Archives for Addiction
You may have already realized that the geniuses behind many of the apps and media websites that we visit daily have crafted their apps to play on our anxious and addictive tendencies. Why? Because the more frequent and longer our eyeballs stay on a page means more $$$ for them. Does it matter that it makes us more distracted, listen less to the people around us or increase mortality rates for car accidents? Take a moment and watch this brilliant short video...you'll love the graphics and the artistic spoken word. So what does it mean to spend our time well? Or maybe a better question is what does it mean to be more intentional with our attention? At this point, most of our brains have been trained by the tech's environmental cues to jerk over to it the minute we either hear it, see it or feel it. Is it Time Well Spent to get sucked into 30
Most of us walk around in this world in a trance with the delusional belief that we are only autonomous beings that are completely acting with free will. However, many scientists agree that we are interdependent with our environments and our brains are constantly making snap judgments based on internal and external cues. You have recall this quote by Albert Einstein: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” The notion of willpower, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or manning up fails to take the psychological and scientific realities into mind. Alcoholics Anonymous has it right, if you're addicted to substances you need to get them out of the house and begin to change your relationships. This was certainly my experience with my own struggle with substances years ago. Considering the impact of our environments on our ability to be happy and make the changes we want to make, can drastically facilitate more adherence to whatever habits you're trying to break or create. Years ago, UC Berkeley Researcher Marian Diamond conducted a study where she randomly put mice in a few different cages. One had toys and playmates, one had playmates and one had neither. After a few weeks, they found that the brains of the mice that had toys and playmates had thicker cerebral cortices than the other two. This part of the brain is associated with higher order functions like cognitive processing. In fact, the one without toys and playmates showed the thinnest layer. This is just to say that our environments not only impact our behavior, but also impact our brains (which impact our behavior).
So what's the secret sauce?
We all have difficult people in our lives, it's part of the human experience. Typically, we tend to see them as a nuisance, individuals we have to put up with, or even avoid. This also comes with it's share of suffering. I'm not familiar with the author of the quote above, but the message is worth being curious about. What if we could change our perception to seeing difficult people as messengers or teachers who arouse something inside of us that needs to be cared for or loved? If we do this, might we become less reactive toward ourselves and other people? Inevitably, won't this provide a chance for more relationships to improve? Might it be easier to let go of bitter grudges and move toward strengthening mindfulness, self-compassion, and forgiveness? This isn't Pollyanna, it's a practical approach that can help us focus more on what matters in life. Moreover, consider this: If relationships improve, might that support communities, regions and countries to improve? Is it possible to set off a spark in this way that leads to not only the healing of our individual being, but the healing of humanity? Whoa, that's a bit too large to imagine perhaps, so let's just begin with today and ourselves. Today, try this...
Even though I have an awareness of my relationship to my smartphone, even though I take measures to limit my use, even though I have strong boundaries with my kids around their usage, if you asked me whether I feel like I have a handle on my relationship to it, I'd give you an unequivocal NO! The more I talk to people about their relationship to their tech, the greater sense of belonging I feel. For most people, every time they see someone reach for their phone there's a bell that goes off in the mind that creates an urge to grab their phone. Every time they're slowing down or waiting anywhere, the idea or urge to check the phone arises. Like an addiction, I know this is unhealthy and yet with all my mindfulness and with all the techniques out there, I struggle with this too. At last I'm finally understanding what this is all about and what to do about it.
Last year when my wife Stefanie Goldstein, PhD and I started The Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles, our intention was to provide a space for people to integrate mindfulness into their lives for healing and growth. I've found over the years that pictures and quotes have the power to move beyond explanations and speak directly to our hearts and minds. Here are 10 Quotes for Mindful Living, with some having links back to blog posts where I have explored the quote. There is a lot under these links, so feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it over and again. Note: One way to go through this is to pause, do a mindful check-in, and then read the quote slowly. See what you notice. Enjoy! "You can hold back from suffering of the world, you have permission to do so, and it is in accordance with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided." ~ Franz Kafka "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you." ~ Rumi
In a past article, journalist Andrea Chalupa made a Mindful Proposal for everyone to make a plan to take out 24 hours in solitude. She quotes her father, Dr. Leo Chalupa, saying that "A national day of absolute solitude would do more to improve the brains of all Americans than any other one-day program." This might sound scary to some and intriguing to others, but have no fear, this is not going to happen. But what can happen? Thomas Merton said, "Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it." We are in an age where there is no solitude at all and if there were any we'd grab for our phones to make sure there wasn't any. Whether you're in the camp who believes it our not, the pace at which we live our lives and the amount of things we try to pay attention to at once are major recipes for stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors. Spending time in solitude is actually a very healthy thing to do, it's giving us an opportunity to balance the busyness. It's not only a mindful act, but a self-compassionate act too. Furthermore, the more balanced you are, the better you'll rub off on others, so maybe consider it's something that can might even make the world a a little bit better. So what if we took her proposal to heart, but scaled it back a bit? How about starting with five minutes of solitude per day? Maybe we can even scale it to two sessions of five minutes a day at some point? Why even consider this?
It’s one of the most pervasive issues in our culture today that’s off and on in the media, but no one talks about in their personal lives – our relationships with our phones. Not long ago author Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs wrote a blog that really caught my eye. He essentially made the argument that our addictive behaviors are driven more from loneliness or a longing to bond and connect than anything else. Larry Rosen, Professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills and author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us has studied our relationships with our phones and shows that our compulsions with our phones are a result of anxiety that we are missing out on something. However, our phones are also inherently devices that have intermittent reinforcement so in some degree they work like the addictive slot machines. We are living in an age that is more connected than ever, but also seems to be less intimate than ever. People lives are more public and so in some way the intimacy gets diluted and therefore less potent. We are looking into each other’s less and making physical contact less. The lonelier and less intimate we feel life is, the more we long for it, so the more we turn to our devices as an addictive path toward connection. More and more these days people are finding themselves checking their devices during any time they are alone. If you’re eating alone you’ll check it, if you’re waiting in a checkout line, you’ll check it, if you’re walking on the way to the bathroom, you’ll check it and if you’re in the car alone, you’ll check it (even though the stats show an increase in fatality rates). Sherry Turkle is an MIT Professor who wrote, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, arguing
Most people I meet would like to be calmer and more focused on what matters in the moments of their lives. But the more stressed we are, the less open we are to creative ideas and the more prone we are to procrastination. Here is a 10-second practice that I challenge you to practice a few times a day and realize its power to help you focus on what matters moment-to-moment. Inevitably, as you practice and repeat this, you'll become more of a PRO at life.
The Be a PRO PracticeP - Pause - This is the initial step that helps break the auto-pilot stress cycle. R - Relax your body - When we're stressed, our muscles get tight which sends signals back to the brain to fight, flee or freeze, making thoughts more distracted and chaotic. Relaxing the body, does the opposite, it begins to open the mind again, making it easier to focus. O - Open to what matters in the moment - As the body is relaxed we have a greater chance to be more aware of creative ideas or simply the ability to focus on the task at hand.
Here are 10 really good places where practicing being a PRO at life can come in handy:
Life is full of ups and downs and often times because our brains our wired to pay attention to the negative more, the losses are magnified, rehashed and fertile ground for self-criticism. Maybe you fall short on a test, don't get the feedback you were expecting from a work project, end an intimate relationship, keep falling into bad habits or continue falling into bouts of stress, anxiety or depression. We see all of these as negatives in life. But the key mindset that turns on this on it's head and catalyzes growth and happiness is the learning mindset. This is a single thread that weaves throughout Uncovering Happiness and also the newest release MBSR Every Day: Daily Practices from the Heart of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Every single experience in life contains information to help us get better and better with our intentions in life. If you've followed my writings you know I'm a big fan of a short phrase to help us grow from the inevitable obstacles of life:
In this human life we get our share of joys and our share of sorrows. The brain is wired to hang onto the fears and sorrows more than the joys so that it guard against what's uncomfortable and keep us safe. However, in doing this we have the experience of holding onto the difficult in our lives and many of us would enjoy the ability to "let go" a little easier. One of my favorite paths in teaching isn't through the intellect, but through poetry which can reach beyond the rational brain and more directly to the emotional brain where our decision making and "holding" lies. Here is a poem that speaks directly to the possibility of letting go.