There are a lot of reasons to keep your phone out of the bathroom, but protecting your phone from germs or potential falls into the toilet are secondary – though, yes, stop putting your phone in your back pocket, that’s dangerous. But the real reason to leave your phone out of the bathroom is mindfulness.
Photo: Timothy Vollmer via Flickr
For as long as there have been toilets, there have been the things we read while we sit on them – books, crossword puzzles, the backs of shampoo bottles. Distracting yourself while you’re on the toilet isn’t new to our hyper-connected digital age.
But bringing your phone into the bathroom – to read, scroll Twitter, or play Two Dots or whatever – means something different when you’re bringing your phone with you everywhere else, too. It isn’t news that it’s good for our brains to have some downtime. Just a few minutes here or there where we’re not taking in information or stimulation can give you an important break, a chance to see what’s happening in your own mind.
In this episode we talk to Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC's Note to Self and author of Bored and Brilliant. How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. Back in 2015, Manoush wondered if being plugged in all the time to a constant stream of entertainment and information actually made our lives worse. She noticed that we're never bored - and she wondered, what is that lack of boredom doing to us?Read more
One way to cultivate mindfulness is through meditation, but another is to find time to just let your mind wander. My meditation teacher actually told me about another Buddhist monk he knew who made sure to have a few evenings a week with nothing to do – he’d just sip a cup of tea and look out the window and… let his mind do what it wanted to do. He saw it as an important counterbalance to the focusing practice of meditation.
Even if you aren’t into meditation, making space for quiet can be hugely valuable. It’s a chance to check in with yourself, see how you’re feeling when you aren’t focused on work or reading or listening. It’s just you. Maybe you’ll notice for the first time all day that you feel anxious, or the quiet will be a chance to ruminate on a problem that’s been bugging you, leading you closer to a solution. It’s unstructured mental time, and that’s often a precious and rare thing.
And more generally, “look at my phone less” is a difficult change to implement on its own. Any goal so vague and lacking boundaries is easy to let slide. But the bathroom is the perfect contained aspect of your life to apply this practice incrementally. (Of course, if you have a digestive issue that has you in the bathroom for extended periods of time, I’m not going to deny you some distraction!) But try leaving your phone outside of the bathroom and just sitting with your own thoughts. See what they turn out to be.