be more present and open when you do. But the benefits of mindfulness practice may be more profound than time and attention. Research has suggested it can help us regulate our emotions in volatile situations and make us more empathetic towards other people – both of which are valuable in any relationship, but especially in romantic ones. In fact, an emerging field of research is putting forward that mindfulness can improve both your mental and sexual wellbeing. Papers suggest it can boost female sexual response and reduce the effects of body- and performance-based sexual insecurities.

Where should I start?

The present surge of interest in mindfulness has coincided with a boom in app development. For many beginners, mobile-based guided meditation apps are a great place to start. Two of the best are Headspace and Buddhify, which we mentioned before. Both are built upon a foundation of science-based research about mindfulness and offer a range of guided audio meditations.

Buddhify emphasises “meditation on-the-go”, offering meditations designed around what you’re doing or feeling, like ‘work break’, ‘stress and difficult emotion’ or ‘going to sleep’.

Headspace also offers occasion-specific meditations – ‘singles’, they call them – but it is more centred around developing a regular, structured mindfulness practice that can grow as you become more familiar and comfortable with the discipline.

But even if you’re not ready to jump headlong into mindfulness, taking a moment from time to time to be present can quell the craving to refresh your newsfeed for the millionth time that day – especially when you’re spending time with someone you care about.

Save Intimacy

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