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An Obsessive Compulsive Nation

Today I’m going to keep it short and give you something to immediately put into practice to feel a sense of personal control and freedom in your life.

First, a story:

I was driving on the way to my office this morning and noticed a number of occurrences where my attention was brought to my phone. It was as if my brain and body were hijacked and pulled me in that direction. In an instant there was a feeling of tightening in the chest and my breathing became a bit shallower. I decided to just be aware of this for the duration of the drive and noticed it a few more times. Each time I would note it and redirect my attention to the road ahead of me. Each time I did that my body relaxed. I decided in that moment that the diagnosis of ADHD nation is incorrect; we have now become an Obsessive Compulsive Nation (OCN).

But even this has an upside…

Probably because of the work I do my mind was primed to bring mindfulness to this. Bringing mindfulness, that open curious awareness, to my own obsessions and compulsions with the Smartphone brought me back into balance. In some ways this was a gift, the personal control felt really good. I also noticed that this obsessive compulsive nature with the Smartphone amps up our stress (and when it comes to the car, ups the probability or accidents and deaths).

Just like anything, the degree of obsession and compulsion that we all have in relation to our Smartphone rides along a spectrum. You may have very little urge to check all your respective messages, or you may be someone who has many reasons to check including texts, emails, Whatsapp, IChat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Evernote, Sport scores and so many more. In which case you may be like a student of mine who puts his phone in his trunk every time he drives. No matter where you are on the spectrum, you can play with the following practice to see what you notice.

Here’s the fun mindful task for the day:

Simply be on the lookout for when your mind and body get automatically directed to your phone. It’s amazing how without our conscious permission we can be so controlled. Notice how it feels in your body and double check to see if this is the best time to check it or maybe there are more important things to attend to like driving the car, sitting at a meal with family, listening to a friend, focusing on the project at hand or maybe even just the potentially calming nature of paying attention to one thing at a time.

There is no failing at this, it’s all a learning process. We may just learn there are things in life we’re missing out on that could make our days even brighter. This reminds me of a cartoon…

Poo Favorite Day

Notice what it feels like to gain some mastery with this in your life. Allow this experience to be your teacher.

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

An Obsessive Compulsive Nation

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2013). An Obsessive Compulsive Nation. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Dec 2013
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