Technology Overload

When I get into bed at night, I attempt to review my day. Did I have a good day? Have I been productive? Are there any positive changes that I need to make? This past Monday, I took a good honest look at my last 24 hours. The truth was that it was a day full of distractions. I struggled to focus and I accomplished very little. As I searched for the reason, I pushed myself to be honest with my behavior. The answer came to me…


I was addicted to my smartphone and it was getting in the way of my success.


I decided at that moment that I was going to make some changes. I suppose being licensed as a Mental Health Therapist has its advantages. I outlined a plan for the next day. I would check my email and all Social Media ONLY four times during the day. I would count each time that I had the mental urge to look on my phone or search on my computer. Each time that I would have this urge, I would tell myself to “let it go” and focus on my current activity.


I really didn’t expect this goal to be so difficult for me. I’m shocked to tell you that the first day was much harder than I ever imagined— I counted 46 times. Just think about that. 46 times, my brain signaled me to connect on Social Media. 46 times, my brain ran this loop and instructed me to pick up the phone.


No wonder I was having so much trouble focusing and accomplishing my goals! My brain had learned to be rewarded with the “ding” of an email and the excitement of a like or response from social media. My brain wanted more and more of that same reward.


In a study by the Associated Press, the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. When you spend enough time on the Internet, the neural pathways in your brain change. You can become rewarded, not for staying on your task, but instead jumping to a more exciting thing. In other words, you can quickly rewire your brain.


It has been demonstrated over and over that your brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks. In the long run, multi-tasking causes you to accomplish less and run the risk of making multiple mistakes. On top of that, you have a much lower rate of retention.


If you’re looking at your phone 46 times in one day, it’s safe to say that you have formed a habit. Everyone knows that habits are hard to break since there is a payoff for continuing the behavior. In the short term, my behavior made me feel good. However, I knew that this unhealthy habit had to go.


Having awareness and recognizing that you have an issue is the first step to solving a problem. The interesting thing is that the first day I monitored my use and attempted to stop my behavior, I felt so much calmer, was able to focus and was definitely more productive.


I would be lost without my technology so I’m certainly not an advocate to disconnect. However, as with all things in life, moderation is key.


So I have a challenge for you. Take one day and limit your phone and social media use. Write down how many times that you get the urge to connect, and monitor how your overall productivity and how you’re feeling. Let me know how you do.


images brain pictureAbout 10 years ago, I was knocked off my feet with a horrible case of the flu and pneumonia. I ended up missing three weeks of work. We’re talking about three weeks of not even being able to pick my head up off my pillow. I ran a fever daily and could barely eat anything for weeks. Yes— it was really, really bad.


Anyway, it was my daily habit to drink a Diet Mountain Dew around lunchtime. I loved Diet Mountain Dew, especially because it gave me a great caffeine kick. I consistently kept Mountain Dew in my house and not a day passed where I didn’t consume my beloved elixir.


The day that I came down with my dreaded disease, I drank my usual Diet Mountain Dew. I became sick shortly after that. Three weeks later, after I had semi-recovered, I tried to reestablish the habit of my daily Dew. However, when I walked over to the refrigerated case and reached out my hand for the Mountain Dew, something strange happened. I was overcome with a horrible feeling. Suddenly, Mountain Dew was extremely unappealing to me. The thought of drinking it made me feel nauseous. I closed the case and walked away. I’ve never had a Diet Mountain Dew since. I have tried, but the same feelings have stopped me in my tracks.


Apparently, the neurological pathways in my brain strongly linked my ill feelings with my favorite drink. It was now ingrained forever in my brain. My memory now immediately registered the sensations that I had experienced during this time and my miserable feelings of sickness were intertwined forever with Mountain Dew.


The other day, I was working out at the gym when a woman stopped me. She told me she was impressed that she always sees me at the gym when she herself struggles to even show up. She liked the way that she looked when she worked out but it certainly wasn’t enough motivation to get her there. I immediately understood how to solve the problem.


You see, being motivated by your appearance is not enough to keep you going back to the gym. The true secret is in finding the exercise experience pleasurable. If you link bad feelings to working out, you’re doomed. It’s as simple as that. However, if you work out hard enough to release endorphins in your body, you will begin to like the feeling you have when you’ve completed your workout. You will create new neurological pathways that link working out with your reward: feeling good. Therefore, you’ll be more inclined to do it again.


Consider what this concept can do for you in other parts of your life. What improvements do you need to make? Take a minute and consider the feelings that you conjure up when thinking about your needed change. What’s the first feeling that comes to mind? Now, create a positive reward that you can offer yourself as soon as you have completed this task. The first time will not be easy, but if done over and over again, you will begin to reap the benefits.


Do you find yourself procrastinating on any number of tasks? Whatever it is, take into account the sensations that you link to this responsibility. You can take control of this when you learn to link good feelings and sensations to your responsibility.


Just remember the Mountain Dew.