Unplug, Reconnect & Save Your Gray Matter. Here’s How.

I was going to title this “The Consequences of Prefrontal Cortex Exhaustion and the Decline of Interpersonal Relationships,” but I figured that was a tad too brainy. Plus, all the PhD types it might bring out of the woodwork would probably expire with horror to encounter a website like ours.

(Or maybe not? How cool would that be if some of those intellectuals schooled us in the science of biology, sex, and swagger?!)

Anyway…Yes, fellow social media whores, I’m talking about technology addiction and how it can adversely affect not only your relationships, but your actual gray matter.

2970528440What’s that you say? Feeling short of breath? You’re dizzy? About to hyperventilate?

OMG, I KNOW!!!!

I. Feel. Your PAIN. I really do because, holy crap, I love my phone, iPad, email, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter…that reminds me I still haven’t responded to…

(Stop. Just stop it.)

Okay, I’m not here to lecture because I’m probably a worse offender than most. I pride myself on my quick response times because God forbid someone think I don’t care about them. Or I miss something important.

I like to tell myself I am this way because of the solitary nature of being a writer. Because:

a.) I spend so much of my day alone (well, not alone-alone if you count all the nut-jobs in my noggin that certainly have no problem talking back to me).

AND,

b.) I appreciate the connections with others. Connections that are quick, easy, and at my convenience.

blahPlus, I have to admit, I don’t love the phone. I actually kind of dislike it. A lot. At least I do initially because phone calls always come when I’m busy. Of course, once I’m into the conversation, I enjoy it, but that damn ring… just go away, text me, email me, or find me on FB.

How arrogant is that?! How anti-social does that make me? Geez. Sick.

Not to mention my neck is starting to get a permanent crick from staring down at a screen. I’m often distracted and don’t listen when the people RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME are talking to me. And because I’m highly distractable to begin with, this technology-glued-to-hand shit takes it to the next level.

My husband has started talking about technology being “the other man.” And if I’m honest with myself—this is the hardest part—he’s got a point. Bad, bad, bad, gang.

I’m starting to piss myself off. This is stupid.

So, I’ve started to do something about it. >>>> UNPLUG

(Hives!!!)

breathe……….i am calm……mind like water…

So anyway, I’m here to tell you…you can do it, too. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still learning. But so far, I’ve found that one of the best antidotes to my gadget addiction is…

Vitamin Nature.

AKA: Leave your phone on the kitchen counter & get thine ass outside.

Current research is proving that our addiction to technology is costing us general, short-term cognitive decline by placing constant demands on our prefrontal cortex—the frontal lobe of our brain that handles advanced, concentrated thinking. For example, the region we use when writing semi-coherent blog posts, driving on a busy road with boisterous children in the background, preparing financial reports, trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time…you get the idea.

Life is already filled with multi-tasking activities that tax the frontal lobe. So what do you think happens to our already drained prefrontal cortex when we add all the alarms, notifications, and constant checking of texts, emails, and Facebook on our mobile devices?

Shit. Storm.

Just like muscles tire with overuse, so does the brain. When we never let the frontal lobe rest, we perform worse on creativity measures, complete tasks more slowly, and are more likely to make errors.

My wilderness man (DH) showed me an absolutely fascinating article (Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan) that not only discusses this very thing, but goes on to explain how immersion in nature is perhaps the best way to recharge our frontal lobe. What’s more, science is starting to back it up so strongly there’s even a named hypothesis for it: Attention Restoration Theory (ART).

The theory goes like this: there are two types of thinking, top-down and bottom-up. Top-down thinking is the frontal lobe stuff. Bottom-up thinking, or “soft fascination,” is what happens when distractions dissolve and you just go with the flow.

That’s what happens in nature. Think of what a walk in the woods is like: oh, look at that moss on the birch tree. It feels humid in here under this lovely green canopy. Did you hear that? What kind of bird was it? Ooo, a little nest…

This stream of consciousness thinking is hard to produce anywhere besides the outdoors or in meditation, and it doesn’t require any heavy lifting by your brain. Therefore, as ART posits, it allows your “beat-up frontal lobe [to] relax and recharge, refilling your reservoir of focus—thus restoring your cognition to full power.”

Pretty neat, huh? Well, it’s spring, winter hibernators…head outside! Leave your phone at home – or at least in the car (or at the VERY least TURNED OFF in your pocket)—and go chase a rainbow!

What are some tips you have for unplugging and reconnecting to the ones around you?

Comments

  1. I don’t know how to unplug. My boyfriend actually just commented the other day, “you’re on your phone a lot lately”. I’m getting so busy business-wise that I have a difficult time putting down my phone, ignoring tweets, etc!

    The only time I’m unplugged is during my beloved hot yoga classes.

    • It *is* tough when you’re an entrepreneur working out of your home. You don’t have “set” hours and you’re trying to market and build as much business as you can. I totally get that. I’m in the same boots. But I’ve started making some “technology-free” time frames, and it’s been great. For my family and for me. Less frenetic altogether.

      The real question is, Anna, do you *want* to make a change? When I realized my children and husband were getting the short end of the deal, that’s when I knew I needed to do something. ;)

  2. Hey girl, great post! I’m totally on board with you, except, I’m in the minority of modern society. I *do* have a cell phone, but the extent of its use goes something like this, “Hey hubby, I’m at the grocery, do you need anything?” Yep. I’m totally unplugged and trying to learn how to plug in! Facebook, twitter, blogs–All stuff I’d be happy to live without, but need to embrace for my career.

    As for tips, 1. Make a weekly hike a family event. It’s a great way to explore your own city. 2. Ever since we’ve been together, Mr. S. and I take 3-4 day camping trips, where we go deep into the middle of nowhere. No cell reception, no toilets, no running water, etc. It’s an amazing way to refresh your soul :)

  3. LOVE your original title “The Consequences of Prefrontal Cortex Exhaustion…” haha! But hey, we’re a plugged-in society that expects writers to maintain well designed social platforms, right? I agree, however, the key is balance. We’ve got to let the sun shine on our faces, even if it means taking the laptop to the back deck and working outside for a spell. Sometimes I have to make a show (to self) of closing down the email and twitter screens to nudge me into focusing more on the project at hand and thereby relegating the social media binges to “break times.” FYI, my break is over. Cheers, Jo

    • “Let the sun shine on our faces.” – Yes. I love that! I say that to my children a lot. I just need to remember to do that myself as well. And yes, the demands of modern publishing means writers have a lot on our plates. I can totally relate to “social media binging.” LOL I have a long way to go before I get it all figured out. :)

  4. Great post, Misty! I’m not that into social media, but take away my internet connection and email and I’d be lost. My favorite thing to watch is when two people sit side-by-side and text each other. Ha! Too funny.

  5. Reading this blog, I felt my garden calling to me.

    I’ve been semi-separated from Fb for a few months now, and I DO feel better.

    I can never tell if I’m chasing connection or chasing stimulus with all the social media bells and whistles. But that frenzied “I just wanna check my email one more time” feeling is a baaaaad one.

    • “I can never tell if I’m chasing connection or chasing stimulus with all the social media” — Interesting! And good point. What are we really afraid of — or MISSING — if we don’t check email or Facebook for a few hours? It’s kind of ridiculous when framed that way.

      And now, I must go. My children just walked in the door. :)

      xo

    • Josie Matthews says:

      Really interesting insight Madeline and so well put…Are we needing the connection? or has it become a stimulus based addiction? things that make ya go hmmmm. I think we all need a good girls night out together, somewhere fun, for some good old face-to-face and physical contact….Who’s in ?

  6. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only who hates the phone. I find social media so liberating in that regard. Great post. Now, I need to go outside. :)

  7. Josie Matthews says:

    Misty-Lou….Great post and great reminder to us all. Personally I HATE social media. There…I said it. To me its just another job I feel I have to accomplish during the day. If it were just our awesome blog…and a few close friends that I needed to keep in touch with it wouldn’t be a job. But I have so many irons in the fire with different groups that I am now committed to staying in touch and social media is the easiest way.
    I hate the Fu$#%&^ phone!!! I have no time to talk…I like to say it, answer it, and be done with it. Im not a chatter and never have been. I very rarely answer my phone unless I really need to or want too. Hubby HATES this about me. He says Im rude. And talk about returning phone calls? I have 3 businesses…my nursing, our landscaping business, and my painting business….I usually like to text my customers so I can say only what is pertinient and not be bogged down with ‘chat’ time.
    I NEVER use facebook for business. Especially my nursing career. That’s a face to face business for sure.
    Twitter? What is that…
    That’s why I love my personal techno-whore….her name is Misty Dietz!!! Call her!! :)

    So who wants to start a revolution? Out with social-’media’ … in with social-’dinners’!!! I say we meet at least once a month at each other’s houses and have a pot luck and catch up!!
    You in? Oh shit…that’s right…we live all over the world…
    Okay…I DO like social media….cause without it I wouldn’t have met all you awesome people!
    Love you Misty!!
    Ps How the hell do you take a spring walk in Fargo? Isn’t it still cold there? Im all in for Anna’s hot yoga!

    • It’s called speed walking right now because it’s still cold as crap! And today we’re getting another several inches of snow. But it won’t last. We should be able to swim in the lake by July. LOL – Just kiddin’. Maybe.

      Love you, too. Got your text this morning. Thank you for that. (((hugs))) Will text back laters. xoxo

Trackbacks

  1. […] than succumb to technology withdrawal (Yeah, Misty. I’m talkin’ ’bout YOU), may I suggest, since you’ve got all that […]

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