Posts Tagged ‘Self Regulation’

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
*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
*Spiritual direction
*Contemplative prayer
*Self-help or human development books
*Self-discovery classes
*Use of prayer beads, labyrinths and mandalas
*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. 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.

Nature: Born to Focus

August 13, 2019

The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in an important book by Winifred Gallagher titled “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.” University of Oregon neuroscientist Michael Posner has developed a three-part model of the brain’s attentional system. He describes alerting, orienting, and executive networks, each with its own neurophysiology and function, as nothing short of “the mechanism through which we have experience and control the sequence of our ideas. Along with University of Oregon psychologist Mary Rothbart, who’s well known for her research on temperament, Posner has been studying how the attentional networks get organized in early life. He finds significant neuropsychological differences among children that share their different ways of focusing and aspects of their identities, from the capacity of learning to the control of thoughts and emotions.

Posner has a computerized Attention Network Test, which is designed to gauge the strength of an individual’s three networks. Biological differences in brains can account for different attentional and temperamental profiles, but nurture as well as nature plays an important role. Rothbart’s research is on cultural differences in executive attention and self-regulation, she finds that the capacity for effortful control is a good thing for both American and Chinese children. In the United States, children who have this ability focus keeping a lid on feelings like anger, fear, and frustration—an important skill in our gregarious society. On the other hand, in China, self-regulating children concentrate on curbing their exuberance and trying not to stand out, which is an equally desirable attribute in their Asian culture. Depending on social or genetic differences, or both, says Posner, “the same behavior of focusing on a dimension of self-control seems to be involved in creating quite different personalities.”

A single individual, biologically based behavioral disposition doesn’t operate in isolation, but in concert with the person’s other qualities and environments. Posner points out that whether the small child’s innate temperament is sunny or stormy, parents will intuitively draw the tot’s attention to smiles, laughter, and hugs, thus reinforcing the desirability of positive emotion.

It is good here to focus how important it is for a child to be loved. Absent this love a child’s emotional and behavioral development is at risk. Other healthy memory posts have elaborated on these risks. Whenever HM reads about some act of violence, his first thought was that this person was an unloved child.

To help children who are not naturally inclined to focus on their schoolwork—or life’s little pleasures—Posner and Rothbart have developed exercises that significantly improve the executive attentional skills of four— and six—year olds. Such training could help the millions of schoolchildren who struggle with attention, mood, and self-control problems.

This chapter concludes: “Nature and nurture have combined forces to find you a characteristic way of focusing that’s part of who you are, but research on the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections through life, proves that your identity isn’t written in stone. Posner is speaking of the children he works with, but his observation increasingly seems to apply to people of any age. “Kids have strong genetic make-ups, but you can also shape them through experience.”

Attention: Its Different Roles

June 30, 2010

The importance of attention comes up repeatedly in the Healthymemory Blog. The most common reason for failing to remember is the failure to attend to the information. The failure to remember people’s names, to pick up items from the store, information on a test, and so forth is usually due to the failure to pay adequate attention in the first place. One of the primary reasons the mnemonic techniques discussed in this blog work, is that they force you to pay attention in the first place.

A recent article1 has expanded the concept of directed attention to include self-regulation. Directed attention is often termed selective attention. Selective attention refers attending to one source of information and ignoring, or selecting out, other sources of information. Selective attention is contrasted with divided attention when we attend, or try to attend, to multiple sources of information at the same time. These days a more common term for divided attention is multi-tasking. Sometimes it seems that in today’s world multi-tasking, especially among the young, has become the norm. I remember seeing a television program on PBS about students attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It appeared that they were all multi-tasking practically all their waking hours. They all seemed to be of the opinion that there were no costs to multi-tasking and that they could perform multiple tasks at once without any of the individual tasks suffering. This opinion reflected a basic ignorance, even among these extremely intelligent MIT students, that our attentional resources are limited. Well our species, including MIT students, have a limited supply of attention. Moreover, the act of switching between tasks itself requires attention. MIT students can be disabused of their conviction that multi-tasking does have costs by examining the results of their performance comparing how well they did while multi-tasking against how well they did while single tasking.

Sometimes it is convenient to multi-task. I like to read while watching sports on TV. I do, however, realize that my comprehension and reading speed suffer as a result of multi-tasking. If it is important for me to understand and learn certain material, then I try to shut out all distractions.

One of the main contributions of the above cited Kaplan and Berman article is that it establishes a link between these cognitive activities and self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to pitting one’s intentions against one’s inclinations. The best example here is dieting. You’re intention is to lose weight, but your inclination is to eat a great deal because you are hungry. Similarly you might intend to eat a healthier diet, but your inclination is to eat tastier foods. Or your intention might be to study for an exam, but your inclination is to go to the movies. According to Kaplan and Berman, these self-regulation activities draw upon the same resources as do your efforts to attend to particular information or tasks. In other words, the reason we do not do as well as we might in both our cognitive and self-regulatory efforts is that they both require expenditures from this common pool. Moreover, continued expenditures from this pool result in fatigue, decrements in performance, and relapses in our intentions.

For example, when research participants were forced to eat radishes in the presence of more attractive cookies they were less persistent in solving puzzles and less effective in solving the puzzles than research participants who were not required to eat radishes in the presence of attractive cookies.

Other research has shown that either requiring research participants to ignore extraneous stimulation (selective attention) or to stifle emotional distress responses resulted in poorer performance as measured by intellectual aptitude tests such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). All these studies can be found in the Kaplan and Berman article.

One should recognize these relationships and limitations when planning personal goals. Planning to lose a significant amount of weight and master a difficult subject matter should not be attempted at the same time. It would be better to accomplish them sequentially or to pursue each more modestly. This is probably the reason that most of us who lose weight manage to find it again. While we are expending the resources to discipline ourselves we manage to lose the weight. However, later, as other demands are made on our attentional/regulatory resources, the weight returns.

1Kaplan, S., & Berman, M.G. (2010). Directed Attention as a Common Resource for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5:43.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.