Archive for November, 2019

The Use of Unproven Supplements

November 30, 2019

This post is based on an article titled “Study shows half of middle-aged Americans fear they’ll get dementia, use unproven supplements, in the Health & Science section of the 26 November 2019 issue of the Washington Post. The article begins, “About half of middle-aged Americans believe that they’re “very likely” to develop dementia a survey suggests, and many try to beat the odds with supplements such as ginkgo biloba and vitamins that aren’t proven to help.”

Data from the University of Michigan’s 2018 National Poll on Healthy Aging consists of a nationally representative survey of adults 50 to 80. 44.3% of the respondents said they were at lease somewhat likely to develop dementia, and 4.2% said they were very likely to develop dementia. Just 5.2% of the respondents said they had discussed dementia prevention with their doctors.

Regardless, 31.6% said they took fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids hoping that it would help lower the risk, and 39.2% took other vitamins or supplements. More than half of participants also believe doing crossword puzzles could help stave off dementia.

Study leader Donovan Maust of the University of Michigan wrote in the journal JAMA Neurology, “Given repeated failures of disease-preventing or disease modifying treatments for dementia, interest to treatment and prevention have shifted earlier in the disease process.”

These unproven supplements don’t work. Those who are solving crossword puzzles are on the right track, but more, prolonged cognitive effort is needed to stave off the disease. Similarly, certain computer games might be helpful, but playing them alone is insufficient.

The Alzheimer’s Association and drug developers are working on drugs to stop or eliminate the neurofibrally tangles and amyloid plaque, which are the defining characteristics of the disease. A former researcher into these drugs has argued that such drugs will never be discovered or developed. His arguments can be found in the healthy memory blog post titled The Myth of Alzheimer’s as well as in a book by the same title authored by Peter J. Whitehouse, M.D., Ph.D, and and Daniel George, M.Sc.

Moreover, many people have died and their autopsies have shown that their brains with these defining characteristics of the disease, but who never realized they had the disease, because they never had any of the cognitive or behavioral symptoms.

The reason offered for this result is that these individuals had built up a cognitive reserve. Cognitive activity had built up their brains so that, when they had these physical manifestations, their brains were able to work around them.

This is why the healthy memory blog strongly recommends growth mindsets where active reading and learning is maintained throughout one’s lifetime. This must also be supplemented by a healthy lifestyle. The practice of meditation and mindfulness can facilitate this healthy lifestyle.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Importance of How We Speak

November 29, 2019

The founder of American Psychology, William James, said the voice may drive, or at least be an equal partner, in the production of the speaker’s emotions. Recent research by Aron Sigma and his colleagues has demonstrated powerful psychological and physiological effects of how we say something. In research on cardiovascular risk factors, they found that talking in a loud, rapid voice like an angry person increases blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger in the speaker, especially when matters of an emotional nature are being discussed. They note that the experience of anger, by itself, did not drive cardiovascular activity.

Our own anger builds when we describe loudly an anger-producing event. Recounting anger-producing past events in a soft and slow (anger-inconsistent) voice produces lower speaker blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anger than when describing events in a loud and fast (anger-consistent) voice. It is noted that applications of this research to mood control are easily implemented and require little, if any, training. To moderate the escalation of blood pressure, heart rate, and anger in emotionally turbulent situations, we should speak softly and slowly, avoiding the bellicose vocal style that is by itself sufficient to drive blood pressure and aggression.

Although this research has not been extended to include the speaker’s audience, the results can be anticipated. The speaker and audience are engaged in an emotional conflict modulated by the tone of the speaker’s voice. So far, only the matching (congruence) of speaker and audience speech rate and loudness, but not physiology, has been measured. However, our experience suggests that we respond to a loud, aggressive voice with cardiovascular and emotional reactions of our own, perhaps barking back an angry rejoinder that further increases the arousal of everyone. So, speaker and audience can become locked in an explosive, mutually reinforced escalation of physiology and emotions having unpleasant and perhaps grave consequences, including cardiovascular incident and violence. We need to control our voices at these critical times, so our physiology and behaviors will follow. If we lack this vocal control we should simply keep our mouths shut!

HM hopes that one’s speech did no adversely affect the holiday gathering. Although this post was too late for Thanksgiving, it should be remembered for Christmas and for New Year’s resolutions.

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

November 27, 2019

This is the day to be truly thankful for our memory. As readers of this blog should know, our memory is our vehicle for time travel. It stores information as a result of what is experienced. Then it takes this knowledge and projects it into the future for planning and deciding how to respond to various events. It is the source of our creativity. It is also the place where our emotions are found along with our relations to our fellow human beings.

This is why it is important to use and treat our memories properly. We need to adopt growth mindsets where we continue to learn throughout our lifetimes. This provides not only for a fulfilling and rewarding life, but it also decreases the risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Meditation is also important for learning how to control and use our precious attention. Our effective use of attention is critical for cognitive growth. Mindfulness is important for effective relationships with our fellow human beings.

All these topics are continuing themes in the healthymemory blog along with articles on important topics on which we need to be informed.
healthymemory.wordpress.com.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mister Rogers

November 26, 2019

A new movie has put Fred Rogers back into the news, along with an article by D.L. Mayfield titled Mister Rogers wasn’t just nice: He also wanted to take down consumerism, in the Metro Section of the 23 November 2019 issue of the Washington Post. According to Rogers’ biography, The Good Neighbor, by Maxwell King, Hallmark asked Rogers to collaborate in decorating their flagship store in midtown Manhattan for Christmastime. Rogers and a friend traveled to New York to check out the scene. Other celebrities and influencers had created garishly festive and over-the-top displays that Rogers found offensive. He wanted to go a different route.

Rogers returned home and developed his design plan. The result was this: a Norfolk Island pine tree, the height of a 3- or 4-foot-tall child. There were no ornaments or decorations, just a simple green tree, planted in a clear Lucite cube so that onlookers could see the roots of the tree. In front of it there was a plaque that simply said, “I like you just the way you are.”

Mayfield writes, “I think about that little tree,and how differently the mind of a pastor and educator and psychologist (for Rogers was all three) works from those of marketeers. At first blush it seems beautiful, because it is: centered on a child, tree just their height, reinforcing the message Rogers most desperately wanted his young neighbors to hear. Working to combat shame, isolation, trauma; working to help build resilience in the lives of kids he could never hope to reach one by one. By creating a tree reminiscent of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” he reminds us that what is small is good, recognizing that even little trees need good roots to grow tall and strong.”

Rogers wrote, “Until television became such a tool for selling, it was such a fabulous medium for educating. That’s what I had always hoped it would be.” Mayfield continues, “I believe he was angry at how most television companies sponsored the shows treated children, how it dehumanized them, pandered to them and ultimately trained them to become consumers of products they did not need.”

HM remembers how optimistic he was about the potential of the internet when the blog began in October 2009. He saw the potential for building healthy memories through cognitive growth and healthy interactions among internet users. That theme has changed to how the internet has developed to boost consumerism, create divisions among different groups of people, and its use in warfare.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flexible Optimism

November 24, 2019

This the tenth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is also the last post planned for this book. Seligman waxes philosophically in this final chapter titled “Flexible Optimism.”

As was mentioned previously in this book, depression has been on the rise since World War II. Today young people are ten times likelier to suffer severe depression than their grandparents were, and depression takes a particularly heavy toll among women and the young. There is no sign that this epidemic of depression is decreasing.

One of the reasons Seligman offers for this problem he terms the waxing of the self. He writes that the society we live in exalts the self. It takes the pleasures and pains, the successes and failures of the individual with unprecedented seriousness. Our wealth and our technology have culminated in a self that chooses, that feels pleasure and pain, that dictates action, that optimizes or satisfices. He writes that we are now a culture of maximal selves. We freely choose among an abundance of customized goods and services and reach beyond them to grasp more exquisite freedoms.

The second reason Seligman offers for this problem is what he terms “The Waning of the Commons.” He writes that the life committed to nothing larger than itself is a meager life. Human beings require a context of meaning and hope. We once had ample context, and when we encountered failure, we could could pause and take our rest in that setting—our spiritual furniture—and revived our sense of who were were. He calls this larger setting the commons.

HM shares Seligman’s concerns. However, he makes no mention of the means of addressing both these concerns. There is no mention of meditation or mindfulness anywhere in the book. And they provide the best means of addressing these concerns. There are many healthy memory posts on these topics. Use the search block at
healthymemory.wordpress.com to find them.

There are ample data indicating how meditation aids individual health. HM would like to see data comparing any differences in pessimism between people who meditate daily and a comparable sample that does not meditate. And the practice of mindfulness is one of the best, if not the best of facilitation positive interactions and concerns among individuals.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Learning to Argue with Yourself

November 23, 2019

This the ninth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. As we all likely have argued with others, to be optimistic we also need to argue with ourselves. There are four important ways to make disputations convincing:

*Evidence?
*Alternatives?
*Implications?
*Usefulness?

The best way of disputing a negative belief is to show that it is factually incorrect. Fortunately, much of the time we will have facts on our side, since pessimistic reactions to adversity are typically overreactions. So we adopt the role of detective and ask, “What is the evidence for this belief?”

Seligman notes that it is important to see the difference between this approach and the so-called “power of positive thinking.” Positive thinking often involved trying to believe upbeat statements such as “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” in the absence of evidence, or even in the face of contrary evidence. Many educated people, trained in skeptical thinking, cannot abide this kind of boosterism. In contrast, learned optimism is about accuracy.

Research has shown that merely repeating positive statements to yourself does not raise mood or achievement very much, if at all. It is how you cope with negative statements that has an effect. Usually negative beliefs that follow adversity are inaccurate. Most people catastrophize: From all the potential causes, they select the one with the direct implications. One of your most effective techniques in disputation will be to search for evidence pointing to the distortions in you catastrophic explanations. Most of the time you will have reality on your side. Seligman writes, “Learned optimism works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of ‘non-negative’ thinking.”

Rarely nothing that happens to you has just one cause; most events have many causes. Should you do poorly on a test, all of the following might have contributed: how hard the test was, how much you studied, how fair the professor is, how the other students did, how tired you were and so forth. Pessimists typically latch onto the worst of all the possible causes—the most permanent, pervasive, and personal ones.

Disputation usually has reality on its side. Since there are multiple causes, why latch onto the most insidious one? Rather, latch onto the most innocuous one. Focus on the changeable (not enough time spent studying), the specific (this particular exam was uncharacteristically hard), and the non-personal (the professor graded unfairly) causes. You may have to push hard at generating alternative beliefs, latching onto possibilities you are not fully convinced are true. Remember that much pessimistic thinking consists of just the reverse.

Of course, facts won’t always be on your side. The negative belief you hold about yourself may be correct. In this situation, the technique to use is decatastrophizing. You ask yourself, even if this belief is correct, what are its implications? How likely, you should ask yourself are the awful implications? Once you ask if the implications are really that awful, repeat the search for evidence.

Sometimes the consequence of holding a belief matter more than the truth of the belief. Is the belief destructive? Some people get very upset when the world shows itself not to be fair. We can all sympathize with that sentiment, but the belief that the world should be fair may cause more grief than it’s worth. Sometimes it is very useful to get on with your day, without taking the time to examine the accuracy of your beliefs and then disputing them. Here the example Seligman provides is a technician doing bomb demolition. He might think, “This could go off and I might be killed”—with the result that his hands shake. In this case Seligman recommends distraction over disputation. Whenever you have to perform now, you will find distraction the tool of choice.

Another tactic is to detail all the ways you can change the situation in the future. Even if the belief is true now, is the situation changeable? If so, how can you go about changing it?

How to Be Optimistic

November 22, 2019

This the eighth post in the series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This post is taken from the chapter titled “The Optimistic Life.” The first question is when to deploy optimism? There are times not to use the techniques that are about to be discussed.
Consider
*If your goal is to plan for a risky and uncertain future, do not use optimism
*If your goal is to counsel others whose future is dim, do not use optimism initially.
*If you want to appear sympathetic to the troubles of others, do not begin with optimism, although using it later, once confidence and empathy are established, may help

The model developed for being optimistic is known as the ABC model as was developed by the pioneering psychologist, Albert Ellis. ABC is an acronym for
Adversity
Belief
Consequences

Consider the following examples:

Adversity: My husband was supposed to give the kids they bath and put them to bed, but when I got home from my meeting they were all glued to the TV.

Belief: Why can’t he do what I ask him? is it such a hard thing to given them their bath and put them to bed? Now I’m going to look like the heavy when I break up their little party.

Consequences: I was really angry with Jack and started yelling without first giving him a chance to explain. I walked into the room and snapped off the set without even a “hello” first. I looked like the heavy.

Adversity: I decided to join a gym, and when I walked into the place I saw nothing but firm, toned bodies all around me.

Belief: What am I doing here? I look like a beached whale compared to these people! I should get out of here while I still have some dignity,

Consequences: I felt totally self-conscious and ended up leaving after fifteen minutes.

Adversity: After being on a diet for a couple of weeks she goes out for drinks with some friends and starts wolfing down snacks. Immediately afterward she feels she has “ruined” her diet.

Consequences: She decides to really make a pig of herself and eats a cake in the freezer.

Once you are aware of your pessimistic beliefs there are two general ways to deal with them. The first is simply to distract yourself when they occur—try to think of something else. The second is to dispute them. Disputing is more effective in the long run, because successfully disputed beliefs are less likely to recur when the same situation presents itself again.

Here is an example Seligman provides regarding distraction. “..,think about a piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The pie is heated and the ice cream forms a delightful contrast in taste and temperature. You probably find that you have almost no capacity to refrain from thinking about the pie. But you do have the capacity to redeploy your attention. Think about this one again. Got it. Mouth-watering? Now stand up and slam the palm of your hand against the wall and shout “STOP!” The image of the pie disappeared, didn’t it? This is one of several simple but highly effective thought-stopping techniques used by people who are trying to interrupt habitual thought patterns. Some people ring a loud bell, others carry a three-by-five card with the word STOP in enormous red letters. Many people find it works well to wear a rubber band around their wrists and snap it hard to stop their ruminating. It is good to combine one of these physical techniques with a technique called attention shifting. To keep your thoughts from returning to a negative belief after interruption, direct your attention elsewhere. Actors do this when they must suddenly switch from one emotion to another. When something disturbing happens and you find thoughts hard to stop, say to yourself, ‘Stop. I’ll think this over later.’ Writing troublesome thoughts down the moment they occur and setting a later time to think about them works well; it takes advantage of the reason ruminations exist—to remind you of themselves—and so undercuts them. If you write them down and set a time to think about them, they no longer have any purpose, and purposelessness lessens their strength.”

Although ducking our disturbing beliefs can be good first aid, a deeper more lasting remedy is to dispute them: Give them an argument. Go on the attack. By effectively disputing the beliefs that follow adversity, you can change your customary reaction from dejection and giving up to activity and good cheer. Consider the following:

Adversity: i recently started taking night classes after work for a master’s degree. I got my first set of exams back and I didn’t do nearly as well as I wanted.

Belief: What awful grades. I no doubt did the word in the class. I’m just stupid and I’m to to be competing with young kids.

Consequences: I felt totally dejected and useless. I was embarrassed I even gave it a try, and decided to withdraw from my courses and be satisfied with the job I have.

Disputation: I’m blowing things out of proportion. I hoped to get all As, but I got a B, a B+, and a B-. Those aren’t awful grades. I may not have done the best in the class, but I didn’t do the worst either. The guy next to me had two Ds and a D+. The fact that I’m forty doesn’t make me any less intelligent than anyone else in the class. I have a full time job and a family. I think that given my situation I did a good job on my exams.

Consequently, he does not withdraw from the class and feels better about himself.

Optimism and Good Health

November 21, 2019

This post is the seventh in a series of posts based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. There are four ways the theory of learned helplessness strongly suggests that optimism should benefit health.

The first follows from the research of Madelon Visintainer’s findings that learned helplessness in rats made them more susceptible to tumor growth. This research was bolstered by more detailed work on the immune systems of helpless rats. The immune system provides the cellular defense agains illness. It contains different kinds of cells whose job is to identify and then kill foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and tumor cells. T-cells recognize specific invaders such as measles, then greatly multiply and kill invaders. Another kind, natural killer cells (NK cells), kill anything foreign they happen across. Researchers looking at the immune systems of helpless rats found that the experience of inescapable shock weakens the immune system. T-cells from the blood of rats that become helpless no longer multiply rapidly when they come across the specific invaders they are supposed to destroy. NK cells from the spleens of helpless rats lose their ability to kill foreign invaders.

A second way in which optimism should produce good health concerns sticking to her regimens and seeking medical advice. Consider a pessimistic person who believes that sickness is permanent, pervasive, and personal. She is not likely to give up unhealthy habits nor to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

A third way in which optimism should matter for health concerns the sheer number of bad life events encountered. It has been shown statistically that the more bad events a person encounters in any given time period, the more illness she will have. People who in the same six months move, get fired, and divorced are at a greater risk for infectious illness—and even for heart attacks and cancer—than are people who lead uneventful lives. Pessimists encounter more bad events and are less likely to take steps to avoid bad events and less likely to do anything to stop them once they start. So putting two and two together, if pessimists have more bad events and if more bad events lead to more illness, pessimists should have more illness.

The fourth reason that optimists should have better health concerns social support. The capacity to sustain deep friendships and love seems to be important for physical health. Middle-aged people who have at least one person whom they can call in the middle of the night to tell their troubles to, go on to have better physical health than friendless people. Unmarried people are at a higher risk for depression than couples. Even ordinary social contact is a buffer against illness. People who isolate themselves when they are sick tend to get sicker. Pessimists become passive more easily when trouble stikes, and they take fewer steps to get and sustain social support. This connection between lack of social support and illness provides the fourth reason to believe that an optimistic explanatory style is likely to produce good health.

The brain and the immune system are connected not through nerves but through hormones, the chemical messengers that flow through the blood can transmit emotional states from one part of the body to another. It is well documented that when a person is depressed the brain changes. Neurotransmitters, hormones that relay messages from one nerve to another, can become depleted. One set of transmitters called, catecholamines, become depleted during depression. If your level of pessimism can deplete your immune system, it seems likely that pessimism can impair your physical health over your whole life span.

Content Analysis for Verbal Explanations (CAVE)

November 20, 2019

This is the sixth post based on a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. The problem was how to characterize individual players in sports and their teams with respect to the optimism dimension. To do so they developed the CAVE technique. CAVE is an acronym for content analysis of verbatim explanations. This can be done by reading the sports pages. Causal statements made by a player can be evaluated on a 1 to 7 scale with respect to its permanent, pervasive, and personal qualities. This enables getting a player’s explanatory style without using a questionnaire. They found that such a profile roughly matches what would have happened if the questionnaire had been taken by the player. By doing this they created a technique that is a virtual time machine.

This virtual time machine provided an extremely powerful tool. This enabled the study of optimism of people who either could not (e.g., deceased individuals) or would not take the ASQ as long as there were verbatim quotes from these individuals. They could “CAVE” an enormous range of material for explanatory style: press conferences, diaries, therapy transcripts, letters from home, and so forth.

The CAVE method provided evidence that we learn our explanatory style from our mothers. In 1970 grandmothers were interviewed. Their children, now mothers themselves were also interviewed. They CAVEd these interviews and found that there was a marked resemblance between the level of pessimism of the mothers and their daughters. This is one of the ways we learn optimism, by listening to our mothers explain the everyday events that happen to them.

This time machine provided the first evidence that the reality of the crises we go through as children shapes our optimism: Girls who went through economic crises that were resolved came to look at bad events as temporary and changeable. But children who experienced the privations of the Great Depression and remained poor afterward came to look at bad events as fixed and immutable. Seligman writes, “So our major childhood crises may give us a pattern, like a cookie cutter, with which, for the rest of or lives, we produce explanations of new crises.

British professor George Brown spent ten years walking around the most poverty-stricken areas of South London, interviewing housewives at great length. He interviewed more than four hundred, looking for the key to the prevention of depression. Over 20% of the housewives were depressed, half of them psychotically. He was determined to find out what separated those women who got severely depressed in that trying environment from those who were apparently invulnerable.

He isolated three protective factors. If any one of them were present, depression would not occur, even in the face of severe loss and privation. The first protective factor was an intimate relationship with a spouse or lover. Such women could fight depression off well. The second was a job outside the home. The third was not having three or more children under the age of fourteen at home to take care of.
In addition to invulnerability factors, Brown isolated two major risk factors for depression: recent loss (husband dying, or emigrating) and, more important, death of their own mothers before the women had reached their teens.

Seligman concludes with three kinds of influences on a child’s explanatory style. “First, the form of the everyday causal analyses he hears from you—especially if you are his mother: If your are optimistic, he will be too. Second, the form of criticism he hears when he fails: If they are permanent and pervasive, his view of himself will turn toward pessimism. Third, the reality of his early losses and traumas: If they remit, he will develop the theory that bad events can be changed and conquered. But if they are, in fact, permanent and pervasive, the seeds of hopelessness have been deeply planted.”

The CAVE methodology has proved informative for a wide range of research issues. There is a chapter titled “Politics, Religion, and Culture: A New Psychohistory.” The interested reader is encouraged to read Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Brain and Your Life.” These blog posts just capture a few major ideas from this book. In the book you can find questionnaires for assessing the optimism of you and your children.

Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ)

November 19, 2019

This is the fifth post based on a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. titled Learned Optimism. The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. The ASQ was developed to have a survey instrument for assessing attributional style. The ASQ is open-ended and consists of twelve little scenarios. Half are about bad events (e.g.,”You go out on a date and it goes badly….”, and half are about good events (e.g., “You suddenly become rich….”). You are asked to imagine the event happening to you and to fill in the most likely cause. So, to explain the first scenario you might say, “I have bad breath,” and for the second, “I’m a brilliant investor.”

Then, you are asked to rate the cause you suppled, on a one-to-seven scale, for personalization. (“Is this cause something about other people or circumstances [external], or is it something about you [internal]?). Then you are asked to rate it for permanence. (“Will this cause never again be present when looking for a job [temporary] or always be present [permanent]?”). Finally, you rate it for pervasiveness (“Does this cause affect only looking for a job [specific] or all other areas of your life [pervasive]?”)

For the first try to validate the questionnaire it was given to two hundred experienced sales agents, half of whom were eagles (very productive) and half turkeys (unproductive). The eagles scored much more optimistically on the questionnaire than the turkeys did. When these test scores were matched to actual sales records the agents who scored in the most optimistic half of the ASQ had sold 37% more insurance on average in their first two years of work than agents who scored in the pessimistic half. Agents who scored in the top 10% sold 88 % more than the most pessimistic tenth.

Seligman writes that the ASQ is a theory-based test, but it is based on a theory very different from the traditional wisdom about success. Traditional wisdom holds that there are two ingredients of success, and you need both to succeed. The first is ability or aptitude and IQ tests and the SAT are supposed to measure it. The second is desire or motivation. Traditional wisdom says that if you lack desire you will fail. Enough desire can make up for meager talent.

Seligman believes that the traditional wisdom is incomplete. He writes, “A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize. Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure.” He believes that the optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.
The explanatory-style theory of success says that in order to choose people for success in a challenging job, you need to select for three characteristics:
1. aptitude
2. motivation
3. optimism
All three determine success.

Work with the Met Life sales force found that the ASQ greatly increased productivity. They also found that optimists kept improving over pessimists over time. The theory had been that optimism matters because it produces persistence. At first it was expected that talent and motivation for selling should be at least as important as persistence. As research continued it was found that persistence became decisive.

How You Think, How You Feel

November 18, 2019

This title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is the fourth post on this book. By the late 1960s Joseph Wolpe and Tim Beck had drawn the same conclusion about depression. The conclusion was that depression is nothing more than its symptoms. It is caused by conscious negative thoughts. There is no deep underlying disorder to be rooted out: not unresolved childhood conflicts, not unconscious anger. Emotion comes directly from what we think: Think “I am in danger” and you feel anxiety. Think “I am being trespassed against” and you feel anger. Think “Loss” and you feel sadness. HM would like to note that biological causes of depression should not be ruled out, but most psychological processes, with the exception of thinking, should be ruled out.

Rumination is having the same depressing thoughts over and over. It is called rumination because people are chewing over and over the same thoughts. Seligman writes that rumination combined with a pessimistic explanatory style is the recipe for severe depression. Seligman continues, “The difference between people whose learned helplessness disappears swiftly and people who suffer their symptoms for two weeks or more is usually simple: Members of the latter group have a pessimistic explanatory style, and a pessimistic explanatory style changes learned helplessness from brief and local to long-lasting and general. Learned helplessness becomes full-blown depression when the person who fails is a pessimist. In optimists, failure produces only brief demoralization.”

Seligman continues, “The key to this process is hope over hopelessness. Pessimistic explanatory style consists of certain kinds of explanations for bad events: personal (“It’s my fault”), permanent (It’s always going to be like this”), and pervasive (It’s going to undermine every aspect of my life.)

Seligman’s theory follows: “there is one particularly self-defeating way to think: making personal, permanent, and pervasive explanations for bad events.” People who have this most pessimistic of all styes are likely, once they fail, to have he symptoms of learned helplessness for a long time and across many endeavors, and to lose self-esteem. Such protracted learned helplessness amounts to depression. People who have a pessimistic explanatory style and suffer bad events will probably become depressed, whereas people who have an optimistic explanatory style and suffer bad events tend to resist depression.” Consequently, pessimism is a risk factor for depression in the same sense as smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer or being a hostile, hard-driving man is a risk factor for a heart attack.

Cognitive Therapy is an effective therapy for depression for the following reasons:

First, you learn to recognize the automatic thoughts flitting through your consciousness at the time you feel worst.

Second, you learn to dispute the automatic thoughts by marshaling contrary evidence.

Third, you learn to make different explanations, called reattributions, and use them to dispute your automatic thoughts.

Fourth, you learn how to distract yourself from depressing thoughts.

Fifth, you learn to recognize and question the depression-sowing assumptions governing so much of what you do.

The concluding section to this chapter is titled “Why Does Cognitive Therapy work? This section is presented in its entirety.

“There are two kinds of answers to this question. On a mechanical level, cognitive therapy works because it changes explanatory style from pessimistic to optimistic, and the change is permanent. It gives you a set of cognitive skills for talking to yourself when you fail. You can use these skills to stop depression from taking hold when failure strikes.

At a philosophical level, cognitive therapy works because it takes advantage of newly epitomized powers of the self. In an era when we believe the self can change itself, we will try to change habits of thought which used to seem as inevitable as sunrise. Cognitive therapy works in our era because it gives the self a set of techniques for changing itself. The self chooses to do this work out of self-interest, to make itself feel better.

Ultimate Pessimism

November 17, 2019

This title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D., titled Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This is the third post on this book. Ultimate pessimism is depression, which comes in three kinds. The first is called normal depression. It is the type each of us knows well. Seligman writes, “It springs from the pained losses that are inevitable parts of being members of a sapient species, creatures who think about the future. We don’t get the jobs we want, we get rejected by people we love, or our loved ones die. It is predictable when such things happen that we feel sad and helpless. We become passive and lethargic. We can believe that our prospects are bleak and that we lack the talent to make them brighter. We don’t do our work well, and might avoid work. Zest goes out of activities we used to enjoy, and we lose our interest in food, company, and sex. We can’t sleep.

But most of the time, by one of nature’s benevolent mysteries, we start to get better. Normal depression is the common cold of mental illness. Seligman writes that he has repeatedly found that at any given moment approximately 23% of us are going through an episode of normal depression, at least in mild form.

The two other kinds of depression are called depressive disorders: unipolar and bipolar depression. What determines the difference between unipolar and bipolar depression is whether or not mania is involved. Mania is a psychological conjoint with a set of symptoms that look like the opposite of depression: unwarranted euphoria, grandiosity, frenetic talk and action, and inflated self-esteem.

Bipolar depression always includes manic episodes, and is also called manic-depression (with mania at one pole and depression at the other). Unipolar depressives never have manic episodes. Another difference between the two is that bipolar depression is much more heritable. If one of two identical twins has bipolar depression, there is a 72% chance the other also has it. This is only 14% true of fraternal twins who are no more closely related than any other full siblings. Bipolar depression is treated with a “wonder drug, “lithium carbonate.” Seligman writes that in more than 80% of cases of bipolar depression, lithium will relieve the mania to a marked degree and, to a lesser extent, the depression. Unlike normal and unipolar depression, manic-depression is an illness, appropriately viewed as a disorder of the body and treated medically.

Seligman’s view differs radically from the prevailing medical opinion, which holds that unipolar depression is an illness and normal depression is just a passing demoralization of no clinical interest. He writes, “This view is the dominant one in spite of a complete absence of evidence that unipolar depression is anything more than just severe normal depression. No one has established the kind of distinction between them that has been established between dwarfs, for instance, and short normal people—a qualitative distinction.” Both normal and unipolar depression involve the same four types of negative change: in thought, mood, behavior, and physical responses.

The way you think when you are depressed differs from the way you think when you are not depressed. When you are depressed you have a dour picture of yourself, the world, and the future. When you’re depressed, small obstacles seem like insurmountable barriers. You believe everything you touch turns to ashes. You have an endless supply of reasons why each of your successes is really a failure.

The second way both unipolar and normal depression is recognized is a negative change in mood. When you’re depressed, you feel awful: sad, discouraged, sunk in a pit of despair. Jokes are no longer funny, but unbearably ironic.

The third symptom of depression concerns behavior. There are three behavioral symptoms: passivity, indecisiveness, and suicidal action.

Many depressed people think about and attempt suicide. They generally have one or both of two motives. The first is surcease: The prospect of going on as they are is intolerable, and they want to end it all. The other is manipulation: They want to get love back, or get revenge, or have the last word in an argument.

The final symptom of depression concerns the physical self. Depression is frequently accompanied by undesirable physical symptoms; the more severe the depression, the more symptoms. The appetites diminish. You can’t eat. You can’t make love. Sleeping becomes difficult.

Unfortunately, depression is increasing. Research has shown that there has been greater than a tenfold increase in depression over the course of the century.

Seligman concludes this chapter as follows: “When we now look at the upsurge of depression, we could view it as an epidemic of learned helplessness. We know the cause of learned helplessness, and now we can see it as the cause of depression: the belief that your actions will be futile. This belief was engineered by defeat and failure as well as uncontrollable situations. Depression could be caused by defeat, failure, and loss of the consequent belief that any actions taken will be futile.

I think this belief is at the heart of our national epidemic of depression. The modern self must be more susceptible to learned helplessness, to an ever-growing conviction that nothing one does matters. I think I know why, and I’ll discuss it in the final chapter.

This all sounds pretty bleak. Yet there is also a hopeful side, and this is where explanatory style becomes important.”

Three Types of Explanatory Style

November 16, 2019

This is the second post in a series of posts on Dr. Martin Seligman’s important book “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.” The preceding post stated that it is the explanation that individuals have for their failure to achieve a particular goal. This post explains the dimensions of explanatory style.

One dimension of explanatory style is permanence. People who give up easily believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent: Bad events will happen, and will always be there to affect their lives. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary.

Here are some comparisons of pessimistic and optimistic explanations:

People who give up easily believe the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent.

PERMANENT (Pessimistic): TEMPORARY (Optimistic)

“I’m all washed up” “I’m exhausted.”
“Diets never work.” “Diets don’t work when you eat out.”
“You always nag.” “You nag when I don’t clean up my room.”
“The boss is a bastard.” “The boss is in a bad mood.”
“You never talk to me.” “You haven’t talked to me lately.”

The optimistic style of explaining good events is just the opposite of the optimistic style of explaining bad events. People who believe good events have permanents causes are more optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes.

TEMPORARY (Pessmistic) PERMANENT (Optimistic)
“It’s my lucky day.” I’m always lucky
“I try hard.” I’m talented
“My rival got tired.” My rival is no good.

This permanence dimension determines how long a person gives up for. Permanent explanations for bad events produce long-lasting helplessness and temporary explanations produce resilience.

Permanence is about time. Pervasiveness is about space. People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives yet march bravely on in the others.

UNIVERSAL (Pessimistic) SPECIFIC (Optimistic)
“All teachers are unfair.” “Professor Seligman is unfair.”
“I’m repulsive.” “I’m repulsive to him.”
“Books are useless.” “This book is useless.”

The optimistic explanatory style for good events is opposite that for bad events. The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events will enhance everything he does; the pessimist believes the bad events have universal causes and that good events are cause by specific factors.

SPECIFIC (Pessimistic) UNIVERSAL (Optimistic)
“I’m smart at math.” “I’m smart.”
“My broker knows oil stocks” “My broker knows Wall Street.”
“ I was charming to her.” “I was charming.”

Whether or not we have hope depends on two dimensions of our explanatory style: pervasiveness and permanence. Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope: Temporary causes limit helplessness in time, and specific causes limit helplessness to the original situation. On the other hand, permanent causes produce helplessness far into the future, and universal causes spread helplessness through all our endeavors. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.

HOPELESS HOPEFUL
“I’m stupid.” “I’m hung over.”
“Men are tyrants.” “My husband was in a bad mood.”
“It’s five in ten this lump is cancer.” “It’s five in ten this lump is nothing.”

According to Seligman, the final aspect of explanatory style is personalization. When bad things happen, we can blame ourselves (internalize) or we can blame other people or circumstances (externalize). People who blame themselves when they fail have low self-esteem as a consequence. They think they are worthless, talentless, and unlovable. People who blame external events do not lose self-esteem when bad events strike. Not surprisingly, they like themselves better than people who blame themselves do.

Low self-esteem usually comes from an internal style for bad events.

INTERNAL (Low self-esteem) EXTERNAL (High self-esteem)

“I’m stupid.” “You’re stupid.”
“I have no talent at poker.” “I have no luck at poker.”
“I’m insecure.’ “I grew up in poverty.”

The optimistic style for explaining good events is the opposite of that used for bad events: It’s internal rather than external. Seligman writes that people who believe they cause good things tend to like themselves better than people who believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

EXTERNAL (Pessimistic) INTERNAL (Optimistic)

“A stroke of luck…” “I can take advantage of luck.”
“My teammates’ skill… “My skill…”

Seligman notes that although there are clear benefits to learning optimism—there are also dangers. “Temporary? Local? That’s fine. I want my depressions to be short and limited. I want to bounce back quickly. But external? Is it right that I should blame others for my failures.?”

Learned Optimism

November 15, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a book by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. The subtitle is How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Professor Seligman is the father of positive psychology. He felt that psychology had been focused almost exclusively on illness and problems. He thought that more emphasis should be placed on making people feel happy and fulfilled. You should note that there is a relatively new category of healthy memory blogs labeled ‘Positivity.”

Initially, Seligman’s renown was for documenting the finding of learned helplessness. Research with animals discovered that many of these subjects, if offered no way to free themselves from painful stimuli, would conclude that there was nothing to learn other than that they were helpless. So when given an opportunity to avoid or escape from painful stimuli, these animals would fail to do so.

Similar findings resulted with research on human subjects. Fortunately, humans can be asked about why they felt helpless. They explained that they thought that there was no way to avoid the painful or adverse situation. Even when there was a means of avoiding or stopping the situation, they still believed that that there was nothing they could do. So they had in effect learned to be helpless.

It is easy to think of people who live in poor environments with few opportunities for success. They, too, can readily conclude that there is nothing that they can do that they are victims of their environments.

This feeling that there is nothing that can be done to improve the situation provides the foundation for pessimism. On the other hand, optimists regard failures or disappointments as obstacles that they think that they can overcome. In other words, they are highly resilient.,

So what determines whether we are optimists or pessimists depends on how we think.

Seligman writes, “One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think. Research has shown that what distinguishes optimists from pessimists is their explanatory style. That is how they explain the failure they are experiencing. In other words, how they think about or explain the failure is in control of the individual.

The notion that we can control our minds and on how we think and feel has long been a theme of the healthy memory blog. Blog posts on meditation and mindfulness are devoted to teaching us how to have greater control of our minds.

The subsequent posts on “Learned Optimism” will discuss research on this topic and will provide strategies for being optimistic and overcoming negative thinking.

The Single Most Important Activity

November 14, 2019

This is the final post based on the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. HM fears he has not done justice to this volume, so if your interests warrant please read the book.

The reader is likely overwhelmed by all the suggestions and recommendations made in these posts. According to one’s predilections, pursue what seems warranted. However, there is a single activity that both HM and the author agree upon, and that activity is meditation. The author titles this activity TEN (RICH) MINUTES A DAY and writes, “Researchers at Stanford, Massachusetts General and UCLA have found that ten minutes a day of mindfulness meditation for six months doubles the gray matter in the regions of the brain related to emotional well-being and executive. This means that our brains can heal themselves; and on the way to doing this, we can learn to be still and get grounded and can strengthen our internal locus of control.”

However, one should not stop after six months, nor limit this activity to ten minutes. If done properly, you should find this a very rewarding and lifelong activity.

Here are the instructions the author provides in the text:

Assume a posture of Alert restfulness. For many people, this is seated in a chair with both feet firmly on the floor. For others, it might be sitting on the floor or on a prayer or meditation cushion. Lying on your back is fine (this is HM’s practice). The goal, however, is restful alertness, not sleep (HM has never fallen asleep and emerges with increased alertness).

Breathe. Try focusing on how it feels when breath enters and exists your body. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth (“smelling the roses and blowing out the candles”) allowing your diaphragm to expand on the inhale and fall on the exhale. You can add words to your breathing if it helps. Try “releasing stress” on the exhale and “taking in space” on the inhale. You can also imagine your body as a closed system. Any time your take something new into an already-filled closed system, something must be removed to make space for the new. As you breathe in spaciousness, you must release tension. Use your imagination to try to fill more than 50% of the closed system of your body with spaciousness.

Create space in your mind for simply being. As you focus on your breath, remind yourself that this ten minutes is simply for you to be within. There is nothing that needs your attention for the next ten minutes (ten minutes should be regarded as the minimum time for the meditation. One can extend well beyond ten minutes).

Direct distractions and Draw attention back to being. When you are beset with distractions, as we all constantly are, simply notice them, name them, and then do what you can to draw your attention back to your breathing.

This same basic technique can be found in the healthy memory blog by searching for “relaxation response.” HM also uses “loving kindness meditation.” Typically, he begins with the relaxation response and then transitions to a much longer loving kindness meditation. Together this usually exceeds one hour in length. Use the search block in the healthy memory blog (healthymemory.wordpress.com) to find these topics.) There is a book by Kathleen McDonald titled “How to Meditate: A Practical Guide”). This is a practical guide to many different types of meditation, and Ms. McDonald is a true expert. Some meditations are Buddhist and they provide interesting insights to the Buddhist religion.

Summary of Tips for Establishing Norms and Eliminating Habits

November 13, 2019

This is the penultimate post based on the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.

Here are some tips for evaluating any digital media or platform. Ask the following questions:

*What is the developer’s goal?
*Does engagement with this space teach me something?
*What does it teach me?
*Is this a value, skill, or informational domain that improves my life?
*Is this purely frivolous fun or is there any negative impact I should aware of as I engage with it?
*Do the developers of this content benefit directly and monetarily from my repeated or prolonged engagement with it? Am I encouraged to make frequent in-app purchases? Am I required to pay for frequent upgrades?
*Am I required to watch ads repeatedly during engagement” If so, what are the ads for?
*How does the flow of offerings in the digital places change after I’ve interacted with this platform? Basically we’re asking “How does my engagement here in this space impact the algorithm that determines what is offered to me online?

Here are some activities that encourage FOCUS:

*Mindfulness meditation
*Yoga (including “Jedi training’)
*Listening tasks/challenges
*Plays/live theater
*Solo imaginative play
*Puzzles
*Contemplative prayer
*Reading a paper book
*Classical music concerts
*Chess and strategy games
*Memorizaton tasks
*Balance games and tasks

The following activities build DELAY skills:

*Making a phone call, leaving a voicemail, and waiting for a response
*Watching a television series in weekly episodes rather than binge-watching it all at once
*Waiting in line, doing the shopping, completing a drive from one location to another, or eating a meal—without interacting with a phone, laptop, television, or electronic tablet
*Waiting a preset amount of time between the urge to impulse buy an object and actually purchasing it
*Writing back and forth through “regular” mail with a pen pal or friend
*Shopping in-person rather than online
*Forcing a waiting period between screen times (e.g., thirty minutes without before screens can be engaged again)

The following activities build SELF-REGULATION skills:
*Deep-breathing exercises
*Progressive relaxation
*Mindfulness meditation
*Yoga
*Psychotherapy
*Spiritual direction
*Contemplative prayer
*Self-help or human development books
*Self-discovery classes
*Use of prayer beads, labyrinths and mandalas
*Coloring/sketching
*Physical exertion in the form of exercise that is pleasurable and releases tension

Here are some creative ideas for increasing ATTACHMENT BALANCE
*Use online sources to find individuals with similar interests with whom to spend time in the physical world. Meetup.com is great resource for this.
*Attend lectures and participate in community talks.
*Practice making conversation with people in your natural surroundings.
*Make at least one phone call for every ten texts your send. Better yet, stop texting.
*Learn and teach digital citizenship.
*Practice eye contact.
*Talk with those closest to you about why they prefer the methods of communication they do, and work diligently to understand them.

Habits and Norms

November 12, 2019

This is the eleventh post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The author begins this chapter with the following three statements.

It is easier to establish healthy norms than to break unhealthy habits.
It is easy to establish habits.
It is not easy to establish healthy norms.
This entire book could be summed up by these three sentences.

This is certainly true, so the reader might wonder why so many posts. The reason is that this is a long book, and HM needed to pass on as much knowledge and advice in the book that could be done in a series of blog posts. Essentially, it is difficult breaking unhealthy habits and in establishing healthy norms. It is possible that there are habits that correspond to norms, but in most cases knowledge and tips are required.

Habits feel almost instinctual and we enact them with little or no thought. Repeated actions the seem to happen almost outside our awareness become the habits that shape our lives. Examples of habituated behaviors are automatically reaching for something in the refrigerator when we’re bored, the feeling that comes over us when we make a mistake, or our emotional and behavioral reactions to an ideology that differs from our own.

The alternative to living habitually is living from intentionally chosen and established norms. “Norms” is a shortened reference to the phrase “normative behaviors/patterns” and refers to intentionally chosen behaviors and thought/feeling responses that both result and emerge from the conscious creation of healthy patterns. Norms often form the beginning of many of our habits, especially habits we develop by acts of our will.

The final paragraph of the chapter follows: “Unless a person has an iron-strong will, an incredibly sturdy sense of self, and an ability to be persistent about healthy norm maintenance, the shiny, hyper stimulating, constantly moving world of digital engagement is perfect for pulling us off true north and creating habits that distract, detract, and diminish our volitional way of being in the world. Because technology is here to stay and our engagement with it is almost always a must, the establishment of norms that enable health living, a balance of experiences and relationships in both our digital and embodied spaces, and the development of skills related to focus, delay of gratification, and regulation are key.”

Cultivating an Internal Locus of Control

November 11, 2019

This is the tenth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. Here are three lessons about cultivating an internal locus of control.
Know your stuff.
Start non-shaming conversations about your own and other’s technology use.
Live wild, fiery embodied lives and invite others to do the same.

Here are three ways for a caregiver to respond to a child who falls in a park and an injury results.

The caregiver reacts strongly on one end of a “this is a huge deal” to “this is not a big deal at all” continuum. Both ends of this continuum are the wrong way to respond.
2. The caregiver, whether physically present or not responds with complacency or absence’
Wrong.
3. The caregiver responds to the child’s inquisitive glance with an empathic and connected reply calling for an assessment. “How are you? Are you okay? How can I help?

Let’s figure out what is happening here. This response communicates both the child’s own assessment of and communication about the situation. The response puts the child in the driver’s seat by enabling him or her to slow down and consider what he or she needs and then allows for a partnership in addressing the need.

Self-promotion can serve as a precursor to an external locus of control. Initially this might appear to be ironic, because self-promotion might initially appear to be an internal locus of control. But if the concern is with external approval, then the locus of control is actually external.

Self-knowing awareness is a precursor for an internal locus of control. Here self-loving awareness, or self love provides an alternative to self-promotion.

The objective is to move from an external to an internal locus of control. Here are the traits, actions, and capacities that are induced in the healthy relationship with one’s self.

*Capacity for honest awareness of strengths and weaknesses.
*Knowledge of one’s emotional range and an ability to moderate and regulate affect emotions.
*Flexibility in relation to the knowledge and recognition as well as the importance of one’s personal needs versus the needs of the communities in which someone lives.
*Ability to function independently and interdependently and to post intimate relationships with others without compromising or disowning important parts of the self.
*General awareness of one’s physiological being and ability to be comfortable in one’s skin.

Here are the ideas provided for Establishing and Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with the Self.

LEARN TO BE ALONE.

USE AT LEAST A SMALL AMOUNT OF ALONE TIME TO CONSIDER YOUR PREFERENCES, STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, AND BIASES.

TALK TO YOURSELF OR JOURNAL.

SEEK OUT WISE OTHERS WHO CAN HELP YOU KNOW YOURSELF MORE DEEPLY.

The Fertile Ground of Idle Time

November 10, 2019

This is the ninth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The author writes, “Idling actually has immense potential to command our attention. When we are in constant intellectual, emotional, or physical motion, we lack the spaciousness needed to come to understand and make sense of the full richness of our humanity. We are all familiar with the experience of feeling hungry or tired and not paying attention. Our stomachs growl or we yawn, yet we mindlessly push forward. We might drink coffee or eat something out of the vending machine, whatever is needed to keep moving through our very full day instead of taking the hunger pains or feelings of fatigue under real and rationed consideration. Our cultural norms reinforce this compensatory pattern by rewarding constant productivity, action, and advancement. As such, we are most commonly validated for having our attention focused outside ourself. Not only are we rewarded for being available to our employers, educators, and social connections twenty-four hours a day, but we are also privy to a never-ending stream of entertainment, education, and information that feels as though it builds, soothes, or stimulates us. Little reason (let alone demand) exists anymore for using our idle time to turn our attention inward.

The intolerance of stillness results in a deficit of self-soothing abilities. We cannot be still because we can’t soothe ourselves, quiet our thoughts, or regulate our emotions. Rather we stimulate ourselves, distracting ourselves or denying our need for comfort. Self-soothing skills, emotional regulation, critical-thinking capabilities, boredom tolerance, and creativity might all be enhanced by putting ourselves in the uncomfortable new space of stillness.

The author suggests that there is merit in learning to be calmly and fully present in any given moment. Experienced meditators tell us that this type of stillness comes only with great practice, and that a lack of practice leads to feelings of anxiety and agitation when distractions are unavailable. The author writes, “Self-soothing skills, emotional regulation, and critical thinking capabilities might all be enhanced by simply putting ourselves in the uncomfortable new space of stillness. Without doing the intentional work of saving some of our idle time to develop such skills, the opportunities for practice elude us and the malicious cycle of stimulation-distraction-information sets in. Not only does this rob of us our ability to practice tolerating stillness, it also keeps us valuing being informed over learning to be.

Boredom tolerance correlates positively with measures of creativity and experiencing intentional boredom paves the way for learning to function in “being” states as opposed to “doing” states. When we are bored, we find out how to stimulate or soothe ourselves. We learn to determine and meet our needs from this place. If we just meet boredom with an impulsive action to distract or engage the self in pursuits outside the self, we will never be fully capable functioning from a space of purely being who we are. Boredom tolerance and anxiety tolerance are twin requirements for learning to tolerate stillness. To be our healthiest and sturdiest selves requires an ability to be with ourselves in all our states of being; this enables the cultivation of imagination, engagement with complexities of thought, and a familiarity with our feelings. Often this externally looks like standing still and might look or feel like laziness, it is in reality much more of an idling where much internal activity is going on, even if the body is still.

There is a distinction between having time versus making it. Stop using the phrase “I don’t have time to…” and replace it with “I choose not to make time for…”

Technology and the Self

November 9, 2019

This is the eighth post in the book by doreen dodgem-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The author begins “The ‘self’ is an expansive topic that has been considered throughout history and referred to by names such as ‘soul,’ ‘psyche,’ and ‘essential identity’.” Despite conflicting theories regarding the development of this foundational element of our humanity, some generally held ideas about it mean to live with a cohesive and stable sense of self do exist. At least, people with such an identity are able to:

*Experience their self as distinct from others.
*Connect to and separate from others in healthy ways (being neither overly dependent nor overly independent).
*Have a general sense of more values and worldview.
*Perform general processes related to being active participants in the world.
*Handle consequences related to their actions in the world.

Dr. doreen dodgen-magee writes of the importance of science and technology as a usurper of the sense of self. She offers the following ideas for creating and using silence.

SET SOME TIMES OF THE DAY FOR TURNING OFF ALL ELECTRONIC SOUNDS

PRACTICE A GUIDED MEDITATION, THEN TRY IT ON YOUR OWN
Here you can read the posts on the relaxation response. There is a guided meditation at MARC.UCLA.edu. It counts even if you try to sit in one place and breath in silence for just three minutes. Dr. doreen dodgen-magee and HM encourage you to do this frequently.

USE A SINGING BOWL (of the Tibetan variety. HM has one).

Here are some ideas for fighting Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
TAKE BREAKS FROM THE NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMIT TO NOT “CATCH UP”

CONSCIOUSLY WORK THROUGH FEELINGS OF BEING LEFT OUT

AFFIRM THE PLACES AND PEOPLE TO WHOM YOU ARE MEANINGFULLY ATTACHED AND INVESTED IN

She encourages the abandonment of a Fixed Mind-set for a Growth Mind-set. There have been numerous healthy memory blog posts on this topic. She provides the following ideas for Enhancing a Growth Mind-set.

TRY NEW THINGS WITHOUT OVEREMPHASIS ON MASTERY
MASTER A USELESS SKILL THAT TAKES TIME TO LEARN

INSTEAD OF JOURNALING, TRY A BRAIN DUMP (STREAM OF CONSCIOUS WRITING).
Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper for five to ten minutes straight. Don’t try to construct sentences or bold ideas. Simply write whatever comes to mind. When you are done, rip up the piece of paper or burn it. The process, not the outcome, is the goal.

Here are some ideas she offers for BOREDOM INTOLERANCE

TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS

SET A PASSWORD to decrease the likelihood of being overly attentive to one’s phone.

LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR

HOST A BOREDOM PARTY

Here are suggestions she offers for underdeveloped resilience, which is the ability to handle difficulties and hardships facing psychological symptoms.

DO AN INVENTORY OF THE FEELINGS YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH AND THOSE THAT MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE

DO A DAILY EXAMEN (a practice found in many religious traditions. Some people call it a “Rose, Bud, Thorn” exercise; others call it the Crappy/Happy exercises. She suggest keeping a small notebook next to the bed. Each night before going to sleep, record what gave you life during that day (“happy”) and what took life away (“crapppy’).

Here are suggestions she offer for learning to self-soothe

LEARN TO PRACTICE MINDFUL BREATHING
There are many healthy memory blog posts on mindfulness

FIND “ESCAPE ROUTES”. These are routes to which you can escape an catch your breath and tap into your grounded self.

MAKE A “SELF-SOOTHING” LIST AND REFER TO IT

GO TO A CORNER OR APPLY SOME GENTLE WEIGHT
Heavy or weighted blankets that can be heated and placed on sore muscles are also helpful in communicating to the body that there is space for nothing and stillness.

Here are some additional ideas she offers for nurturing a more grounded sense of self

CONSIDER A SOCIAL MEDIA FAST
BUILD A VOCABULARY FILLED WITH NONEVALUATIVE, NONCOPERPATIVE LANGUAGE AND EMPATHIC, ENCOURAGING, AND LIFE AFFIRMING SENTIMENTS.

TRY THE HALT SCAN. This involves stopping throughout the day or when one feels particularly dysregulated and asking oneself if one is hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. These four states of being leave us particularly prone to distracting ourselves or using things other than what we really long for to satiate us. Once identified, we can choose a better action or feeling rather than simply acting unconsciously.

Technology and Relationships

November 8, 2019

This is the seventh post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The first relationship to be discussed is the relationship with oneself. Technology has a profound effect on how we relate to ourselves. If we have been able to develop a stable internal locus of control alongside our tech engagement, then we will be able to build an authentic, deep relationship with others. However, if the prevailing nature of technology’s impact on our relationship with ourselves has been to make us into self-promoting, self-centric, lacking in empathy, limited in communication skills, and sans an accompanying sense of self-knowing awareness of our limitations as well as our strengths, then our relationship with others will be built on a fragile foundation. We need to keep this foundational dynamic in mind as we discuss our relationships with others.

Given the amount of time we spend with screens, it seems plausible to posit that some of our most meaningful relationships exist with our devices (if meaningfulness is, at least in part, determined by investment of time and resources). Over time we develop response patterns to devices that look much like our response patterns to humans. Research has show that interaction with our devices can stimulate the release of oxytocin, initiating feelings similar to love. Oxytocin is considered the “cuddle hormone.” It is released when a new mother fazes at her nursing baby. Our physiological responses to devices suggest an emotional connection to them not unlike what we experience as physiological responses to connection between humans.

There is a distinction that needs to be made between our social lives and our relational lives. The former refers to the relative amount of time we spend in companionable connection with others, whereas the latter refers to the part of our being we invest in knowing others and being known by them. To be healthy and reliable, these relational forms of knowing need to be predicated on communication that is honest and authentic, happens in a variety of contexts, and occurs over time. Consider what you believe to be the differences and similarities between social networks and relational connections.
*Track the number of responses to social media posts you make in a day and compare that to the number of texts of phone calls you make.
*Consider who you might call if you had an amazing piece of news to share or if you needed help in an emergency.
*Let the difference between the types of connections and relationships you enjoy sink in, and determine where you might make some investments to deepen those that have real potential.

The author writes, “If our relationship with our own self and the authenticity of communication regarding that self is the foundation upon which our relationships are built, then the nature and quality of our communication creates that building blocks of our relationships with others. Research conducted with pairs of close friends found that communication via instant messaging results in significantly lower levels of bonding than face-to-face communication, video chatting, and audio chatting. If this is true for existing close friends, how might it impact the many relationships begun and maintained solely through typed digital messages?”

“Disinhibition” is one of the potential issues with the digital world that diminishes our communication skills. As we spend less time practicing the art of communication, with its subtleties of give and take, we are shifting toward disinhibition, a lack of restraint that manifests in impulsivity, poor risk assessment, and a disregard for social conventions. This shift is most apparent in typed communiques. In his article “online disinhibition effect,” Rider University communications professor John Suler describes how digital communication can train us to be less “other aware.” He writes: “In text communication such as email, chat, blogs, and instant messaging, others may know a great deal about who you are. However, they still can’t see or hear you—and you can’t see or hear them. Even with everyone’s identity visible, the opportunity to be physically invisible amplifies the ‘disinhibition effect.’”

Research evaluated whether people preferred to answer questions posed by humans or by “embodied conversational agents” (ECAs), which are virtual people. The results revealed that the research participants preferred speaking with ECAs if the answers might be of a highly sensitive nature or likely to involve negative self-admissions. If the answers were considered less sensitive or more likely to include positive self-admissions, the participants preferred human interviewers. Research participants reportedly appreciated the lack of judgment an ECA would afford.

The need to stand out alongside the constant comparison and competition for attention in our socially networked spaces has the power to subtly impact the way we think about ourselves and others. Excessive exposure to a world with constant judgment, evaluation, commentary, and comparison can make any of us lean toward relationally aggressive ways of encountering others and ourselves.

The author encourages the reader to align one’s social networks with our embodied, relational ones.
*Do an inventory of our social networks (whether they are via video games, on platforms like Facebook, etc.)
*Consider whether we are engaging with people on our social networks who are there only for you to show off to, or others who lead you to feel “less than.”
*Assess the newsletters and online subscriptions you receive.
Then carefully consider who and what are positive influences in our lives that we want to continue connecting with, and who and what might be best to part ways with. This need not be a harsh rejection session but rather a realignment of sorts,

More ideas for creating healthier relationships off-and online

TAKE A TEN-MINUTE PAUSE BEFORE POSTING OR RESPONDING TO POTENTIALLY PROVOCATIVE INFORMATION.

PRACTICE NONJUDGMENTAL AWARENESS AND RESPONSIVENESS
Consider living by the motto, “Be kind to everyone, for theirs is a difficult journey.” See how leading with empathy and openheartedness changes the tendency toward judgment and categorization.

PICK UP THE PHONE OR INITIATE A VIDEO CHAT

LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN THE CAR WHEN MEETING WITH OTHERS, AND DON’T WEAR EARBUDS WHEN OTHERS ARE PRESENT (AT LEAST SOME OF THE TIME).

WAIT IN LINE, AT A MEETING, OR ELSEWHERE WITHOUT INTERACTING WITH YOUR PHONE.

PRACTICE EYE CONTACT.

HANDWRITE A LETTER OR NOTE.

PRACTICE FINDING THE GOOD IN OTHERS, AND PERIODICALLY AFFIRM SOMEONE IN PERSON.

Our Bodies and Brains on Tech

November 7, 2019

This is the sixth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in that book. The title is accurate. Technology affects both our bodies and our brains. Unfortunately, many of these effects are bad.

Fortunately, the author offers tips for decreasing these bad effects. Here are some suggestions for taking action to decrease some bad physical effects:
*Take breaks from screens for movement through the day to help you stay not only healthy, but engaged.
*Get into the habit of walking away from your devices at least every hour to ge fresh air and move both your legs and small muscle groups. Just stepping outside for three deep breaths can be helpful.
*Try many different types of physical movement. Doing so will help you stay flexible both in your physiology as well as in your beliefs about your body’s capabilities.
*Associate one of your tech hobbies with a set of basic and easy-to-do-wherever-you-are stretches. Do these stretches every time you engage that tech habit. For example, do a sun salutation or two every time you pick up your game controller or log on to social media.

Negative postural effects are also a problem. The author offers these suggestions:
*Remember to step away from your devices regularly.
*Practice good ergonomics.
*Stretch regularly.
*Engage in flexibility exercises.
*Make sure your screens are level with your eyes when looking straight ahead.
*When using a keyboard, keep your back straight and your arms parallel to the floor and close in at your sides. Also, rotate your wrists occasionally.
*When using small devices, be sure to stand and stretch, shift your weight, and rotate your thumbs and wrists occasionally. Look up and around and intentionally stretch the top of your head toward the sky.
*When using any device, be careful not to round your shoulders or lean your head excessively forward.
*Practice mindful, thoughtful device engagement.

Blue light related to screen use also has negative effects. Here are some tips offered by the author to minimize this negative impact.
*Take breaks from screens throughout the day.
*Make sure screens are not placed in front of windows, forcing your eyes to adjust to both light sources.
*Use lighting at eye level rather than overhead when working with screens indoors.

Technology use also affects the brain. And these effects are large enough such that neuromarketing has emerged as a field of study. Neuromarketers use brain-imaging technology along with biometric measures (heart rate, respiration) to determine why consumers make the decisions they do. By studying fMRI scans and other physiological data while individuals interact with technology, the researchers see how activation of particular areas of the brain due to specific technological content exposure can result in specific behaviors, ideas, or feelings in people. By changing the way content is delivered within the digital framework, the researchers can change the way the brain is activated, hence changing the lived experience of the subject. This effort is predicated on the knowledge that activation of certain brain regions will bring about certain responses. As the brain wires together where it fires together, repetitive exposure and responses to technology must be having some impact on the way our brains are wired.

In a 1969 episode of Sesame Street the images were black and white and each sustained camera shot lasted somewhere between six and fifteen seconds. It is reasonable to assume that individuals who are exposed to this kind of pacing in the presentation of screen imagery will develop circuitry used to waiting for up to fifteen seconds for a new stimulus. Doing this over and over would force the brain to develop the ability to focus attention without becoming bored or distracted.

In a 1984 Sesame Street episode the sustained camera shots lasted between three to six seconds, with a few lasting only one and a half seconds. The author notes that the brain exposed to this rapid cycling of stimulation and images doesn’t wire with the same tendency toward focus and boredom tolerance that we explored earlier. Instead, it will anticipate a change of scenery every three to five seconds, wiring for efficiency in handling multiple images in fast succession.

The author finds no sustained unmoving camera shots on Sesame Street. She concludes the brain is trained to expect constantly, changing stimulation. If things don’t change on the screen immediately our brain is trained to look away to find something novel to attend to. When the preponderance of visual stimuli presented to us follows this pattern over time, we no longer have the neurologically practiced skills of waiting and focus. It is not every day that one can find such a condemning indictment of Sesame Street.

Dopamine is released during video game use and game developers work to exploit tis. When dopamine levels are high, we feel a sense of pleasure, Once we’ve experienced these feelings, it’s hard not to want to live with less.

Developers are trying to increase users’ screen time. And this can most definitely be harmful. Here are telltales signs that the author offers:
*Moving from incidental use to nearly constant use.
*Needing increasing levels of tech time of stimulation for satisfaction.
*Being jittery or anxious in response to stepping away from technology.
*Lying in order to garner more time/specific content/etc. or to cover up certain forms of use.
*Isolating in order to engage technology.

Here are tips offered by the author for preventing tech addiction and getting help.

Set clear boundaries, communicate them, and enforce them .

Think ahead before adding a technology.

Make sure technology is not your only “sweet spot.”

Introduce high quality, slow moving technologies first, and stick with them as long as possible.

If you feel you’ve moved into use patterns that are hurting you or keeping you from your embodied life, get help.

There is so much information on the dangers of multitasking in the healthy memory blog that anything the author offers on this topic would be repetitive.

She does note the good news of neuroplasticity and doing “deep work.” One of the principle goals of the healthy memory blog is to move past superficial system one processing, which is very fast and avoids deep thinking, and to engage in system 2 processing which is deep thinking. So much learning can be enhanced via technology. There is a virtual infinity of useful knowledge on the web. But people become preoccupied with games, staying in touch, being liked and other superficial activities. In terms of memory health, it is deeper system 2 processing which provides for a more fulfilling and meaningful life. It also decreases the probability of suffering from dementia. Autopsies have found many cases of people who died with the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary ranges, which are the defining features Alzheimer’s, but who never exhibited any behavioral or cognitive symptoms. The explanation for this is that these people had developed a cognitive reserve during their lives through continual learning and critical use of their brains.

Practicing Living an Embodied Life (Cont.)

November 6, 2019

This is the fifth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” This is a continuation of the points being advanced for living an embodied life.

Smell

*Pay attention to scents. Notice how naturally occurring smells in your daily life impact your sense of awareness and attention. Are there fragrances in your home/office/classroom that distract you or overly direct your attention? Are there any that enhance? Try plugging your nose when you take a bite of food. How does the lack of olfactory stimulation affect your awareness of the texture and taste of your food?

*Try essential oils. Olfactory stimulation is often encountered by chance rather than by attention. We tend to notice smells when they occur naturally, and we encode them with emotion in our memories. It can be powerful to use olfactory stimulation by design—engaging fragrances to stimulate or soothe, to heighten awareness or to set a mood. To do so, use them on pulse points on the body in essential oil form or throughout your living/work/learning spaces with infusers or candles. As a very general rule, citrus scents (lemon, lime, orange) invigorate and stimulate, while plant-based scents (rosemary, clary, sage, eucalyptus) soothe and relax.

*Go international. Go to an international market or restaurant. When and as you can, close your eyes and focus only on the smells. How do these new smells make you feel? What do you become aware of?

*Grow fragrant plants. Experiment with growing a fragrant plant where it can be easily accessed. Rosemary and lavender are relatively easy to grow. Once the plant is mature enough, break off a small piece and rub it between your fingers. Take the smell in as you breath deeply to create a sense of calm. Work to actively link the fragrance with the embodied experience of feeling calm.

Taste

*Spice it up. We often gravitate toward cases we know and with which we are comfortable. Periodically stretch yourself to try new flavors and textures. Do this in small and manageable ways. Try a new spice. Buy a small bag of uniquely flavored potato chips or an unusual (to you) piece of candy at an international market. If you naturally gravitate towards toward sweets, try something savory or vice versa. This can be done with drinks such as tea as well as with food. If you have access to a good tea shop, stop in and try a smokey blend. Notice how you anticipate and then taste the flavor.

*Go bland. Try food that has not been flavored or seasoned. If you drink coffee or tea with sweeteners, try the drink without. If you are use to processed foods, seek out a meal or food experience that is preservative and enhanced-flavor free. Notice the differences, even if you don’t prefer them.

Touch

*Mix it up. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, our skin is constantly perceiving what it touches or is touched by. “Waking up” this perception can lead to greater sensory awareness. Provide yourself opportunities to feel things that are rough, smooth, wet, dry, hot, cold, and more. Pay real and focused attention on how they feel and what kinds of sensation you experience as a result.

*Add touch to learning. Some individuals can increase their focus and attention in life simply having something to touch or play with during learning experiences. For these people, knitting or crocheting, a handful of Silly Putty, a bowl of Kinetic Sand, a small scrap of carpet or AstroTurf, or a rock might become important tools for maintaining focus and attention. Individuals who are kinesthetically/body smart benefit immensely from attending to the body in this way. When they do not actively work at getting the kinesthetic/physiological stimulation they need, they are at risk of using substances and people outside themselves to stimulate them. Drug and alcohol use, sexual acting out, and self-injury can become serious issues for these individuals.

*Experiment with weight and swaddling. Sometimes our bodies can benefit from feeling “contained.” If we don’t have others to hug or hold us, we can wrap a blanket around ourselves and pull it snugly. Warmed, rice-filled compresses also can be used over closed eyes or the chest to create a sensation of calming. Therapeutic weighted lap pads and blankets are also available for sale in a variety of stores and can be found online through a Google search.

Practice Living an Embodied Life

November 5, 2019

 

This is the fourth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” These are the points the author advances to practice living an embodied life:

*Work to love your body with all its imperfections. Identify things about your body that you appreciate or enjoy. Practice viewing your shortcomings with graciousness and then redirecting your attention to a trait you appreciate. Thank your body for the things it does well.

*Learn to listen to, soothe, and—with warmth and gentleness—care for your body.

*Experience your sexuality and desires in safe ways that are respectful of yourself and others.

Cultivate you intuitive intra-and interpersonal senses.

*Cultivate your physical senses as discussed in the following section>

Sound

*Cherish Silence. Maintain an ability to be in and with silence by creating it. Leave the television off for a while. Choose specific times to drive with no radio/digital content. Walk/run/work without earbuds. Let a podcast or two go unheard. Visit places such as libraries and empty places of worship, where silence is the norm. Sit for at leas ten minutes and pay attention to the sound of silence. What do you hear? What do you feel? What happens with your other senses as the need for active listening falls away?

*Turn down the volume. Set the volume of your laptop/television/phone a bit lower than normal. Notice how this feels. How does working at listening feel?

*Take earbud breaks. Set aside times when everyone in your home or work setting is earbud free—and maybe even device free for a while. This lets everyone in on what everyone else is doing and makes you aware of how much stimulation is influencing each person in your environment.

*Vary your playlist. Listen to a variety of genres of music/content. Challenge yourself to stretch into new styles. To find compelling elements in what you hear, listen past the point when the newness bothers you. Listen to an entire recording as presented. The artist ordered for a reason. Notice how this feels.

*Try going lyric free. If you must keep your earbuds employed, listen to the lyric-free music when trying to study or work. Experiment with genres such as baroque, jazz, or electronic. What do you notice as different themes within the music emerge?

Which forms increase your attention to the tasks you are working on? Which distract you?

Vision/Sight

*Declutter. Pay attention to “visual clutter” in your home, work, or school environment. Notice how it feels to look at the cluttered spaces versus spaces of visual stimulation or clutter. Regardless of your style or temperament, we all need quiet places for your eyes to rest. Ensure that you have places in your homework/space/classroom for your eyes to land with little stimulation. Practice drawing your attention to these spaces when you are overwhelmed or need a break. Notice how it feels for your eyes to have a place to rest.

*Renew your view. Give yourself new things to look at periodically. Take a new way home, visit a place you’ve never been (even if it’s just a new neighborhood in your city), or take a hike in an unfamiliar setting. Switch out or rearrange that art in your home or office. Pick up a children’s picture book or a photographic illustrated coffee-table book, and set aside time to take it in at a slow pace. Notice what draws your eye and what repels it.

*Find eye feasts and indulge. Provide our self with visual complexity. Art museums, image-rich magazines and journals, pattern-based coloring books, and natural settings with a variety of foliage. Artificial illumination stimulates the visual field in important ways. Make sure that screens aren’t your only source of visual stimulation.

*Think about lighting. Light impacts our sense of visual comfort versus discomfort. As a general principle overhead lighting (that is not highly designed or managed) is hard on the eye and creates shadows on the faces of those with whom we interact. Lighting at face level (e.g., table lamps that are right at face level) is easier on the eye and provides a more comforting environment. Make some changes according to these guidelines and see how the changes make you feel. Notice how the light changes in your environment as the sun goes down, and try to make the change from natural light to artificial forms of light more seamless.

*Power down prior to bedtime. Digital devices emit powerful doses of light that stimulate neurotransmitters and hormones related to wakefulness and stimulation. Try powering down all electronics at least thirty minutes before trying to sleep. Increase this to sixty or ninety minutes over time. Over the course of a two-week trial, notice how your sense of restfulness waxes and wanes as you eliminate screens closer to bedtime and when you are in bed.

Living Outside Our Skin

November 4, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in he book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” This is the third post on this book. The chapter begins, “Humans are sensual animals.” We touch, taste, smell, hear, and see our way through our days. We pay attention to both the message indicators that direct us to stimuli and the physical experiences of these stimuli. Our stomachs rumble, so we look for food. We yawn, realize we’re tired, lie down to go to sleep, or go outside for a renewing breath of fresh air. We smell something out of the ordinary and search for its source. If we are especially mindful and aware, we might realize that we yearn for a vision of beauty or to be touched in a meaningful way. Each of our senses serves a unique function of keeping us healthy and content. Should one or more senses become compromised, we often find the others become heightened to compensate and keep us aware and in tune with ourselves and our surroundings.

As our technology use increases we should be aware of the risk of falling out of touch with the potency of our senses. We might begin the day by rolling over to grab our phone to catch up on the news or on our social feeds. We might connect with our device before we get out of bed and truly wake up to our embodied self! We surf the web during the day to tell us what to buy. We might use digital monitors to tell us our child’s or pet’s body temperature and heart rate. And we might use wearable technology to track our exercise and heart rate; and stave off boredom by tackling another level of a favorite game while waiting. At days end we plop down on the couch and play a video game, or we crawl into bed and watch a movie on our tablet or laptop. The author writes, “As we engage these platforms, we send our minds and bodies the not-so-subtle message that our technologies can entertain, comfort, and know us better that we can entertain, comfort, and know ourselves. This tendency to rely on devices, apps, and technology more consistently than on our own sense of our mental, emotional, and physiological states has far-reaching consequences.”

The author writes, “Our sense of place in the world is similarly impacted. At the core of our consciousness, we no longer truly need to know where we are, as long as we have a device and an internet connection. Directed by our GPS and Google Maps, we go directly from where we are to where we want to go without having to think or wonder. We visit a new part of town or a new state altogether, but have no sense of our larger environs. We don’t notice the landscape because we’re busy following our turn-by-turn directions. We don’t interact with the ‘natives’ of these places, and we find our favorite ‘local’ chain restaurants and stores in every place we visit, so we can frequent the familiar rather than brave the unknown. We rarely stop to attend to what it feels like to be an embodied person in a new space, and we don’t travel consciously into new spaces. Instead we move through them, looking down at our phones the entire time. When do look up, we snap photos on our phones, relieving our minds from the need to hold the memories.”

There is such a thing as “self-knowing awareness.” If we have developed the ability to scan our physical bodies—paying attention to what our sensory awareness can tell us about what we need and prefer in the way of stimulation, testing, learning, and more, then we can trust our own internal “gut” to inform us how to live most healthfully. However, if we have relied in such a way that a bulk of our stimulation, smoothing, learning, and information gathering has come from outside our body, we will feel bereft of knowledge regarding how to live in healthful ways in and out of ourselves. This requires the kind of living we have actively and passively practiced. To inventory and assess what our body might want or need, however, required a practice pattern of checking with ourselves, often in quiet and stilled ways. When we outsource this process to external devices, we miss out on the opportunity to know ourselves deeply and to practice self-regulation.

There is also good reason to be concerned with both the accuracy and validity of these devices. Analysis of clinical sleep studies done at the same time as sleep monitoring with fitness trackers reveals a great degree of variance in the accuracy of sleep assessment via wearable devices. Sleep is a complex activity with various stages and cycles. While movement is one indicator of depth of sleep stage, many other variables contribute to its nature and quality. Unfortunately, with growing frequency, wearers of tracking technologies are relying heavily on nightly generated data to evaluate the quantity and quality of their sleep, and to make adjustments based on the data. Instead of waking and taking time to consider how we feel and how long we slept, we are making assumptions based on data that may not be reliable. The author concludes, ”while the tracking is not, in and of itself, bad or negative, if it is used outside of self-assessment or real-time monitoring of actual experienced levels of tiredness or restfulness, we forgo a strong and developed sense of really knowing ourselves. Consider, for example, research reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Subjects were found to make inferences based upon fitness tracker data that caused them to self-diagnose sleep disturbances that wee not clinically founded. In other words, our relying on data can sometimes get us in trouble!”

Overreliance on Technology

November 3, 2019

This is the second post based on the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” Dr. dodgen-magee writes of physicians during their residencies having to be with a patient while at the same time fulfilling the medical system’s need for a thorough and hyper-timely digital record for each appointment. The residents say that computers—installed in such a way as to hover almost directly between the physician and the patient—felt like a constant, tangible presence in the room that demanded the kind of attention that had previously been dedicated solely to the patient. Although providing access to increased helpful data, they also impacted the fulness of the personal encounter. The author concludes, “When a digital device is engaged during an embodied human encounter, what is each party’s relationship to the device, and how its the intimacy of the encounter affected? If it is affected, what are we doing to address or control for this? The reality into which we are evolving in many settings is one wherein determining how to handle the potentially disruptive powers of technology is a complex and ever-moving task, often largely outside our personal control.

The author writes about a dynamic at play with technology. We use it a little bit and find it to be “tasty” in ways our embodied lives aren’t. We begin using it to save time here and there and suddenly we’re investing the moments we’ve saved back into our technology engagement. Getting comfortable with their use, we think that more use might offer us increasing amounts of free time, social connection, learning, and entertainment. Before we know it we are spending large amounts of our lives in digital spaces. Instead of being a side dish or accompaniment to our embodied life they have taken center stage. Although engagement with technology has the capacity to result in increases in creativity, collaboration, socialization, visual reaction time, and visual spatial awareness, there is plenty of potential for less than ideal consequences as well. Disruptions to our physical bodies as well as to our inter-and interpersonal lives are well documented.

She writes that throughout our lifespan, we move across a developmental continuum. We are faced with experiences and opportunities the move us forward, push us backward, or interrupt our journey. Both “positive” (mastering the ability to functions as an autonomous self, committing to relationships with both people and communities, finding one’s passion) and “negative” (significant loss or rejection, failures, discovery of limitations) life events hold opportunities for forward or reverse movement. Usually, we move in adaptive ways, making steps forward and backward and rolling with the challenges and obstacles.

The author includes a chart titled “Potential Disrupter + Character/Personality/Developmental Milestones Reached to this point = Either:
*Confrontation of the disrupter/working through, allowing for forward movement
*Mindlessness in light of the disrupter, causing a sort of spinning of the wheels
*Fight/flight/freeze causing a developmental arrest

The author, who remember is a clinical psychologist, writes, “The constant presence of digital devices introduces a third party into human relationships with our most basic selves and the “selves” of others.

The author concludes this chapter as follows:
“If the goal of living is to continually grow and mature, we must take a long look at our own development and how it is helped or hindered, The very core of ourselves to engage. Our minds, guts, and bodies are shaped by the narrow or broad realities to which we expose them. More than ever, we must do this work with the intention and by our act of will, or our trajectory will be narrow or limited. To avoid complacency, work through developmental arrests, and become healthy and whole, we must examine the nature of our journey, the ways in which we invest ourselves and our time, and the disrupters that influence both.

Remember that this author is a clinical psychologist. If you were in counseling or therapy, this is likely the manner in which she would explain the problem to you.

DEVICED!

November 2, 2019

This post is the first in a series of posts based on the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World.” More properly she is Dr. doreen dodgen-magee. She has a PsyD. and is a psychologist with a private practice in Portland, Oregon. The first part of the book is titled “How Devices are Impacting Us.” Dr. dodgen-magee begins, “In the recent past, the acronym ‘IRL’ has come to stand for the phrase ‘in real life.’ It refers to a person’s non-digitally based, fully analog, three dimensional, in-one’s own-and-actual self.’ Although the acronym isn’t that old, I think it’s time for retirement.” The reason being that the reality is that our digital and embodied lives come together to create one real, whole life—a real life that includes both. Friends exist in both embodied and digital spaces; they indulge our clans, classmates, and support groups—even though we may never meet in what used to be called our ‘real lives.’ She writes, “We buy physical items in virtual shops, we learn important lessons and gain actual skills in digital spaces, and we carry in our pockets virtual assistants that often know us better than our embodied friends; when these assistants fail, we feel real frustration. All of life, included that lived in the digital domain, is real.

Technology provides the ambient background noise of everyday life. For most people, regardless of personal choice, technology has come to create an ambient background noise that is inescapable, or escapable only with great effort. By using technology we are investing a part of our physical lives in digital spaces and making it such that, regardless of within which one an action happens, all our experiences are part of our “real lives.”

Dr. dodgen-magee writes, “I frequently think of the psychological concept of ‘leaking,’ when I consider these realities. Leaking, as I use it here, involves syphoning off just enough internal psychic pressure to make us comfortable staying exactly where we are instead of moving toward newness and growth.”

The goal of the tech industry in most things digital is to offer us both convenience and comfort. In optimal doses they help us and allow us to be productive, content, and available to life. However, if we exist in exclusively convenient and comfortable spaces, we lose appropriate motivation to undertake the kinds of risks and experiences that keep us growing and maturing. Too much of convenience and comfort cause us to lose our edge. We stop feeling the nudge to persist and engage meaningfully. We begin to feel entitled and bored in the worst ways, pursuing hedonistic and narcissistic pleasure and validation. But when these conveniences are engaged to allow ourselves time to pursue experiences that will help us grow, benefit person-kind, and expand our horizons, this is good. We need to find the fine-line balance where we feel convenience and comfortable enough without becoming too much so.

So that is the objective of this book to find the balance between life and technology in a digital world.