Mindfully Using Your Phone

By PHE Grace Styklunas, Tristen Slamowitz, and Sarah Macris

Do you ever feel addicted to your phone?

Whether you are a millennial, child, adult, or elder, you are probably aware of the advent of the new technology of the last decade. It has been about ten years since the first iPhone was released, and now it is common in US cities to see every single person looking down at their iPhone as they walk around. We students rarely go anywhere without our phones and are dependent on them for functions as varied as GPS and texting. Because we are growing up with phones now attached to our hands, they are a part of us and we must learn to have a healthy relationship with them. All of the things that we are now able to do with our phone, in addition to all of the non-essential games and social media, make the phone extremely addicting for some. Many people experience intense anxiety when unable to send or receive a text message or not have their phone at all (Gutiérrez et. al 2016). For example, when Grace’s phone got stolen in Guatemala (without ability to buy a new one) she had a panic attack and for a moment thought she’d need to go home! Of course, in the end, she was fine.

My friends and I decided to see how we fell on this spectrum. We tracked our phone usage for a week using the app “Moment.” (You can try this too!) On average, individually we spent 2 hours and 3 minutes on our phones every day, which amounted to an average 17.7% of our entire day spent looking at the screen! Many of the days that most of the time that we spent on our phones was during the week, meaning that we must have been on our phone during homework, our jobs, or during class. How do we solve this? Mindfulness can be applied to technology use in order to minimize the negative effects associated with excessive use and maximize the benefits to wellbeing.

Let’s look at the difference between active and passive use of technology. Passive usage will involve scrolling through Facebook news feeds or looking at other users’ profiles, pictures and statuses, reading tweets, or looking at Instagram pictures. (Catching yourself scrolling mindlessly while you should be studying!) Some studies have demonstrated that the more passively you use technology, the more you might experience envy, FOMO, or decreased wellbeing (Krasnova et al., 2013). Active usage, however, means engaging with technology in a way that is meaningful and purposeful.

Mindfulness can be used to mediate all of these issues and help you switch to more active usage of technology.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as the ability to attend to ones moment-to-moment experiences through an inherent state of consciousness. Although much of our lives are spent on autopilot, mindfulness promotes “attending to experience itself, as it is presented in the here and now” (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). In the article Mechanisms of Mindfulness, Shapiro and associates state that when one “pays attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness can be cultivated through various meditation techniques and “through physical movements and martial arts traditions such as yoga and tai chi” (Kachan et al., 2017). This nonjudgmental awareness of experiences, thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment, has been shown in several studies to have beneficial effects on dealing with stress, reducing anxiety, and increasing brain efficiency and attention. If you are having a hard time paying attention in class, if you keep checking your phone, increasing mindfulness practice such as meditation or yoga may help with this! Mindfulness has been shown to increase people’s abilities to use their phone more actively, as we described above, and will help you not get burnt out emotionally from being on social media all day. You will use your phone less, and you will not get the emotional strain when you do use it.

How does one implement a more mindful use of technology?

You probably won’t stop using your phone, so learning to have a better relationship with it is essential. You can begin by assessing your relationship with technology. Ask yourself, “Do I use technology to cover up my loneliness?” or “in what ways does my relationship to technology distract or stress me out?” There are various informal practices that you can incorporate as you utilize technology:

  • First: notice when you’re reaching for your phone!
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you start using technology.
  • Utilize phone notifications as mindfulness bells, or sounds that remind you take a mindful breath and re-engage with the present moment (O’Brien, 2013).
  • Not multitasking while on the computer; focusing on the present activity and developing increased focus rather than switching to a new tab while something loads.
  • Incorporating mindful pauses into your technology usage. This may mean deleting Instagram completely for an hour to days at a time, or turning phone off when necessary.
  • Turning notifications off on unnecessary apps and message chains.

The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, compared technology to a horse that the user is riding:

            When someone walks up and says to the rider, ‘Where are you going?’ The rider looks at the person and replies, ‘I don’t know, ask the horse.’ There it is, we have lost control of  technology, it’s driving us and we are no longer driving it. (Elisha Goldstein)

One must understand that technology is a tool, neither a positive nor negative force in our lives. Like riding a horse, you must understand how to control it and harness it for a more mutually beneficial relationship. As stated earlier, the abusive and distracted use of technology can have many negative side effects and can be viewed as somewhat of an obstacle to being mindful. However, technology does not need to take this role in our lives and can be used as a mechanism by which we can practice mindfulness. “We can use technology to pay attention to our surroundings, to really look, to really listen to our everyday. And, ultimately, we can use technology to reconnect. To ourselves” (Gunatillake, 2017).


Works Cited

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Mindful Facebooking: The moderating role of mindfulness on the relationship between social media use intensity at work and burnout. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(9), 1966–1980. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105315569096

Goldstein, E. (2014, October 3). The Horse is Technology, But the Rider is on Auto-Pilot. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from https://www.mindful.org/the-horse-is-technology-but-the-rider-is-on-auto-pilot/

Gunatillake, R. (2017). Modern Mindfulness: How to Be More Relaxed, Focused, and Kind While Living in a Fast, Digital, Always-On World. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Kachan, D., Olano, H., Tannenbaum, S. L., Annane, D. W., Mehta, A., Arheart, K. L., … Lee, D. J. (2017). Prevalence of Mindfulness Practices in the US Workforce: National Health Interview Survey. Preventing Chronic Disease, 14. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd14.160034

Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxmann, P. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?, 16.

Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox. A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? The American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017–1031.

O’ Brien, M. (2013, March 13). 7 Strategies to Maintain Mindfulness In the Information Age. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from https://mrsmindfulness.com/mindfulness-technology-you-7-strategies-to-maintain-mindfulness-in-the-modern-world/

Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–386. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20237

Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources. PLOS Biology, 5(6), e138. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050138

Turel, O., & Osatuyi, B. (2017). A peer-influence perspective on compulsive social networking site use: Trait mindfulness as a double-edged sword. Computers in Human Behavior, 77, 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.08.022

What no one will tell you about becoming a Peer Health Educator

By Jite Igho


1. That is what PHE stands for

I know that you have seen super cool people walking around with sweatshirts that say PHE on them.  I know that you’ve walked around grounds and seen a flyer or taken a handbill from someone about becoming a PHE.  I also know that you were too embarrassed to ask what the heck that is, or you simply forgot.  PHE stands for Peer Health Educator and you can redeem yourself right now if you take a second and brainstorm what you think it is that we do.  That’s right!  We educate our peers on health.  You’re smart.  This is why you go to UVA and not Tech.  Peer Health Educators are a diverse group of students here at UVA that are trained to (you guessed it) educate their peers on a number of topics including sexual health, alcohol and drugs, mental wellness, and nutrition.  “PHEs,” as we go by, also give presentations on such topics here on Grounds to numerous organizations as well as host office hours to meet people one-on-one.


2. It makes you instantly cooler

Have you ever heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together” or “you are who you hang out with?”  PHEs are cool just by association.  There’s something about a sweatshirt with the letters P, H, and E on it that really sets one apart.  Also it really helps that you not only care about your own health but care about the health of your peers and promoting healthy lifestyles and ultimately a healthy culture here at UVA.  Peer Health Educators don’t impose any specific beliefs.  We just give people the information to make informed, healthy decisions and hey, that’s pretty ~cool~.

3. You actually (gasp) do stuff!!!

4y5kPHE is a time commitment.  Sorry.  If you were looking for an easy resume booster then this is not for you.  We put our knowledge where our mouth is.  PHEs are trained on a range of topics.  While we are in no way, shape, or form professionals, we do still take our role in the community very seriously.  You should know that if you are accepted there is a mandatory (fun) class that you would take during the upcoming semester.  We also meet once a week as a group (which is more like a catch up session) and individually perform outreaches and hold patient education sessions.  You can also usually catch us at most health-promoting events around Grounds.  I will say, though, that it does not take up all of your time.  Being a PHE is a time commitment that needs its attention but a lot of us are involved in a number of other activities all over Grounds!



morvenPHEs are not one of those organizations on Grounds where members see each other and nod or soft smile.  I personally have screamed PHEs’ names from across the street to end up crossing to meet them and then having a 15 minute conversation when I was running late to my class that had started 10 minutes ago.  We are real life friends.  The best part about becoming a part of an organization like this is, yes, you make awesome new friends, but these friends care about your wellness and wellbeing.  There have been times when a fellow PHE has asked about how I’m doing during a rough time and I’ve not only gotten a shoulder to cry on but also some wholesome advice on what I can do to better take care of myself.


5. Don’t Apply

Yeah.  Do not apply if you’re not looking for something that will honestly impact your UVA experience.  PHEs take what we do seriously and we take each other seriously!  I had never heard of the kind of connection and family feel that is present between Peer Health Educators.  It’s one thing to know you’re having an impact on the community and another to get to work so closely with people that are having an impact on you.   Do not apply if you aren’t looking to step out of your comfort zone and be present in your community.  Do not apply if the idea of friends that you can be professional with and then crack sex jokes with bothers you.  Do not apply if you’re not looking to have an awesome time with awesome people.


I applied to be a PHE on a whim.  Honestly, kind of by accident when I really think about it.  You have an opportunity to intentionally decide to change your experience and legacy here at UVA.  I wouldn’t pass it up.

Apply at tinyurl.com/peerhealtheducator by Friday, March 2 at 5pm, and check out more of what we do here!

How to Survive Finals Season

By Marrissa Jones

It’s that time of the year again – students pack into the ~newly renovated~ 2nd floor Clem dressed in sweats carrying textbooks and piles of notes, probably contemplating whether or not they really need that degree. After months of dedication and hard work, you may feel like everything is riding on these last couple of weeks. With the end so near, it is important to finish strong before heading home for the holidays. Below are some ways to help you get through the nightmare that is finals.

1. Get Enough Sleep

sleepI know what you’re thinking: one does not simply sleep during finals season. Sometimes it can feel necessary to stay up the entire night writing that paper or studying for that upcoming exam, but you’ll actually retain more information after a good night’s sleep. Getting at least a few hours of sleep will help your brain rejuvenate and you’ll end up performing a lot better.

2. Study with Friends

studyWe’re all in this together! Believe it or not, many of your classmates and friends are freaking out just like you are about finals – even if they don’t tell you! Reach out to your friends and coordinate time to study with them. There are many places on grounds to study as a group: Clark library, Alderman, 1515 on the corner, or even Clem 4th floor booths (my personal favorite). Don’t forget to take study breaks to help refresh your mind and body!

3. Eat Healthy


It may seem like the perfect time to cook up those ramen noodles or get that pizza delivered because who actually has time to eat healthy during finals? Luckily, finding healthy food options does not have to be time-consuming and can actually be accomplished on grounds. Got extra swipes? Swipe into Newcomb or any other dining halls and grab some fresh fruit to take with you to the libraries or just sit and eat a full meal as a study break. Don’t have any meal swipes (or any 1st year friends)? Buying some healthy snacks to take with you to the library requires only one trip to the grocery store. Remember­ – food is fuel for the brain!

4. Prioritize

notebookMaking sure you know the dates, times, and locations of your finals is a MUST. Given that you have a million things going on during this time, just planning ahead by writing down what needs to be done in order of importance can save a lot of time and energy. Having a tangible list of things that can be checked off once completed can not only help you visualize your goals but also provide you with a sense of accomplishment each time you finish something.

Don’t worry, you’ve made it this far, you can and will finish strong! However, it is important to realize that although this is a stressful time, it is important to keep track of our mental health. As UVA students, we all have access to CAPS, and at any point you can call and make an appointment to speak with a trained professional at Student Health.

Daytime Phone (Monday – Friday): 434-243-5150
After Hours and Weekend Crisis Assistance: 434-297-4261

Get Outside!

By Lucy Emery

As the days get colder and shorter you may find that you aren’t spending as much time outside as you did in the beginning of the semester. Back in the days when finals were far away and there was nothing better to do than lie on the lawn in the sunshine. Even with the cold weather and the shortened days it is still important to your mental and physical health to get outside!

get outside

Many studies have shown that spending time outside can have multiple beneficial health effects. Spending time outside has been proven to:

  • Improve short term memory
  • Restore mental energy
  • Relieve stress
  • Improve concentration

And much, much more!

Here are some fun and easy ways to spend more time outside in the upcoming winter months!

1. Walk to class!

Honestly this is one of the easiest ways to get exercise outside at UVA! It’s a great time to call your mom, chat with a friend, listen to music, or just enjoy some fresh air.

**Remember when walking at night it’s always safer to walk with friends!

2. Go ski or snowboard!

skiSkiing and snowboarding are both amazing ways to get outside in the winter, and it may be one of the few chances to see snow. Whether you are a beginner or advanced, the local ski resort Wintergreen has great slopes for every level of proficiency. Wintergreen is located 45 minutes outside of Charlottesville and offers great student discounts.

Click here for more information: www.wintergreenresort.com/passes-and-deals/

3. Go on a hike!


As many students know Charlottesville is nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains and because of this there are many fantastic hiking places within an hour of Charlottesville. The top of Humpback in the fall is a must see! The leaves are gorgeous and the cool weather makes the hike feel a lot less difficult.

4. Have a snowball fight!

snowball fightYou would be shocked at how much exercise a full-fledged snowball fight actually is. In the past when it has snowed at UVA there has been a huge snowball fight on Mad Bowl and the Lawn. It is a super fun event you don’t want to miss out on!


5. Walk to Monticello Trail!

Everyone should go visit Monticello when studying at UVA. Thomas Jefferson’s house is an important part of both UVA and Charlottesville’s history. If you visit between November and February you get a discount! If you want to go visit consider walking the Monticello Trail. It’s a beautiful relatively flat 2 mile trail that brings you right to the doors of Monticello. And after walking you can treat yourself to one of the delish locally made snacks in the gift shop

For more information: https://www.monticello.org/site/tickets-tours?_ga=2.245911364.1547197914.1511034775-1631171470.1511034775

5 Ways to Destress in November

By Aazrin Mir


November is a beautiful month full of amazing colors, scents, and flavors. The colder weather brings an excitement for the upcoming holidays, as well as a great chance to rejuvenate and destress. So take a deep breath and read on to see how you can incorporate these techniques into your fall routine.


1.     Drink Tea

Nothing is more soothing than a hot cup of tea on a cold day. Teas come in many forms and have healing properties due to high levels of antioxidants and vitamins. Many teas work to calm nerves and relax your muscles, all while providing comfort and reducing anxiety. It’s also possible to mix and match ingredients to get unique flavors and effects.

Tea is fairly simple to make, as all you need is a source of hot water and your desired ingredients.

Fall In A Cup recipe:

  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp pink peppercorn
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • Black or Green Tea

 Combine all the ingredients in a filter bag or tea infuser, add boiling water, and enjoy!

Visit this website to find more tea recipes that will help relax you.

2.     Exercise outdoors


Physical activity is important year-round for overall health, and November brings the perfect opportunity to enjoy nature while doing it. The colder weather provides a comfortable environment for walks, runs, and hikes, and the scenery makes you forget that you’re exercising at all.

Exercise works to destress you by reducing the amount of stress hormones present in your bloodstream, and instead causes the release of endorphins that act as natural painkillers. There are also long term physical effects, such as improved cardiovascular and pulmonary health that comes with 30 minutes of daily exercise. Simply put on some running shoes and grab a friend to destress outdoors!

Read more about the benefits of exercise for stress and anxiety here.

3.     Aromatherapy

Fall is full of wonderful smells that actually have healing and destressing properties. These warm scents cause the release of dopamine in the brain, which helps improve mood, and this also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax.

Aromatherapy can be done using candles or essential oils. Many stores will sell fall-themed candles that smell like apples, pumpkins, cinnamon, and even fall desserts like pie.

Essential oils allow for more individual scents because they can be combined for personal taste. All you need is an essential oil diffuser. Some popular fall scents include: apple, cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, cedarwood, and sandalwood.

Read more about how else aromatherapy can benefit you here.

4.     Cooking


Many vegetables come out of the “fall harvest” and can be used to make many healthy autumn dishes. Cooking can soothe nerves, cure boredom, insomnia, and anxiety. This is because cooking is a creative outlet and can make you feel good because you are taking care of yourself and others. On top of that, cooking your own meals can be beneficial for your health because you know exactly what you are putting in your food, avoiding the risk of hidden additives that can compromise how healthy something is.

Visit this website to find easy and healthy recipes that are perfect for November, and even for Thanksgiving.

5.     Take up a creative hobby


November is defined by cozy sweaters and warm hats. A creative hobby such as knitting or crafting is a great way to destress because the fine motor skills used actually calm nerves and reduce anxiety. These activities also help you to get off your phone or laptop for a while, which can calm your brain and destress you even more. Most importantly, the feeling of achievement you will get after completing a project will aid in attaining long term happiness. Plus, who wouldn’t want a few more sweaters in their fall wardrobe?!

Visit this website to read about how creativity can destress you an boost your overall health.