Make no mistake, I’m a big technology advocate, but we’re living in an age where our brains are becoming addicted to screens. Phones and tablets at the moment are the biggest culprits. Let me explain what you may not know about how these affect your brain and why you’re going to want to start taking control back.
To get more specific, dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”
Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that images of substances affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response.
There is little doubt in my mind that the same thing is happening with our relationship to screens (i.e., phones, tablets, computers).
Whenever you hear the familiar message sound or blinking light that likely releases dopamine and drives an unconscious behavior toward the phone. That is why you have difficulty stopping texting and driving or you may find yourself developing an obsessive compulsive type of habit toward checking your phone, email, Facebook, twitter or whatever for new messages.
Today you have a choice to recognize what is happening individually, to our families and to our culture and not pass on this unhealthy brain restructuring habit to the coming generations.
Join me in a critically important mindful experiment today.
Create a 1 hour technology (i.e., phone, tablet, computer) free zone as a simple way to how addicted your brain is to it. Notice how many times thoughts come up around checking it, see if there are any impulses or movements toward checking it.
Put any judgments aside of whether this is a good idea or bad idea and give it a shot. If you want a greater challenge, increase the amount of time.
Again, screens are not bad; they provide an enormous amount of value individually and in our culture. In fact, I encourage you to tweet your experiences @Mindful_Living or go to The Now Effect Community and let others know what you noticed. We can skillfully use these mediums for many different agendas including raising awareness.
It’s not the technology, but how we relate to it that makes the difference.
This is a choice you can make right now that could free up your time, reduce stress, build self-reliance and reconnect you to what truly matters in the moments of your life.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Woman holding a tablet photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 28 Jun 2012