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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Software to Help with our Web Addictions?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 16th 2010

internet addiction All those who have trouble managing their attention with all the social networking and various technological distractions raise your hand (mine is raised). I spend a good amount of time at the computer writing and often, my mind loves to check things online and I know I'm not alone. There are so many wonderful things to check like seeing if anyone commented in my MBSR Facebook community, or adding a mindful response within the Twitter community, or perhaps hearing back from my agent about a recent book I'm writing. The problem is, the more my mind does this, the less effective I am at what I actually want to be doing and eventually my stress rises.

The amount of workers today that say job stress is a major problem in their lives has doubled in the last decade. The US Department of Health reported that 70% of physical and mental complaints at work are related to stress, and stress-related claims are costing corporations over $300 billion dollars annually. 

I have my mindfulness practice which helps, but maybe a little extra help may be skillful.

I found an article in the Economist recently that talked about software that can be bough to disable bits of your computer to keep distractions at bay.

Programs like Freedom, Isolator, LeechBlock, Menu Eclipse, Think and Turn Of the Lights are a few of them.

 All of these programs give you options to block out sites or even everything except your word processing program so when your hand drifts to open up a web page it nothing happens.

So that got me thinking, what does happen when we're unable to open up these pages that our minds have become addicted to?

From my own experience in just using mindfulness to work with my distracted mind, I actually get physical urges that manifest as tension in the chest or salivating in the mouth. Quick thoughts shoot through my mind saying, "I wonder if anyone responded on..." as my hand begins to move to open that page.

Having the software provides a bigger space between the stimulus and response and leaves us alone with these feelings to work with. That could be really valuable the point of view of learning how to relate to our distress differently.

I'm not promoting these programs because I haven't tried them out, but I certainly can say, if used with mindfulness, we can gain new insights into these habitual reactions of mind and body that lead us to be less effective and likely more stressed.

However, we can also try just being intentional of what we want to pay attention to and gently guiding our minds back when they wander to that page. Sometimes it happens so fast that we don't realize it until after the fact, that is what the software would help out with.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

So, what...... - Cathy - Jun 17th 2010

So, what happened to self-control?  I would think that developing self-control across the board would be the way to go.  I am thinking that if you can self-monitor on the computer that there are most likely other venues in your life, if not all, where this is also a problem.  I would say that physical exercise or learning something new that you can apply (think save those brain cells) would be better than a mindless activity.  You develop self-control by self-monitoring and goal setting.  Self-control - priceless.

my experience - isabella mori (@moritherapy) - Jun 17th 2010

as someone who has been quite involved in social media since 1988 (when no-one called it that yet :) this is something that is often on my mind.  i have used one of those applications, procrastdonate, where you donate money each time you spend too much time on a site you specify.  unfortunately, it crashed my browser.  in the end, what always helps the most is a timer ( for example) in connection with setting clear intentions.  but it's a continued struggle.

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