Life in our digital world is thrilling, isn’t it? Even intoxicating. In fact, it’s addictive, and like any addiction, it leads to the constant search for more to meet that single gratification source. You may have access to everything, but everything and everyone have access to you. While we celebrate the ever-expanding world of technology, how do we find peace? There is so much going on without us. A game-changer requires attentiveness to what’s going on within. How can we stay mentally agile and centered at the same time?
1. Multitasking is an illusion and damaging
The same part of the brain that processes language is the same center that makes decisions and problem-solves. When you’re playing Cat-in-the-Hat, your attention is divided. Can you Tweet while watching The Biggest Loserand keeping an eye on the boiling pasta? Well, sure. Doing a bunch of things at once is pretty much the thing known as modern life.
There are loads of studies now that say multitasking actually damages your brain (and career). Did you know that when trying to concentrate on a task an unread email in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ by 10? The very parts of our brain that we need to go deep and think at a higher level are the same parts that reel in the feel-good reward of the “shiny new thing.” As Daniel J. Levitin writes:
“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”
Treat multitasking as the addiction it is, and take steps shut out the distractions for specified times throughout the day. And as with any addiction, you’ll have relapses. Forgive yourself when you do, and start over.
2. Create more than you consume
And when you do consume, do so thoughtfully. Whether it’s eating or entertainment, how will what you’re consuming lead to what you’ll produce? Max Nachamkin takes it a step further, and suggests that the more you produce, the more you deserve to consume. One of the sources of ongoing and sustained happiness comes from the meaningful struggle to produce creative material. Mark Twain said it a long time ago. We are consumers far more than producers. At least it should bring up mindful attention to just how much media and content we do constantly stream in. And what we do produce is rarely the sign of sustained, complex thought or artistic expression. Why is that?
3. Mentally adjust on a daily basis
It used to be everyone was merely “busy.” Now it seems we’re hyper-busy. We’re “distracted.” Even sitting down to compose this article, my phone has whistled at me, beeps at the bottom of my screen indicate a steady supply of emails, and the top of my screen keeps showing someone doing something with a shared DropBox file. The thing is, it feels good to be “engaged.” When you feel current you feel like you’re in the know, responsible somehow for being aware of the latest information burst. But you can get swept away in the current — and perpetually bob on the inch-deep-mile-wide media surface.
4. Gratitude produces real results
It’s a scientific fact that gratitude practice improves your wellbeing in pretty much every categorical way. There’s a reason why so many spiritual formation practices in all religions and worldviews push the concept of expressing gratitude in prayer and meditation. I don’t mean eat your humble pie or perfunctorily itemize a few positive things in your life (although gratitude does teach humility, which a lot of us need in the age of Narcissism). I mean mentally reframe, even as little as two minutes a day produces results.
Focus thoughtful attention on the many things and people you probably completely forget or take for granted without at least a little scratching at the surface. Things that get lost and then impact your sense of wellbeing. If you aren’t grateful for what you have now then chances are you won’t ever be. Here’s a great place to start if you’re looking to go deeper in gratitude.
*This post was written by Chad Prevost for the Torch community of parents.