Mindfulness Feeds the Roots

I heard a very helpful analogy recently when attending a meeting of civic leaders in Louisville, Kentucky, who are bringing mindfulness and compassion into their schools.

Using the image of caring for trees, the speaker argued that the education field tends to focus too much on the tree’s fruit (outcomes like test scores) while ignoring the roots. If you ignore the roots for too long, he continued, you don’t get any fruit at all. The takeaway: mindfulness and compassion feed the roots.

I heard this analogy when I was lucky enough to witness the mid-term review of Louisville’s “audacious” 7-year Compassionate Schools Project (CSP) serving over 10,000 K-5 students at 45 schools. The University of Virginia’s Department of Education and its Contemplative Sciences Center have teamed up with the Louisville public schools on a randomized control study of a compassion, mindfulness and movement curriculum. In addition to being the largest and most innovative study of its kind, the curriculum will be free when it’s completed for any school that wants to use it.

This determined crowd of impassioned project leaders included every part of “the system:” the Mayor, the local school district superintendent, a city councilperson, principals and teachers, community leaders, local and national funders, and project leaders from UVA. I was moved to witness leaders from all these sectors championing the benefits of mindfulness.

The highlight was my visit to a grade 1 class to watch the CSP curriculum taught first hand. I saw six year olds using “finding your anchor” and “calming” practices to regain their focus after it had been stolen away by the “visit” of an emotion, and with effectiveness that I rarely see in adults (or myself!). Infectious narratives, replacing the Dick and Jane that I grew up with, gave life to practical breathing and movement exercises.

The Compassionate Schools Project is teaching strengths and skills for inner resilience, for both students and teachers, that are transforming lives inside and outside of class. And, as the city councillor reminded everyone, this is not just a “soft skill,” quoting recent research that points to social emotional learning skills as responsible for “50% of future economic and workplace success.”

I saw six year olds using “finding your anchor” and “calming” practices to regain their focus after it had been stolen away by the “visit” of an emotion, and with effectiveness that I rarely see in adults (or myself!).

Louisville is but one inspiring example of civic leaders and local schools joining forces to feed the roots; Flint, Michigan, is another. I was grateful to attend a recent fundraiser in LA to support the important work of our friends at the Crim Fitness Foundation who are presenting mindfulness and yoga in Flint public schools. Hosted at the beautiful home of Peter and Tara Guber, Hollywood movie producers and professional sports team owners, the gathering was highlighted by inspiring remarks from Crim Executive Director Gerry Myers, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who all detailed the ravages and trauma visited upon the lives of the children in Flint, and how the mindfulness and yoga programs were rebuilding resilience and strength.

Perhaps most inspiring were the opening comments of host Tara Guber, who pioneered the Yoga ed program that’s being presented in Flint schools. She reminded everyone that, in today’s interconnected world, Flint is not only the heartland of America, that it’s “every town,” and it could be “any town.” Bringing mindfulness to help heal Flint is “healing our towns, our society, and ourselves.”

Here at the Foundation for a Mindful Society, we are greatly inspired by the work of our friends at the Crim Foundation in Flint and Compassionate Schools in Louisville. And it connects up beautifully with the leading work of our friends at the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, the Momentous School in Dallas, and the emerging Jackson Whole project in Jackson, WY. That’s the start of quite a robust root system.

Seeing these benefits first-hand drives home why it’s so important for Mindful to support the work of these organizations, which we do in a variety of ways. From reporting in Mindful magazine and Mindful.org, our support extends to advocacy and making connections, to our Mindful Cities initiative, to our recent Mindful30 meditation challenge, and most recently to publication of our free content to support mindfulness in schools. We are working every day to galvanize the mindfulness momentum in order to bring the benefits of well-being, resilience, kindness, and compassion into our world.

And thank you all for being part of this grand adventure with us. Thank you for reading our magazine, website, newsletters, and this blog, as well as for supporting so many worthy initiatives that we haven’t touch on yet.

There is much to do, there are roots crying out for nourishment. Let’s keep up the momentum so that mindfulness feeding these roots can bear fruit for all.

To help Mindful “feed the roots,” please donate to our year-end funding campaign here.

 

Why There’s No “Mindfulness Movement”

Don’t follow the traffic. Follow the signs.

 

The post Mindfulness Feeds the Roots appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

4 Strategies for Mindful Parenting

Every parent knows that having children is a field ripe with emotions. Frustration, anger, boredom, joy, love, or fear—name an emotion, and it’s probably there on the wild ride of parenting. But this can also feel like the tipping point into insanity. When parenting becomes difficult, it is important to see that these challenges can be turned into opportunities for working with your inner reactivity. As your child (or you) begin to slip into the fifth meltdown of the day, or as you watch your mind check-out from reading the same book for the millionth time, mindfulness can help bring you back to a more spacious and vital sense of the present. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Alexis Santos offers four tips to cultivate a practice of mindful parenting.

Breathe Interest into Your Routine

Our attention is habitually attracted to “peak moments,” moments that seem pleasant, fun, or exciting. You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine? In instances where you want to zone out, bring mindfulness to the breath. The breath is a reliable companion, and it’s also always fresh. When you use attention to experience each breath as a unique and interesting event, you can ripen seemingly repetitive moments of parenting into ones that bring your attention fully back to the present-moment interactions you’re having with your kids.

You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine?

Be Bored

When breath practice is not riveting and you find yourself 100% bored, simply commit to the experience of being bored.  Boredom can be a fascinating exploration when you are willing to feel it. How does the texture of your boredom feel? Where does it arise in your body? Using boredom as an exploration of present experience can add more zest to those moments, while simultaneously strengthening your mindfulness practice. Mundane moments can be useful times to step back and find a sense of ease, regardless of the monotonous circumstances.

Feel When You’ve Lost Your Cool

If you find yourself at the brink of unproductive anger, you are not a bad parent for losing your patience. This is a perfect time to check back with your internal experience and not act out. Don’t get lost in the drama in front of you—instead, pause and feel into your body’s reactions. Even if the pause is only a millisecond long, giving yourself space is a chance to see the emotion bubbling up and work with it with more awareness. Seeing and feeling the emotion helps avoid the situation from escalating, and it will support you to stay composed in challenging times.

Relax into the Imperfection

Most people feel that their sphere of responsibility has grown exponentially upon becoming a parent. You are the lifeline for the health and well-being of your child. While making sure they are safe, secure, and loved is absolutely paramount, it is also important to know your limits. Ultimately, there are many things that you won’t be able to control, no matter how hard you try. It is important to remember that life is not always predictable. Plates will break, tears will be shed, and difficulties will inevitably occur—this is the reality of being a parent and being alive. In these situations, don’t overextend your responsibility. When appropriate, practice letting go, and relax into the imperfection. You can find satisfaction and even gratitude in those moments if you give yourself a break to embrace life as it unfolds.

 

For more from Alexis Santos  and Dan Harris, check out some free guided meditations from 10% Happier.

 

Let Go of Being the Ideal Role Model

Raising the Mindful Family

The post 4 Strategies for Mindful Parenting appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them

It was a particularly difficult day. My then nine-month-old daughter had a terrible night and left my wife and I with only a handful hours’ sleep. Needless to say, we were slow getting up and out the door that morning.  Before we left, my wife and I “discussed” who should’ve gotten up with Celia during the night (we’d been down this road before—these back-and-forths never help solve this issue, and somehow, we yet again veered this way). We barely spoke in the car the rest of the way to work after we dropped our daughter off at daycare.

And then I was hit by one issue after another once I walked into my office. An upset parent who’d left a voicemail who urgently needed to talk to me.  A clinician who needed help dealing with a student in crisis.  An important meeting I needed to chair that I’d forgotten to put in my calendar. And worst of all, I must have used a ladle to scoop my sugar into my coffee travel mug that morning.

I sat with my face in my hands at my desk for a moment.  I was seething with what life had deposited on top of me. My temples were pulsing, and my clock said it was only 9:30. Somehow, I remembered what I’d recommended to clients many times, but usually forgot to do myself.  It was a nice therapeutic “nugget” that made sense, but seemed like it should be innate to me, an experienced therapist: “Name it”—or as I’ve heard psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dan Siegel say—“Name it to tame it.” In other words, say to yourself, out loud, what negative emotion you’re experiencing, as you’re experiencing it, in order to get some distance from it. As the clinical wisdom goes, simply labeling a difficult emotional experience allows you to take the reins back, if only briefly.

I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong. I needed to return to the basics.

I’d recommended this emotional labeling to clients for years, but I’m fairly certain I’d never tried it myself.  Again, I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. It was “Self-Management 101.” I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong, because I sat at my desk with distress rippling through me. My mind was electric with ranting, and I was on track for a less than effective, connected, and creative day. I needed to return to the “basics.”

Labels Help Us Move On

The recommendation comes from a solid foundation. Research has shown that mere verbal labeling of negative emotions can help people recover control.[i] UCLA’s Matthew Lieberman refers to this as “affect labeling” and his fMRI brain scan research shows that this labeling of emotion appears to decrease activity in the brain’s emotional centers, including the amygdala. This dampening of the emotional brain allows its frontal lobe (reasoning and thinking center) to have greater sway over solving the problem du jour.

And this is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness gives us that moment of space as reactive emotions (like anger) are rising up. If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them. Doing so seems to help us disengage from them. We can see them, and then we can begin to choose how to react instead of reacting under the sway of intoxicatingly strong emotions. We can choose to act to open ourselves and connect with others, rather than be carried away in a flood of emotional neurochemicals that wash us over the cliff.

If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them.

Mindfulness Practice: Managing Strong Emotions in the Moment

In the coming days, when you find your body and mind getting tense with upset (and the more you’re aware of exactly how this manifests in you, the better), encourage yourself to attach words to your experience.

Often, thinking in terms of the metaphor of your hand in front of your face can be helpful.  When you start, you ARE your anger, sadness, fear, etc. It is your hand over your face. Can’t see anything, can you?  The emotion is attached to you—it IS you.

As you progressively label your emotion, creating more and more “distance” between the raw emotion and “you,” the observer (sparking awake in your frontal lobe), begins to see things more clearly: the emotional “hand” moves farther away from your thinking and reasoning mind’s eye.

Here’s a possible domino effect of reactive thoughts that might show up for you:

*  Event occurs . . .

*  Body stiffens, clenches . . .

*  “I can’t believe this!” / “They are so wrong!” / “This shouldn’t be!” . . .

*  “I am angry / sad / frustrated / humiliated / etc.”

*  Body stiffens, clenches more

* “I’m going to let them have it!”

 

And now, naming the emotion right AFTER the body first stiffens, surges, or in some way alerts you that upset is here:

 

*  “My body is telling me I’m angry, sad, etc.” (deep, slow breath in)

* “I’m having thoughts that this is upsetting.” (slow exhale out)

* “Anger . . . anger . . . anger . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

* Body slows down (slow exhale out)

* “Sad . . . sad . . . sad . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

What do you notice?

You may notice a “distance” that develops as you label your thoughts and emotions after the initial event. Instead of reacting and either lashing out or shutting down, you (in a matter of seconds) can ignite your frontal lobe, slow your body and mind, and choose your response. You can connect with your experience, as well as the possibilities around you. Instead of digging a deeper hole, you can climb out of the episode.

Practice this labeling whenever you can. Don’t be discouraged when you find yourself swept away in emotional currents. Our emotional reflexes run deep (inside the brain), and change comes only with significant practice and patience.  The practice is awareness: to get better at catching yourself.  Labeling an emotion helps you create distance from it. From there, we can choose how to respond instead of being led by our triggers.

I still argue with my wife about who should go pick up my crying kids. I catch my rigid, “she’s so out of line” thinking more than before, and I put it out at arm’s length.  More than ever before, I can choose to do something that binds us together instead of blasting us apart.

And if mindful labeling doesn’t work, as a husband, I’ve learned to simply stop talking and go clean something.

References

[i] 1. Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli. Matthew D. Lieberman, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Molly J. Crockett, Sabrina M. Tom, Jennifer H. Pfeifer, and Baldwin M. Way. Psychological Science 2007;18(5):421-428.

 

  1. Subjective Responses to Emotional Stimuli During Labeling, Reappraisal, and Distraction. Matthew D. Lieberman, Tristen K. Inagaki, Golnaz Tabibnia, and Molly J. Crockett. Emotion 2011;11(3):468-480.

 

  1. Neural Correlates of Dispositional Mindfulness During Affect Labeling. J. David Creswell, Baldwin M. Way, Naomi I. Eisenberger, and Matthew D. Lieberman. Psychosomatic Medicine 2007;69(6):560-565.

 

A Meditation for Moving On

Meditators Under the Microscope

The post How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them

It was a particularly difficult day. My then nine-month-old daughter had a terrible night and left my wife and I with only a handful hours’ sleep. Needless to say, we were slow getting up and out the door that morning.  Before we left, my wife and I “discussed” who should’ve gotten up with Celia during the night (we’d been down this road before—these back-and-forths never help solve this issue, and somehow, we yet again veered this way). We barely spoke in the car the rest of the way to work after we dropped our daughter off at daycare.

And then I was hit by one issue after another once I walked into my office. An upset parent who’d left a voicemail who urgently needed to talk to me.  A clinician who needed help dealing with a student in crisis.  An important meeting I needed to chair that I’d forgotten to put in my calendar. And worst of all, I must have used a ladle to scoop my sugar into my coffee travel mug that morning.

I sat with my face in my hands at my desk for a moment.  I was seething with what life had deposited on top of me. My temples were pulsing, and my clock said it was only 9:30. Somehow, I remembered what I’d recommended to clients many times, but usually forgot to do myself.  It was a nice therapeutic “nugget” that made sense, but seemed like it should be innate to me, an experienced therapist: “Name it”—or as I’ve heard psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dan Siegel say—“Name it to tame it.” In other words, say to yourself, out loud, what negative emotion you’re experiencing, as you’re experiencing it, in order to get some distance from it. As the clinical wisdom goes, simply labeling a difficult emotional experience allows you to take the reins back, if only briefly.

I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong. I needed to return to the basics.

I’d recommended this emotional labeling to clients for years, but I’m fairly certain I’d never tried it myself.  Again, I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. It was “Self-Management 101.” I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong, because I sat at my desk with distress rippling through me. My mind was electric with ranting, and I was on track for a less than effective, connected, and creative day. I needed to return to the “basics.”

Labels Help Us Move On

The recommendation comes from a solid foundation. Research has shown that mere verbal labeling of negative emotions can help people recover control.[i] UCLA’s Matthew Lieberman refers to this as “affect labeling” and his fMRI brain scan research shows that this labeling of emotion appears to decrease activity in the brain’s emotional centers, including the amygdala. This dampening of the emotional brain allows its frontal lobe (reasoning and thinking center) to have greater sway over solving the problem du jour.

And this is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness gives us that moment of space as reactive emotions (like anger) are rising up. If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them. Doing so seems to help us disengage from them. We can see them, and then we can begin to choose how to react instead of reacting under the sway of intoxicatingly strong emotions. We can choose to act to open ourselves and connect with others, rather than be carried away in a flood of emotional neurochemicals that wash us over the cliff.

If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them.

Mindfulness Practice: Managing Strong Emotions in the Moment

In the coming days, when you find your body and mind getting tense with upset (and the more you’re aware of exactly how this manifests in you, the better), encourage yourself to attach words to your experience.

Often, thinking in terms of the metaphor of your hand in front of your face can be helpful.  When you start, you ARE your anger, sadness, fear, etc. It is your hand over your face. Can’t see anything, can you?  The emotion is attached to you—it IS you.

As you progressively label your emotion, creating more and more “distance” between the raw emotion and “you,” the observer (sparking awake in your frontal lobe), begins to see things more clearly: the emotional “hand” moves farther away from your thinking and reasoning mind’s eye.

Here’s a possible domino effect of reactive thoughts that might show up for you:

*  Event occurs . . .

*  Body stiffens, clenches . . .

*  “I can’t believe this!” / “They are so wrong!” / “This shouldn’t be!” . . .

*  “I am angry / sad / frustrated / humiliated / etc.”

*  Body stiffens, clenches more

* “I’m going to let them have it!”

 

And now, naming the emotion right AFTER the body first stiffens, surges, or in some way alerts you that upset is here:

 

*  “My body is telling me I’m angry, sad, etc.” (deep, slow breath in)

* “I’m having thoughts that this is upsetting.” (slow exhale out)

* “Anger . . . anger . . . anger . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

* Body slows down (slow exhale out)

* “Sad . . . sad . . . sad . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

What do you notice?

You may notice a “distance” that develops as you label your thoughts and emotions after the initial event. Instead of reacting and either lashing out or shutting down, you (in a matter of seconds) can ignite your frontal lobe, slow your body and mind, and choose your response. You can connect with your experience, as well as the possibilities around you. Instead of digging a deeper hole, you can climb out of the episode.

Practice this labeling whenever you can. Don’t be discouraged when you find yourself swept away in emotional currents. Our emotional reflexes run deep (inside the brain), and change comes only with significant practice and patience.  The practice is awareness: to get better at catching yourself.  Labeling an emotion helps you create distance from it. From there, we can choose how to respond instead of being led by our triggers.

I still argue with my wife about who should go pick up my crying kids. I catch my rigid, “she’s so out of line” thinking more than before, and I put it out at arm’s length.  More than ever before, I can choose to do something that binds us together instead of blasting us apart.

And if mindful labeling doesn’t work, as a husband, I’ve learned to simply stop talking and go clean something.

References

[i] 1. Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli. Matthew D. Lieberman, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Molly J. Crockett, Sabrina M. Tom, Jennifer H. Pfeifer, and Baldwin M. Way. Psychological Science 2007;18(5):421-428.

 

  1. Subjective Responses to Emotional Stimuli During Labeling, Reappraisal, and Distraction. Matthew D. Lieberman, Tristen K. Inagaki, Golnaz Tabibnia, and Molly J. Crockett. Emotion 2011;11(3):468-480.

 

  1. Neural Correlates of Dispositional Mindfulness During Affect Labeling. J. David Creswell, Baldwin M. Way, Naomi I. Eisenberger, and Matthew D. Lieberman. Psychosomatic Medicine 2007;69(6):560-565.

 

A Meditation for Moving On

Meditators Under the Microscope

The post How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

What to Do When Things Fall Apart

Drip. Drip-drip-drip-drip. I was putting the finishing touches on dinner. It had been a long day and I was idly leaning on the kitchen counter, enjoying a micro-moment of peace when something splashed onto my head. DRIP DRIP DRIP. “What in God’s name was that?” I looked up and saw water dripping from the ceiling onto my stovetop. Then I heard the upstairs toilet flush. And the drip became a stream. And the truth was revoltingly clear: Ready or not, a literal and figurative fecal hurricane had hit the fan. Serenity now.

It takes practice to be able to take things less personally. It takes practice to see the delicious-looking worm hiding the hook and choose not to bite.

Some days, it seems pretty obvious the world is out to get you (even without a major plumbing disaster like mine). The coffee pot just knew you were late for an important meeting when it jumped out of your hands and leapt to its death on the tiled floor, didn’t it? Whaddyagonnado? Stuff happens.

But the next time you feel harassed by kamikaze kitchen appliances or any of life’s large and small indignities, take a breath. Feel your feet making contact with the ground and bring your full attention to your body right there in the midst of the chaos. This almost ridiculously simple way to interrupt a volcanic moment could be the difference between trapping yourself in an emotional nightmare and finding humor in the midst of life’s unsavory moments.

Still, if your habit is to go all Tony Soprano when someone cuts you off in traffic, you’ll probably find it challenging to instantly change your behavior. We humans can be emotional firecrackers. Your most powerful ally will be your ability to accept yourself in all your gory glory. Sometimes rage, sadness, and a myriad of other strong emotions will be part of your experience, too.

We can learn to accept the whole shebang. We can find peace in the eye of the hurricane, but it takes practice.

Why? Because just when you think you’ve gotten out, the habit of overreacting drags you back in. That’s what habits do. When you can remember that, you can be crafty: Try making a list of your usual triggers and reactions. Carry it in your wallet. Come to know your list intimately. You might discover yourself biting the same hooks over and over—and when you can see that, you are better equipped to make a fresh choice.

It takes time to retrain a lifelong habit—even when you can see yourself teetering on the brink of giving in to it. A student at a mindfulness workshop came to me discouraged, saying, “I got angry at my boss, again. And even though I was able to see myself about to blow my top…I exploded anyway.”

When you are able to stay with whatever shows up—including the repulsive, the disruptive, and more than likely a heap of unfairness—you may find new ways to work skillfully with what’s beyond your control.

This was music to my ears. I was thrilled to hear he had noticed what was happening as it was happening—even if, that time, he still reacted. If you approach your practice with the expectation that it will make you as calm as a plastic novelty Buddha, you may become disheartened when you still feel unruly and aggravated—in other words, when you are still you. A perfectly fine you.

Take a broad view for a moment. If you can break out of the bubble of your personal experience, you’ll notice that you are part of humanity, essentially no different from anybody else. You will have to deal with life’s difficulties, no matter where you live, who you know, or what you have. When you are able to stay with whatever shows up—including the repulsive, the disruptive, and more than likely a heap of unfairness—you may find new ways to work skillfully with what’s beyond your control.

It takes practice to be able to take things less personally. It takes practice to see the delicious-looking worm hiding the hook and choose not to bite. And most of all, it takes practice to be kind to ourselves throughout, staying present to the entire unfolding show: one breath, one thought, one choice at a time.

This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of Mindful magazine.

 

What to Do When You Feel Stuck in Negative Emotions

A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

The post What to Do When Things Fall Apart appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org

What is Your Phone Doing to Your Relationships?

Phubbing is the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones. We’ve all been there, as either victim or perpetrator. We may no longer even notice when we’ve been phubbed (or are phubbing), it has become such a normal part of life. However, research studies are revealing the profound impact phubbing can have on our relationships and well-being.

There’s an irony in phubbing. When we’re staring at our phones, we’re often connecting with someone on social media or through texting. Sometimes, we’re flipping through our pictures the way we once turned the pages of photo albums, remembering moments with people we love. Unfortunately, however, this can severely disrupt our actual, present-moment, in-person relationships, which also tend to be our most important ones.

The research shows that phubbing isn’t harmless—but the studies to date also point the way to a healthier relationship with our phones and with each other.

What phubbing does to us

According to their study of 145 adults, phubbing decreases marital satisfaction, in part because it leads to conflict over phone use. The scientists found that phubbing, by lowering marital satisfaction, affected a partner’s depression and satisfaction with life. A follow-up study by Chinese scientists assessed 243 married adults with similar results: Partner phubbing, because it was associated with lower marital satisfaction, contributed to greater feelings of depression. In a study poignantly titled, “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone,” Meredith David and James Roberts suggest that phubbing can lead to a decline in one of the most important relationships we can have as an adult: the one with our life partner.

Phubbing also shapes our casual friendships. Not surprisingly to anyone who has been phubbed, phone users are generally seen as less polite and attentive. Let’s not forget that we are extremely attuned to people. When someone’s eyes wander, we intuitively know what brain studies also show: The mind is wandering. We feel unheard, disrespected, disregarded.

A set of studies actually showed that just having a phone out and present during a conversation (say, on the table between you) interferes with your sense of connection to the other person, the feelings of closeness experienced, and the quality of the conversation. This phenomenon is especially the case during meaningful conversations—you lose the opportunity for true and authentic connection to another person, the core tenet of any friendship or relationship.

In fact, many of the problems with mobile interaction relate to distraction from the physical presence of other people. According to these studies, conversations with no smartphones present are rated as significantly higher-quality than those with smartphones around, regardless of people’s age, ethnicity, gender, or mood. We feel more empathy when smartphones are put away.

This makes sense. When we are on our phones, we are not looking at other people and not reading their facial expressions (tears in their eyes, frowns, smiles). We don’t hear the nuances in their tone of voice (was it shaky with anxiety?), or notice their body posture (slumped and sad? or excited and enthusiastic?).

No wonder phubbing harms relationships.

The way of the phubbed

What do “phubbed” people tend do?

According to a study published in March of this year, they themselves start to turn to social media. Presumably, they do so to seek inclusion. They may turn to their cell phone to distract themselves from the very painful feelings of being socially neglected. We know from brain-imaging research that being excluded registers as actual physical pain in the brain. Phubbed people in turn become more likely to attach themselves to their phones in unhealthy ways, thereby increasing their own feelings of stress and depression.

A Facebook study shows that how we interact on Facebook affects whether it makes us feel good or bad. When we use social media just to passively view others’ posts, our happiness decreases. Another study showed that social media actually makes us more lonely.

“It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness,” write David and Roberts in their study “Phubbed and Alone.” Their results suggest the creation of a vicious circle: A phubbed individual turns to social media and their compulsive behavior presumably leads them to phub others—perpetuating and normalizing the practice and problem of “phubbing.”

“It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness”

―Meredith David and James Roberts

Why do people get into the phubbing habit in the first place? Not surprisingly, fear of missing out and lack of self-control predict phubbing. However, the most important predictor is addiction—to social media, to the cell phone, and to the Internet. Internet addiction has similar brain correlates to physiological forms like addiction to heroine and other recreational drugs. The impact of this addiction is particularly worrisome for children whose brain and social skills are still under development.

Nicholas Kardaras, former Stony Brook Medicine clinical professor and author of Glow Kids, goes so far as to liken screen time to digital cocaine. Consider this: The urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex, according to research by Chicago University’s Wilhelm Hoffman.

These findings come as no surprise—decades of research have shown that our greatest need after food and shelter is for positive social connections with other people. We are profoundly social people for whom connection and a sense of belonging are crucial for health and happiness. (In fact, lack thereof is worse for you than smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.) So, we err sometimes. We look for connection on social media at the cost of face-to-face opportunities for true intimacy.

The urge to check social media might be stronger than the urge for sex.

How to stop phubbing people

To prevent phubbing, awareness is the only solution. Know that what drives you and others is to connect and to belong. While you may not be able to control the behavior of others, you yourself have opportunities to model something different.

Research by Barbara Fredrickson, beautifully described in her book Love 2.0, suggests that intimacy happens in micro-moments: talking over breakfast, the exchange with the UPS guy, the smile of a child. The key is to be present and mindful. A revealing study showed that we are happiest when we are present, no matter what we are doing. Can we be present with the person in front of us right now, no matter who it is?

Studies by Paula Niedenthal reveal that the most essential and intimate form of connection is eye contact. Yet social media is primarily verbal. Research conducted by scientists like the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner and others have shown that posture and the most minute facial expressions (the tightening of our lips, the crow’s feet of smiling eyes, upturned eyebrows in sympathy or apology) communicate more than our words.

Most importantly, they are at the root of empathy—the ability to sense what another person is feeling—which is so critical to authentic human connection. Research shows that altruism and compassion also make us happier and healthier, and can even lengthen our lives. True connection thrives on presence, openness, observation, compassion, and, as Brené Brown has so beautifully shared in her TED talk and her bestselling book Daring Greatly, vulnerability. It takes courage to connect with another person authentically, yet it is also the key to fulfillment.

What to do if you are phubbed

What if you are phubbed? Patience and compassion are key here. Understand that the phubber is probably not doing it with malicious intent, but rather is following an impulse (sometimes irresistible) to connect. Just like you or I, their goal is not to exclude. To the contrary, they are looking for a feeling of inclusion. After all, a telling sociological study shows that loneliness is rising at an alarming rate in our society.

What’s more, age and gender play a role in people’s reactions to phubbing. According to studies, older participants and women advocate for more restricted phone use in most social situations. Men differ from women in that they viewed phone calls as more appropriate in virtually all environments including—and this is quite shocking—intimate settings. Similarly, in classrooms, male students find phubbing far less disturbing than their female counterparts.

Perhaps even worse than disconnecting from others, however, Internet addiction and phubbing disconnect us from ourselves. Plunged into a virtual world, we hunch over a screen, strain our eyes unnecessarily, and tune out completely from our own needs—for sleep, exercise, even food. A disturbing study indicates that for every minute we spend online for leisure, we’re not just compromising our relationships, we are also losing precious self-care time (e.g., sleep, household activities) and productivity.

So, the next time you’re with another human and you feel tempted to pull out your phone—stop. Put it away. Look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. Do it for them, do it for yourself, do it to make the world a better place.

 

This article was adapted from Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

 

Be Smarter than Your Phone

The Hidden Cost of Phone Addiction

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A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

Dr. Judson Brewer MD, PhD, is a thought leader in the “science of self-mastery,” and an associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, where he is director of research at the Center for Mindfulness. In this TEDMED, he talks about using mindfulness to tame cravings of all kinds.

A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

When I was first learning to meditate the instruction was to simply pay attention to my breath, and when my mind wandered, to bring it back. Sounded simple enough, yet I’d sit on these silent retreats sweating through t-shirts in the middle of winter. I take naps every chance I got because it was really hard work. Actually it was exhausting. The instruction was simple enough but I was missing something really important.

So why is it so hard to pay attention? Studies show that even when we’re really trying to pay attention to something—like maybe this talk—at some point, about half of us will drift off into a daydream or have this urge to check our Twitter feed. What’s going on here? It turns out that we’re fighting one of the most evolutionarily conserved learning processes currently known in science, one that’s conserved back to the most basic nervous systems known to man.

The Habit-Forming Brain

This reward based learning process is called positive and negative reinforcement and basically goes like this: We see some food that looks good, our brain says, “Calories! Survival!” We eat the food: We taste it, it tastes good. Especially with sugar, our bodies send the signal to our brain that says: “Remember what you’re eating and where you found it.” We lay down this context-dependent memory and learn to repeat the process next time: see food, eat food, feel good. Repeat.

Trigger, behavior, reward.

Simple right? Well after a while our creative brains say, “You know what? You can use this for more than just remembering where food is. Next time you feel bad, why don’t you try eating something good so you’ll feel better?” We thank our brains for the great idea, try this, and quickly learn that if we eat chocolate or ice cream when we’re mad or sad, we feel better. Same process, just a different trigger. Instead of this hunger signal coming from our stomach this emotional signal—feeling sad—triggers that urge to eat.

Each time we do this, we learn to repeat the process and it becomes a habit.

Curiosity Killed the Cravings

So back to my breath. What if instead of fighting our brains or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural reward based learning process—but added a twist. What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience.

I’ll give you an example. In my lab we studied whether mindfulness training could help people quit smoking. Just like trying to force myself to pay attention to my breath, they could try to force themselves to quit smoking. And the majority of them had tried this before and failed. On average, six times. Now with mindfulness training we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious. In fact we even told them to smoke. We even said go ahead and smoke just be really curious about what it’s like when you do.

And what did they notice? Here’s an example from one of our smokers: She said mindful smoking “Smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals. Yuck.”

Now she knew cognitively that smoking was bad for her. That’s why she joined our program. What she discovered just by being curiously aware when she smoked was that smoking tastes like shit.

Now she move from knowledge to wisdom. She moved from knowing in her head that smoking is bad for her too knowing it in her bones and the spell of smoking was broken. She started to become disenchanted with her behavior.

Now the prefrontal cortex, that youngest part of our brain from an evolutionary perspective, it understands on an intellectual level that we shouldn’t smoke and it tries its hardest to help us change our behavior, to help us stop smoking, to help us stop eating that second, that third, that fourth cookie—we call this cognitive control, we’re using cognition to control our behavior. Unfortunately this is also the first part of our brain that goes offline when we get stressed out which, isn’t that helpful.

Now we can all relate to this in our own experience. We’re much more likely to do things like yell at our spouse or kids when we’re stressed out or tired even though we know it’s not going to be helpful. We just can’t help ourselves. Now when the prefrontal cortex goes offline we fall back into our old habits, which is why this disenchantment is so important. Seeing what we get from our habits helps us understand them in a deeper level to know in our bones so we don’t have to force ourselves to hold back or restrain ourselves from behavior. We’re just less interested in doing it in the first place. And this is what mindfulness is all about: Seeing really clearly what we get when we get caught up in our behaviors, becoming disenchanted, on a visceral level; and from this disenchanted stance, naturally letting go.

When we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based reactive habit patterns. We become this inner scientist where we’re eagerly awaiting that next data point.

This isn’t to say that, poof, magically we quit smoking but over time as we learn to see more and more clearly the results of our actions we let go of old habits and form new ones. The paradox here is that mindfulness is just about being really interested in getting close and personal with what’s actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment. This willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible. And this willingness to turn toward her experience is supported by curiosity which is naturally rewarding. What does curiosity feel like? It feels good. And what happens when we get curious? We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations: there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness, and these body sensations come and go.

These are bite-sized pieces of experiences that we can manage from moment to moment rather than getting clobbered by this huge, scary craving that we choke on. In other words, when we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based reactive habit patterns and we step into being. We become this inner scientist where we’re eagerly awaiting that next data point.

This might sound too simplistic to affect behavior, but in one study we found that mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking. So it actually works. And when we studied the brains of experienced meditators we found that parts of a neural network of self-referential processing called the default mode network were at play. Now one current hypothesis is that a region of this network called the posterior cingulate cortex is activated not necessarily by craving itself but when we get caught up in it, when we get sucked in and it takes us for a ride. In contrast, when we let go, step out of the process just by being curiously aware of what’s happening, the same brain region quiets down.

These are bite-sized pieces of experiences that we can manage from moment to moment rather than getting clobbered by this huge, scary craving that we choke on.

So if you don’t smoke or stress eat maybe the next time you feel this urge to check your email when you’re bored or you’re trying to distract yourself from work or maybe to compulsively respond to that text message when you’re driving, see if you can tap into this natural capacity. Just be curiously aware of what’s happening in your body and mind in that moment. It will just be another chance to perpetuate one of our endless and exhaustive habit loops or step out of it instead of “see text message, compulsively text back, feel a little bit better.” Notice the urge. Get curious. Feel the joy of letting go, and repeat.

 

Adapted from: A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit, Judson Brewer MD, Ph.D. at TEDMED, Palm Springs, CA

 

Beware the Habit-Forming Brain!

5 Ways to Kick Bad Habits

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A Connection Practice to Remedy Feelings of Isolation

We often want to extinguish feelings of panic. But when we turn toward the physical sensations and thoughts panic evokes—acknowledging and letting them be—the rush of feeling consumed or out of control can begin to dissipate.

As you continue to work with panic and learn from it, you will cultivate greater understanding of yourself and the world around you, and this will make you feel more alive, connected, and free. You’ll come to know that you’re part of this great universe and can feel more at home within it.

Albert Einstein, who was known for his wisdom as well as his scientific genius, points to the interconnectedness of existence in an excerpt from one of his letters, published in the New York Post (November 28, 1972):

A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

The “web of life” meditation helps dissolve this illusion of separateness by cultivating feelings of safety, compassion, and love. Over time, this practice will increase your feelings of connection not only to yourself, but also to your family, friends, work associates, and fellow living beings, the world around you, and the universe.

The “web of life” meditation helps dissolve this illusion of separateness by cultivating feelings of safety, compassion, and love.

Interconnectedness in Action

It’s also fair to say that most of us have already tasted or had glimpses of this interconnectedness to “the web of life” but may have not fully recognized that it was happening because we were so absorbed in the experience itself. Here are some examples: a time you spent watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or out on a beautiful walk in nature, or having an intimate moment with someone you love that made you feel so connected that everything felt just perfect. In such moments, most likely all your panic was gone and you had a sense that you were part of a big and beautiful universe and that everything was not just okay, but exquisite. Through mindfulness, “web of life,” and also loving-kindness practices, you’ll experience more of these moments.

Formal Practice: “Web of Life” Meditation

This meditation will help you develop a deeper sense of connection—both to the present moment and those around you. Read through the entire script first to familiarize yourself with the practice, then do the practice, referring back to the text as needed and pausing briefly after each paragraph. Set aside about twenty minutes for this practice. Find a comfortable position on a cushion or chair or lying on a bed or the floor. Turn off your phone or other devices so you can remain undisturbed.

  • Begin by checking in. Begin by taking a few moments to arrive and settle in by bringing your awareness into your mind and body. Acknowledge how you are feeling and let it be.
  • Gently shift to mindful breathing, being aware of breathing in and out. There’s need to manipulate the breath in any way—just breathing in and out, normally and naturally.
  • Shift attention to where you’re seated. Begin to feel the connection of your body on the chair, cushion, bed, or mat, and feel its connection to the floor. Reflect on the connection of the floor to the building you are in and its connection to the earth farther below.
  • Let your awareness expand to include the earth below you. Feel that sense of being held by the earth below you, and just allow yourself to be held by the earth. You are in a safe space and you can breathe in and out with ease in your body and mind.
  • Feel how the earth rises up to hold and embrace you. There is nothing more you need to do, nowhere you have to go, and no one you have to be. Just being held in the heart of kindness and letting be.
  • Bring to mind someone you would hold this way. Reflect on your loved ones being held in the same way—with safety and ease of body and mind. Reflect on how the earth holds all beings, whether they are acquaintances, strangers, or difficult ones—with no bias, no discrimination, no separation.
  • Reflect on how this earth holds all beings, forsaking none—whether they be small or large. Reflect on how this earth does not exist in a vacuum, that it is connected to a solar system and vast universe. We all are interconnected. Our bodies and the earth, the sun and the stars, are composed of the same matter—the same basic particles, joined in different ways. Feeling into that sense of connection and interconnection that we are all made of stardust. Feeling that sense of being home within your body and mind with a true sense of belonging and connection.
  • Return your attention to the breath. Just breathing in and out, feeling the grace of this universe—no isolation nor separation, feeling that sense of connection and interconnection and being at home in your being. Nothing more you need to do, go, get, or push away. Imperfectly perfect as you are, resting in the heart of this universe.
  • Let well-wishes form. May all beings here and everywhere dwell with peace.
This article was adapted from Calming the Rush of Panic, by Bob Stahl PhD, Wendy Millstine NC.

Feeling Separate When You’re Anxious: Two Mindfulness Practices to Reconnect

Calming the Rush of Panic in Your Emotions

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Train Your Brain to Tame Holiday Stress and Anxiety

It may seem like a bitter irony that the holiday season, which is supposed to cheer us up and bring us together, ends up stressing us out.

Why is that the case? It’s got to be more than the cold short days of winter. And in fact, it is. Our brains were set up to help us survive (not only the holidays, but the entire winter and beyond). We evolved to find food, and to remember where we found it. We evolved to notice danger and to avoid it in the future. We evolved to learn all sorts of behaviors that make us efficient at what we do, every day.

So why does everything seem to go off the rails as soon as the Christmas lights go up? Well, our brains are still hard at work—perhaps even harder at work—trying to help us survive. So, when we get stressed out, we eat that extra holiday cookie even though we’re stuffed; we yell at our spouse, even though we know it doesn’t fix whatever the problem is; we tighten down into a tiny ball of anxiety, and have that urge to go into the bedroom, close the door, turn out the lights, and wait until spring (or at least the new year) comes.

How Your Brain Learns to Respond to Holiday Stress

Let’s use stress eating as an example. Our brains learn in a three-step process: 1) We see some food that looks good, our brain says calories, survival! 2) We eat the food. It tastes yummy. 3) Our bodies send a signal to our brains: remember what you are eating and where you found it. We lay down a context-dependent memory, and we learn to repeat the process next time. See food, eat food. Feel good. Repeat. Trigger, behavior, reward. Simple, right?

After a while our creative brains say, hey you can use this for more than remembering where food is. Next time you feel bad, why don’t you try eating something good, so you’ll feel better? We thank our brains for that great idea, try this and quickly learn that if we eat chocolate or ice cream when we’re mad or sad we feel better. Same learning process, just a different trigger: Instead of a hunger signal coming from our stomach, this emotional signal -feeling sad triggers that urge to eat.

This is called reward-based learning. We learn based on the rewards we get from our behaviors. The more we do this, the more it loops back and feeds itself. Voilà! A habit is formed.

Whenever you notice that you’re beginning to get stressed or anxious, or feeling that pull to check your Facebook feed, or whatever your habit loop is, take a moment to see if you can play with dropping into a curious awareness of what’s happening in your body and mind right in that moment.

And when do these habit loops show themselves most strongly? When we’re physically and emotionally exhausted. Yes, during the holidays, we have all of this extra stuff to do: go shopping, put up the lights, host parties, attend parties, get together with family, put on a happy face to show everyone that we’re the perfect host of our holiday gatherings. The list goes on and on. It’s no wonder that we can’t resist those holiday cookies, especially after a nice stiff slug of eggnog.

Your Comparing Brain and Your Smartphone = A Recipe for Holiday Anxiety

Yet, there’s more. Let’s explore other ways that our brain’s learning system gets hijacked: smartphones. Our phones are so helpful in so many ways. They literally help us navigate the world, from getting to where we need to go, to remembering our shopping lists, to quickly ordering presents online. And, while we’re out and about, we can check Facebook and Instagram to connect with our friends and family. It’s great that we can see what everyone is up to. Oh, their house is beautifully decorated. Wow, she looks great in that sweater. Where is she? Wait, I didn’t know she was having a party. Why wasn’t I invited?…

Hmmm, another ironic twist of neuroscience: our brains are wired to constantly compare. For everything from choosing a mate to buying a car, comparing helps us to determine the best price, the highest quality, the right match. Yet, those social media sites and apps that help us stay connected can’t protect us from our own minds. They can’t say to us, “Hey, only use me to keep in touch. Don’t use me to compare yourself to your friend or your coworker.” So, we fall into the trap, often unknowingly, of wondering why she was invited to the party, or of thinking we look ugly/fat/old in that picture, or of worrying that we can’t hold everything together when it’s so obvious from that picture that she’s pretty/skinny/young and clearly just pulled off the holiday party of the year.

On top of this, for any of us that have the habit of checking our Facebook or news feed as a way to distract ourselves when we’re stressed or anxious (yes, this is another habit loop that birthed an entirely new field of psychiatry: tech and internet addiction), we don’t know what we’re going to get. Will it be a cute puppy or adorable baby dressed in holiday garb (ahh, great distraction), or will it be our neighbor looking perfect and ageless (shoot, I’m comparing again)?

How to Tap Into Your Brain’s Natural Reward-Based Learning Process

What to do? Throw up our hands, retreat to the dark bedroom, emerge with the daylight and daffodils in April?

Fortunately, if we know how our brains work, we can work with them to not get caught in these habit loops that increase our anxiety and disconnect us from our family and friends. We can even tap into the very process that drives behavior: we can hack the reward-based learning system.

And this is how we can do it. Instead of fighting our brains, or forcing ourselves to try to not be anxious during the holidays, we tap into this natural reward-based learning process. But we add a twist of curiosity. In other words, what if we just got curious about what we were doing in that moment, rather than habitually going along on autopilot?

I’ll give you an example. In my lab, we studied whether mindfulness training could help people quit smoking. Just like trying to force myself to pay attention to my breath, our smokers could try to force themselves to quit smoking. And many of them had tried this before and failed—on average 6 times. With mindfulness training we dropped the bit about forcing, and instead focused on being curious.

The spell of smoking was broken—she started to become disenchanted with her behavior, on a visceral level. No force necessary.

In the group that was randomized to receive mindfulness training in our clinical trial, we even told them to smoke. What? Yes, we said go ahead and smoke, just be really curious about what it’s like when you do. And what did people notice? Here’s an example from one of our smokers. When she practiced being mindful and really paid attention when she smoked she reported that her cigarette, “smells like stinky cheese, and tastes like chemicals, YUCK.”

She already knew cognitively that smoking was bad for her. That’s why she joined our program. What she discovered by simply being curiously attentive when she smoked, was that smoking was not rewarding at all.

This is an important distinction. She moved from knowledge to wisdom. Knowing in her head that smoking was bad to knowing in her bones—oh this isn’t as good as I thought. The spell of smoking was broken—she started to become disenchanted with her behavior, on a visceral level. No force necessary.

Why Curiosity is a Powerful Tool for Taming Stress and Anxiety

The paradox here is that mindfulness is simply about being interested and getting close and personal with what is actually happening in our bodies and minds in any one moment. It’s this willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to distract ourselves or make our anxiety go away as quickly as possible. And this willingness to turn toward our experience is supported by curiosity, which in itself is rewarding. Curiosity feels good.

What happens when we get curious? We notice that the feelings of stress and are simply made up of body sensations—tightness, heat, restlessness, and so on. And that these sensations come and go. More importantly, we notice that when we are curious, we aren’t sucked into that abyss of anxiety; we’ve just stepped out of our old reactive habit patterns. We’re just curiously noticing what is happening in our experience from moment to moment. And in that moment, we’ve hacked our own brain. We’ve hacked that reward-based learning process by simply substituting the behavior of curiosity for the behavior of distraction, worry or comparison. Not only does curiosity feel good, it’s always available. We don’t need to get something outside of ourselves, like a cupcake, or a cute puppy video, or a stiff drink to feel better. It’s simply a matter of tapping into our own capacity to be curious and noticing the benefit, noticing the reward right in that moment.

So, in preparation for the holidays, take a few moments every day to train your mind. Whenever you notice that you’re beginning to get stressed or anxious, or feeling that pull to check your Facebook feed, or whatever your habit loop is, take a moment to see if you can play with dropping into a curious awareness of what’s happening in your body and mind right in that moment. Notice the urge. Get curious. Feel the joy of letting go. Repeat.

 

Join Judson Brewer for a unique 1-day mindfulness immersion retreat and build your very own survival guide for taming holiday stress, learning invaluable tools to help you thrive during the upcoming season (and year-round!). Register to join the live-stream or attend in person in New York on Saturday, December 2, 2017 from 9:30 am-5:00 pm ET. This event is presented in partnership with Eileen Fisher LifeWork and Mindful.

 

5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress

3 Ways Mindfulness Can Help You Survive Family Occasions

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Source: https://www.mindful.org

The Hidden Cost of Phone Addiction

What if the biggest problem with our relationship to our phones wasn’t that we rely on them constantly—the “lazy brain” argument—but that we have a genuinely unhealthy, addictive relationship to them?

This animation from The London School of Life revisits phone addiction, suggesting that when we’re constantly attached to our phones, we constantly find ways to detach from other things. From the narrator, philosopher Alain de Botton:

To say we are addicted to our phones is not merely to point out that we use them a lot. It signals a darker notion: that we use them to keep our own selves at bay. Because of our phones, we may find ourselves incapable of sitting alone in a room with our own thoughts floating freely in our own heads, daring to wander into the past and the future, allowing ourselves to feel pain, desire, regret and excitement.

“Addiction sounds horrible,” de Botton continues, “but it’s a hard name for a normal inclination: a habit of running away from the joys and terrors of self-knowledge.”

de Botton explores how we use our phones to avoid “a frank encounter with our own minds” and how that impacts us:

1) Google becomes your brain. “We consult our phones rather than ourselves,” says de Botton. We cobble facts together from an unending resource outside of ourselves instead of being patient with—and drawing from—what’s already there.

2) We can’t immerse in moments of awe. When we’re trying to take in the vastness of the Grand Canyon—and then a spouse tries to take a selfie. “Without meaning to, [our phones]  strip away the help that the grandeur of nature can offer us.”

3) We don’t receive the most important notifications of all. We’re constrained in what we get notifications about, says de Botton. Yes, gym workouts, dentist appointments. But what about alerts for solitude? What about taking time to think about the “final appointment”? de Botton ultimately laments that, as impressed as we are by our phones, they are more accommodating to and focused on the doing side of our nature than the being side (e.g. emotional intelligence).

 

 

Be Smarter than Your Phone

Smart Phone, Lazy Brain

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