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Save Your Sanity: Have a Communications Blackout Day

Save Your Sanity: Have a Communications Blackout Day
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    Technology is great, but there can be too much of a good thing. E-mail results in faster communication, but it also leaves overflowing inboxes, spam attacks and the need for lengthy messages. RSS, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and instant messaging programs can also be great, if the 24/7 uninterrupted stream of information doesn’t drive you crazy first.

    My suggestion is that for one day each month, have a communications blackout. Unplug your internet and let e-mails pile up for one day. The cost of being unconnected for twenty-four hours is small compared to the quiet it can bring to an already noisy life. One day a week would be even better, but the Firefox withdrawal symptoms might kill you first.

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    Why Unplug?

    You probably like being connected. You feel the Amish and Luddites don’t know what they’re missing. If you enjoy feeling plugged in, why go to all the effort to cut the cords for just one day?

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    I think there are a number of benefits for going offline, but the biggest one is to get perspective. If your Crackberry is sewn to your hip, you might not regularly experience what it’s like to be without interruptions for an entire day. Unless you experience the benefits of an occasional unplug, you won’t know the costs that continuous contact has.

    Here are some benefits I’ve found to doing a regular communications blackout:

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    1. Freed Mental Processing Power – If you’re one of those people that answer e-mails and phone calls as soon as you get them (no matter what you’re doing) the first big boost you’ll probably notice is increased room to think. Tim Ferriss in the 4-Hour Workweek points to a study that showed participants mental ability was slowed more from a Blackberry than marijuana use.
    2. Extra Time in the Day – If you’re constantly connected, you probably don’t notice the slow drip, drip, drip of time wasted each day. When I started batching my routine web usage to once per day I saved over an hour of time even though I answered the exact same volume of e-mails.
    3. Peaceful Solitude – Can you read a book when dozens of people around you are deep in a conversation? Why do you think you can focus on your physical surroundings when dozens of messages are pouncing at you throughout the day. Unplugging can give a dose of mental relaxation that’s easy to miss in a digital life.

    How to Set up a Communications Blackout Day

    Going offline for one day isn’t difficult, but if you’re worried the lack of contact could hurt you, here are some of my suggestions for setting up and following through with your day in the real world:

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    1. Unplug Your Cables. Disconnect your television cable and internet modem so you won’t feel the temptation to fill a few minutes of boredom with random noise. Keeping your computer unplugged is the next step, but staying disconnected is still a good start.
    2. Stop Carrying the Cell Phone. Being completely disconnected and turning off the phone services too might be the next level. But if you can’t take such a drastic step, at least place your cell phone in one location. By effectively converting your cell to a landline, you remove the need to constantly answer texts and calls if you’re busy.
    3. Plan a Hike. Do something outside or with nature for the day. If you’re planning on taking a temporary step backwards in technology, you might as well go for the full experience. Find some outside adventure you’ve always wanted to take on but haven’t had the time to try yet.
    4. Talk to Real People. Meet face-to-face. Have actual conversations instead of broken messages of text without proper punctuation.
    5. Empty Your Inbox First. Before you go offline, empty all your inboxes. This way the longest a message has to stew is only twenty-four hours.
    6. Read Books. You know, the ones made out of paper? I love getting my daily dose of bloggage from the world wide web, but there’s benefits to using more basic technology. Go to your public library to save the costs of a bookstore.
    7. Spend Time Thinking. Do you not have enough time to think? Carve out a bit of your day to write down your thoughts and go through those deeper issues that get missed when multitasking.
    8. Turn Off the Television. While television doesn’t give you instant access to your friends and coworkers, it belongs in the same category of other networking tools. Television takes the constant networking idea one step further, except instead of communicating to your friends, television connects you with celebrities, strangers and imaginary people who can’t even respond back to you.
    9. Do Real Work. Spend a few hours making headway on those big projects that get tossed aside normally. I unplugged for over a week last month and doing so helped me finish writing my book.
    10. Entertain Yourself. The constant stream of information can weaken your ability to entertain yourself. I’m sure you can remember building forts and playing make-believe as a kid. While I don’t suggest you start stacking up the couch cushions into a castle, being unconnected can help you recapture the art of entertaining yourself.

    Tech is Good

    I’d like to finish by saying that technology and interconnectedness is a good thing. There are side-effects that you should recognize and occasional unplugging is smart. But as a whole technology can enrich life, provided you maintain the sanity to use it.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness Top 4 Misapplications of the 80/20 Rule How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways to Try Now How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2020

    3 Simple Signs of a Strong and Healthy Relationship

    3 Simple Signs of a Strong and Healthy Relationship

    In helping many people solve their relationship woes, I am often asked for the signs of a good relationship.

    Well, what’s fascinating about relationships is the dynamics of two individuals coming together and staying together amid an array of perceptions and misperceptions.

    Our relationships are not only influenced by our current actions but also by our past relationships and the life experiences that we bring forward into the current relationship. How we deal with misperceptions and misunderstandings determines the strength and health of our relationship and the level of happiness we are able to experience.

    Much of the subconscious programming that takes place throughout our life causes us to sabotage our happiness by preventing us from engaging effectively, especially when we become emotionally triggered.

    These mostly unconscious “scripts,” which we tend to run on autopilot, include our thoughts, words, and actions that result from these. Some may even refer to them as “baggage.” While we can rewrite these scripts and stop them from contaminating our relationships, we only become aware of them when we are in an emotionally empowered state.

    So, what are the signs of a good relationship?

    It boils down to these four essential requirements:

    • Emotional empowerment
    • Aligned attraction
    • Sexual functioning
    • You and your partner

    While we can take it upon ourselves to develop as an individual, a strong and healthy relationship results from both personal growth and teamwork with our partner in order to resolve any problems.

    Let’s take a look at how we can do this.

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    1. Emotional Empowerment

    A clear sign of a good relationship is that both partners stay focused on what they want to create and how they want to feel. It can be too easy to blame our partner when we’re not feeling good about ourselves or somewhat overwhelmed with the curveballs that life seems to throw at us continually.

    You may have heard of the saying, “Making mountains out of molehills.” When we’re not in charge of our emotional state, that’s precisely what we do!

    Someone also said, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Our words and the emotional power behind them are either being constructive or destructive in our relationships.

    By trying to override your emotions and dredging up past situations, you may blow a current situation entirely out of context, keep retriggering yourself and your partner, and prevent essential issues from being resolved. Aside from that, it makes you feel disconnected.

    As a reminder, allowing yourself to indulge in petty annoyances and sarcastic comments will likely drive a wedge between you and your partner. So, is that worth your attention?

    When we focus on what we don’t want, we continually default to the old subconscious programming cultivated from our life experiences. These “scripts” can become self-destructive when expressed through negative rumination and self-talk or critical observations of our partner, rather than being the fun, uplifting, and naturally motivating partner that they fell in love with.

    Many couples start competing against each other when they are emotionally triggered instead of supporting each other to create the best outcome. While we can quickly become obsessed with being right (or not being wrong), it’s essential to stay present, focus on how we want to feel, and align our words and actions toward that outcome.

    Couples who enjoy a strong and healthy relationship consciously monitor their emotional states and can therefore influence the impact of their verbal and non-verbal communication in a positive manner. This offers a long-term benefit of enhancing their overall desire to be together and connect on more intimate levels.[1]

    2. Attraction in Alignment

    Known as the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin doesn’t just play an important role in intimacy. In truth, it’s also vital for increasing trust and attraction between two people. Synthesized in the human brain when you trust someone, the oxytocin molecule also motivates reciprocation.

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    We’re living in an age where an individual’s independence is ruling the day, and the social codes of chivalry have become sadly redundant. However, it’s never a good time to become complacent in how we interact with each other and in respecting the environment we share.

    According to Paul Zak, a neuroscientist and researcher at Claremont Graduate University, oxytocin is generated in the brain only after some concrete event or action, such as someone making way for you in the street.[2]

    “When someone does something nice for you such as holding a door, your brain releases oxytocin, and it down-regulates the appropriate fear you have of interacting with strangers.” — Paul Zak

    Suddenly, you feel like the person in front of you is not a threat. Then, according to Zak, this feeling disappears quickly for a good reason,

    “If you just had high levels of oxytocin, you would be giving away resources to every stranger on the street. So, this is a quick on/off system.”

    This has important implications for those in a relationship. Zak says:

    “If you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

    In a relationship, our actions and behaviors are either attracting or repelling our partner. This is especially true when we have conflicting values. Common conflicting values include personal hygiene, health and fitness, and general tidiness.

    It’s important to know and respect what’s important to our partner. After all, one of the real signs of a good relationship is having the desire to continually step up and live your “A” game.[3] When our partner takes the time to communicate something important to them, we need to acknowledge that it’s essential to keep a relationship long-term.

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    While we like to think that our partner will be attracted to us no matter what, this is not realistic at all. “A” is for attraction, and we need to keep attracting our partner instead of being lazy and pretending we can get away with unappealing or inappropriate behaviors.

    Any unresolved issue can build up resentment and undermine the quality of a relationship. However, the thought of approaching a challenging topic can increase stress and anxiety to the point where it is nearly impossible to clearly communicate the problem without it sounding like an accusation or blame.

    Due to the fear of retriggering our partner by bringing up the same topic repeatedly, we often delay dealing with the issues that are of utmost importance to us. Over time, it can result in frustration, annoyance, and disconnection. We are sentient beings, so this type of emotional resistance can often be felt by the other person.

    Furthermore, we usually communicate a part of a request out loud and then complete the reasoning behind it internally. Unfortunately, our partner doesn’t hear this internal monologue, so they have no idea about the extent or importance of our need. Therefore, many problems aren’t fully discussed, and the main issue remains unresolved.

    “Prolonged stress and anxiety are like poison to oxytocin,” Paul Zak said. The underlying biological hypothesis is that stress — particularly the type that does not have a clear ending point — inhibits oxytocin release.

    In a healthy relationship, both partners can retain the desire to step up and continue to attract each other through verbal and non-verbal communication. Try remembering the following:

    • Every person has their own preference for how things are done, so effective communication requires actively listening as well as clearly communicating your needs.
    • Before talking about an important matter, make sure you have your partner’s full attention. Then, try to keep your words focused in the here and now.
    • Instead of rehashing a similar experience from your past for context and risking triggering each other emotionally, get to the point and explain what you want at once. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, try starting a request with “I like it when…” or “It makes me feel…” You may also ask, “How can we work together to create a win-win situation?”
    • If something is important enough for your partner to mention out loud, then you must respect, consider, and adhere to it whenever possible. For example, if a partner is brave enough to open up about their need for sexual intimacy to feel more connected, it may be an issue that needs to be addressed in your relationship.

    According to psychiatrist and Emory University professor Larry Young, increased intimacy can strengthen your connection as a couple, especially when you combine it with other rewarding experiences that get your brain’s reward system going.[4]

    Verbally appreciate your partner’s effort in supporting your needs and make sure to retain your individuality and interests outside the relationship to keep your mutual attraction.

    3. Sexual Function

    Sex is the one thing that differentiates a strong, healthy relationship from a platonic friendship. Sexual intimacy is one of the most important signs of a good relationship and has often been described as the glue that holds a relationship together.

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    Sexual intimacy allows two people who seek the ultimate connection with each other to come together. However, intimacy problems can lead to separation, loneliness, and disconnection — feelings that can eventually tear a relationship apart.

    Unfulfilling sex leads to an increase in stress hormones which results in a lowered libido as sexual intimacy becomes a souce of discomfort on all levels. A common cause of a low libido is, for example, sexual function issues such as early ejaculation and erectile dysfunction challenges in men; and orgasmic dysfunction for women.[5] An unwanted sexual technique such as hard and fast or constant changes of position can also be off-putting.

    While work stress, children rearing, and communication issues can all lower your libido and affect your overall desire for sex, a sexless marriage or relationship is not favorable for the vast majority of couples long-term.

    One of the most important things for women in a relationship is to experience a sense of connection or feel loved and close to their partner. But this is where things can become tricky pretty quickly, considering women naturally have much higher levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin than men. For men, higher levels of oxytocin are generated through intimate connections.

    What is the takeaway here, you may ask? Our hormones influence our behaviors, and oxytocin is said to be responsible for allowing us to experience love. In reality, studies have also shown that oxytocin can even work as the brain’s “moral molecule.” The more intimate moments we have, the more our bodies release the said hormone.

    This is especially important for a male to feel more connected and attentive toward his partner. Research indicates that a man who is often sexually intimate with his beloved can produce increased levels of oxytocin.[6] In turn, it boosts his desire to hold and connect with his partner and stimulate positive social interaction.

    A positive sign of a strong and healthy relationship is both partners’ desire to be intimate with each other. If either of the partners has little or no desire for initiating intimacy, then they need to address the issues mentioned in this article to restore intimacy in order to enjoy a truly fulfilling partnership.

    Final Thoughts

    The most important sign of being in a strong and healthy relationship is that you feel happy within yourself and in your connections.

    While it’s not always possible to stay happy and connected with someone, ensuring that you are emotionally aligned with yourself and aware of your partner’s needs will go a long way to guarantee the health and longevity of your relationship.

    After all, compelling narratives also cause oxytocin release and can affect your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

    More on Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

    Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

    Reference

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