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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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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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