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Three Ways Technology may not be Improving your Life

Three Ways Technology may not be Improving your Life

Technology has been a remarkable force in our lives and continues to improve our lives in a variety of ways.  However, if we are not careful and conscious of our use of technology, it may be detrimental to vital aspects of our lives.  It is imperative that we maintain awareness of our intentions especially when it comes to the use of the many devices that we have become attached to in order to function effectively and efficiently.  Otherwise our consciousness can be hijacked by technology and before we know it we look at the clock and realize we’ve been scrolling on Facebook for five hours.  I’ve done it and I’m pretty sure you have too, right?

I really enjoy observing people in public.  It’s kind of an obsession of mine.  This being said, during my observational expeditions it is very common to witness people walking along the street heads down involved in their Twitter lives or sitting in a restaurant with their partner, each on his or her phone typing or scrolling away.  (Perhaps they are ordering their meals or texting each other!)  My observations continue to be consistent across a variety of environments.  This has become the norm and I am certainly not judging anyone that does it because I often discover that I am doing the same thing without awareness.  Thus, this post comes out of my personal experience and my desire to point out three specific ways technology has not improved my life and has actually hindered it.

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There are three areas that I noticed were being affected by the constant use of my cell phone and other technological devices.  If you are similar to me, you will realize that this may also be the case in your life.  I would say there are plenty of human beings that have had their consciousness hijacked by technology and perhaps aren’t even aware of it.  The first step we need to take in the change process is to become aware and then come up with a plan to change the behavior.  So let’s get to it!  I will present three areas that may be affected and tips to prevent a negative impact on your life.

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1. Being in the Present Moment

Life consists of what is directly in front of us.  We call this “now”.  This is the unique and precious present moment that we are given.  Using technology consistently throughout our daily lives often causes us to miss the miracle of the moment.  We don’t embrace the sky, flowers, or any of the beauty that exists in nature.  We may not even embrace the road ahead of us if we are texting and driving.  We are often caught up in whatever is going on in our email, text, or the eighteen social media feeds.  These moments make up our lives and we need to be present for them as much as possible.  Technology often takes this away from us.  I suggest putting down your device throughout the day and focusing on the present moment and its infinite beauty. Take a walk without your phone and experience nature and the important moments going on in your life outside of the online world.  Practicing mindfulness and being completely in the moment will add immensely to your life and you will desire to experience it much more.

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2. Technological Anxiety

Technology has created a much bigger world with unlimited access to knowledge, shopping, blogging, social activities, and up-to-the-minute communication with anybody in the universe.  This has created anxiety and obsessions over the huge world opened up on the web.  Our friends, bosses, coworkers, and family can be in touch with us in a split second.  Consequently we are always anxious about who needs us, what they need, and so on.  Always watching and checking our devices creates a state of constant anxiety that is detrimental to our physical and mental health.  The constant connection and unlimited choices and options is creating a lot of unnecessary anxiety and obsession.  We need to relax and that means relax without a relaxation app!  Make time to disconnect from the frantic world created by technology and connect to the real world.  Your life may revolve around technology but that world is not your life.  Take time throughout the day and in the evening to disconnect and try some activities that don’t require you to be plugged in.

3. Human Contact

Technology has made it possible to communicate with absolutely everyone without having any direct contact with them whatsoever.  Do people even talk face to face anymore?  Do we write letters or visit people at their houses?  We are social beings and we need real contact with each other- not just texting, tweeting, or “liking” their posts on Facebook.  Connect with human beings without your phone in your hand and you will feel the difference.  Hug someone you love and make time for direct physical contact.  Schedule a consistent time to get together with family and those you love for dinner and make it a point for everyone to turn off their phones and interact with each other.  It may be difficult at first but the results will be beneficial to you and those you love.

It may be time to regress to our pre-online society in some aspects of our lives.  We may have disconnected from human life a bit too much and begun living in the iCloud more than is necessary.  The fact is that we are no happier than we were before all of this technological advance.  I am certainly not saying to give up technology because it definitely has great benefits.  However just like anything else it has some consequences when we go to the extreme.  Simply be mindful and aware of how much you are relying on technology and if it is interfering with the three important aspects of your life that were discussed.  Change is made a little at a time, so practice stepping away from technology a little at a time.  You will be amazed at how much more enjoyable and calm your daily life can be without a device glued to you!

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More by this author

Richard Singer

Author/Psychotherapist

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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