Category Archives: Addictions

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

Love Your Neighbor – the Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend a screening of the film Resilience. This documentary introduces the health issue of Adverse Childhood Experiences* (ACEs) and how, if unchecked, lead to adulthood diseases and dysfunction. This was both alarming and eye-opening for me. A closely related issue had already captured my interest – Trauma Healing – involving intervention with children and adults displaced and wounded by wars, famine, and other calamities.

The long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences was first identified in a huge and significant study done in the 90’s by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda. You can read more of the study, but the main take-away for me is that children who experienced trauma, and do not experience informed intervention, will have compounded health issues through their adult life.

Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, had this observation: “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Drs. Felitti and Anda developed a short 10-question questionnaire which can be used by any one of us to identify risks in our children or self-identify high risk. After watching the film, I came home and decided to take the ACE quiz to see what my numbers were. My numbers were low.

Take the ACE Quiz and Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean.

[PDF of 10-question ACE Quiz]

However, looking longer at the quiz, I thought of my mom (whose childhood – growing up in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive father – was very different from mine). Even though my childhood had some adversity, Mom buffered our lives from some stresses we would have experienced. I also thought of others in my family and among our friends who have had to endure much tougher childhoods. They are all adults now, so I wondered what their options were to reverse some of the trauma and build resilience. This research and the trauma-informed care that has developed out of it give tremendous hope.

There are so many resources now available to us to heal and help others heal. One of the young pioneers in this field is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Here is a bit of her take on the issue of ACEs and their impact on adult health:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and faux patient (for the photo)

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass. – Jane Ellen Stevens, Aces Too High

[TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris]

If you are like me, you will want to learn more and be a part of trauma-informed care, you can search for local agencies to help. In our city, we have a cooperative called Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network. I am looking forward to taking advantage of training and volunteering through this agency.

This may be very new knowledge for you. It was for me. Huge “light-bulb” experience. There are children out there put on medication for ADHD when (after further evaluation) are struggling to attend in the classroom because they are chronically on edge (as Dr. Harris defined with the constant threat of an attacking bear).  What a difference could be made in these children’s lives if their stressors are properly confirmed and then counseling for them and education for their parents/other support adults are initiated.

To think about how children who have been traumatized will still bear that trauma through their adult lives and bodies is unthinkable. Now that we know better.

Have a look at the ACEs Quiz. Pour over the infographics.  Learn from the links below.  Think about your own situation and that of those you love or serve (in a classroom, community/medical setting, faith-based institution). Then act…it could mean longer and higher quality of life. Resilience and healing can come out of this.

In closing, I would love to hear something of your take on all this. What did you discover in taking the ACEs quiz? What was your score?

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

*Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Life-long Consequences of Trauma – The American Academy of Pediatrics

Resilience the Film

TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nagazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard of, Part 3 – Jane Ellen Stevens

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – CDC

Infographic – Road to Resilience – 10 Ways to Build Resilience – Mercy Family Counseling

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Saturday Short – Eating Healthy – Elastic Is Not So Much My Friend As a Close Acquaintance

Photo Credit: Sweet Little Bluebird

Sitting at my desk, I’m sitting very straight with great posture thanks to the corseting effect of jeans that fit me better a few months back. Struggling into those button-top, zippered jeans was one of those New Year wake-up calls. Eating healthier is usually one of my top resolutions, but it didn’t make the list this time…well…yet.

I was going to write how elastic is my friend and then discovered a West Coaster named Aurea has a food blog by that name (Elastic Is My Friend). Then, given my wrestling on this pair of jeans, I’m thinking elastic is more a close acquaintance…not as close as these jeans feel right now, but much preferred over them.

A friend of mine and I talk a lot about language.  Words are a great interest of mine, and it’s fascinating how their usage changes over time. Take the word “muffin tops“. In another “once upon a time”, muffin tops (that bulge over the top of our too-tight jeans) was called “love handles”.  The latter is a much more affectionate or endearing phrase than the first. Both words are a bit of a tease, as in poking-fun-at-sort-of-thing, but Urban Dictionary gives us women, at least, a break. Its definition calls love handles cute, curvy, etc.

Photo Credit: Foodiggity

Anyway, I digress.

Eating healthier would definitely help me become friends with both elastic and these jeans, which are causing me to breathe more shallowly than is probably healthy right now.

What would help me eat more healthy? Not all the diets out there that are either trendy or costly…just not into all that focus on food.

In the not too distant past, I have turned my eating habits around and made jeans my friend using three actions.

  1. Lay off the sugar. – Everything has sugar in it. Well, almost everything. I’m not into extreme food plans, but just getting sugar out of my  diet for a few weeks or months has resulted in weight loss, a change in my appetite, and even my food preferences. Since everything has sugar in it, I’m not talking about everything, but the obvious concentrated sugar foods.
  2. No Fast Food. – When I prepare food, I tend to make healthier food than when I drive-through or pick up something on the run. Not rocket science, but for me, it has to be something I resolve. Just too easy to pull in and pick up a fast lunch or beverage.
  3. Eating Stops at 7:00pm. At some point, I have to determine to “Stop the Madness!” For me, if I exit the kitchen by 7:00pm (not carrying food) and just don’t go back in there…my habits and cravings will change. They have before…they can again.

So mid-way through January, in a pair of jeans I can still fit in…I’m resolved to begin moving in this direction. Not the strongest resolve I’ve had going into a new year, but stronger than I had this morning.

Elastic…aaaaaahhh. Looking forward to peeling out of these jeans and putting on my pajamas later…AND closing the door on the kitchen at 7:00pm.

I’m thinking there could be some sort of conspiracy in the fitness clothing industry how it’s all so stretchy and comfy, with elastic at the waist. Effective for work-outs but just as lovely lounging on the couch in front of the TV…with that enormous bowl of popcorn or dish of ice cream.Photo Credit: NYTimes, NPR, Pinterest

Sheesh!

Focus! Need to definitely keep wearing these jeans until bedtime.

How about you? Any helps in forming habits where we don’t need such close friendships with elastic? Please share in Comments.

YouTube Video – ActiveWear

YouTube Video – Fed Up – Official Trailer

Monday Morning Moment: Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions With True Habit Change

Blog - New Year's Resolutions - davidlose.net - Calvin & HobbsPhoto Credit: DavidLose.net

[From the Archives]

New Year’s resolutions are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, makes a difference in understanding our habits and progressing toward true habit change.

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. With a resolution like that, it meant abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 3 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His New Year article on Seven Principles of Habit Change comes at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

Blog - Habit Change - relational wisdom 360Photo Credit: Relational Wisdom 360

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

Matt Monge wrote a great piece on 13 questions we might ask ourselves to better understand why we do what we do. He is applying these questions to leadership and workplace, but they apply as well to habits. Also, in researching for this blog, I came upon this YouTube video of David Wallace Foster giving a commencement speech on awareness. Really thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to becoming more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just going off sugar for a few weeks. These same habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

I’d like to close with Ken Sande’s thoughts on taking self-awareness to other-awareness and God-awareness:

“The better we know and follow God (God-aware, God-engaging), the more we will know and discipline ourselves (self-aware, self-engaging), which opens the way for us to better understand, relate to, and serve our neighbors (other-aware, other-engaging).

To close the loop and spur us on developing relational wisdom, the Lord promises that the more we obey his command to love our neighbors, the closer we will draw to God himself (John 14:21-23). Thus, relational wisdom is a circle of interrelated skills that continually fuel one another.”Ken Sande

Blog - Relational Wisdom - Ken SandePhoto Credit: RelationalWisdom360

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change – Paul Jun

This is Water – David Foster Wallace on Awareness

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Monday Morning Moment – A Look at Power with Andy Crouch

 Blog - Andy Crouch = Playing God - thegospelcoalition
Just recently I heard a friend quote from the book Playing God – Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch. It struck me as odd that he was reading such a book because, although he is a powerful man in his own circle, he doesn’t seem vulnerable to such a phenomenon. Wisdom is to mark such a supposition and guard against it. This friend does that. My husband has also been reading Crouch’s book, so I am persuaded to add it to my list of reads.
Here’s a taste of what you’ll find thanks to Good Reads. It is often where I start with a book given my long list of wanna-reads. Andy Crouch makes a strong case for our need to wrestle with our temptation to “play God” in our relationships, institutions, and culture. See for yourself….
On Power in Creating Good or Evil – in Work and Culture
“It is a source of refreshment, laughter, joy and life—and of more power. Remove power and you cut off life, the possibility of creating something new and better in this rich and recalcitrant world. Life is power. Power is life. And flourishing power leads to flourishing life. Of course, like life itself, power is nothing—worse than nothing—without love. But love without power is less than it was meant to be. Love without the capacity to make something of the world, without the ability to respond to and make room for the beloved’s flourishing, is frustrated love. This is why the love that is the heartbeat of the Christian story—the Father’s love for the Son and, through the Son, for the world—is not simply a sentimental feeling or a distant, ethereal theological truth, but has been signed and sealed by the most audacious act of true power in the history of the world, the resurrection of the Son from the dead. Power at its best is resurrection to full life, to full humanity. Whenever human beings become what they were meant to be, when even death cannot finally hold its prisoners, then we can truly speak of power.”
Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity—breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power…This power ultimately will put everything around it to death rather than share abundant life with another. It is also the power of feigned or forced ignorance, the power of complacency and self-satisfaction with our small fiefdoms of comfort. Power, the truest servant of love, can also be its most implacable enemy.”
“Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus interrupts his agenda for those who have nothing to offer him but need everything from him.”
On Power and Information
“I am also practicing cello to wean myself from power and accomplishment, to place myself back in the posture of a learner, cultivator, and creator. To become a bit like a child. To detoxify from the too-ready recognition and privilege that accompany even the most modest forms of success, to become available again for something surprising and new. Just as children flourish by growing into adults, so adults flourish by cultivating childlikeness, avoiding the spiritual hardening of the arteries that comes with competence and experience.”
On Poverty and Privilege
How many times have I been put at the front of the line without even knowing there was a line? How many times have I walked through a door that opened, invisibly and silently, for me, but slammed shut for others? How many lines have I cut in a life of privilege?”
Poverty is the absence of linkages, the absence of connections with others…”
“Benevolent god playing happens when we use the needs of the poor to make our own move from good to great—to revel in the superior power of our technology and the moral excellence of our willingness to help. Benevolent god playing makes us, not those we are serving, the heroes of the story. It happens whenever technological and financial resources are deployed in such overwhelming force, and with so little real trust building or relationship, that we maintain a safe distance between ourselves and the recipients of our largesse.”
“The poor are poor,” Jayakumar said to me, “because someone else is trying to play God in their lives.”
On Idolatry and Injustice
All idols begin by offering great things for a very small price. All idols then fail, more and more consistently, to deliver on their original promises, while ratcheting up their demands, which initially seemed so reasonable, for worship and sacrifice. In the end they fail completely, even as they make categorical demands. In the memorable phrase of the psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, idols ask for more and more, while giving less and less, until eventually they demand everything and give nothing.”
“God hates injustice and idolatry because they are the same thing.”
Crouch’s book just got moved to the top of my reading list. Have a great Monday! Let’s exercise our power wisely today…

Saturday Short – Parenting and Growing Up on TV

Blog - Screen time - telegraphPhoto Credit: Telegraph

I missed the bus once because, as a first-grader, I got completely immersed in a TV show. It wasn’t pretty. Both my parents worked, and my younger brothers were already squared away at a sitter’s house. Freewheeling it, a mostly responsible 6 y/o, I spent the day alone because of the power of screens in my life from an early age.

[Sidebar: No shaming of parents follows. You have a hard and important job…especially those who are the primary caregivers, Mom’s usually.]

Spring forward a few decades to my own raising children. I still loved TV. It was then and is now an entertaining diversion from the day’s work, providing a break from thinking, studying, decision-making.

However, my own filter for “not appropriate for children” in terms of content and how much was not very reliable. Finally, one day when our oldest child was maybe 18 months old, my husband made the unpopular decision of recommending we cancel our cable subscription. He came in, when I was taking a break, and watching something (detective show or romantic comedy, can’t remember), and our little one was watching right along with me.

Sigh…I was really o.k. with the intervention.

[Be kind in your judgment of my husband. I could have appealed that decision, but it was the right one, for us at the time. Truly I wanted our children to be able to engage in conversation with adults, and to have varied interests and skills, and to serve others. When my go-to down-time diversion was TV, it was easy for me to disengage from other more substantive uses of our time.]

Josh Squires, pastoral counselor and father of 5, posted a blog today on binge watching and on-demand entertainment. I’d love to hear what his wife says as well, but the piece is fair, reasoned, and compassionate. He talks about what affects our decisions for our children’s screentime – content, time, and (heart) attachment. For you caregivers (Mom’s), there are still times to just curl up with the kids and watch something on TV…or to let them relax with a favorite film while you get something done. Totally.Blog - Screen Time - desiring GodPhoto Credit: Desiring God

I’d rather you read his words than my own, so I’ll close with this. Being a grandmother now, I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to babysit, and already I can see using some sort of screen time as a good diversion when the littles are older… However, having said that, I hope their parents will be able to trust me to model drawing them into thoughtful service of others, talent- and skill-building, and the practice of conversation. That’s my hope for myself for sure.

These days my best naps are when the TV is glowing in the background. Still could miss a bus today…

Parenting in the Age of Binge-Watching – Josh Squires – Desiring God

Monday Morning Moment – Screentime – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest

Blog - Screentime - smart3508Photo Credit: SafeSmartSocial

Walked away from the computer at 8:00 last night…best night of sleep I’ve had in a long while.

Alex Cavoulacos, productivity expert and founder of The Muse, wrote a Fast Company piece on establishing the habit of turning off screens at 11:00pm each night. A night owl, Cavoulacos discovered, in forming this habit that she: 1) could actually do it, 2) prioritized her work better, 3) finally found time to read, and 4) slept better. “Turns out that I inadvertently stumbled upon a trigger habit: I was reading more, sleeping more, and spending more quality time with my husband. All of this led to me feeling less stressed and better prepared to start each day. All in all, a huge positive change in my life, all thanks to a single new habit.” Check out her whole article and fascinating video here.

Tanya Lewis, a science journalist, went even farther than Cavoulacos in restricting her screen time. She writes, for Business Insider, that, for one week, she avoided screen time from the time she got off work until she went to bed. That means no TV or Netflix, no checking her phone for directions or searches of other kinds, or just out of boredom, and no tablet time for any of the above. What she discovered was how hard it was and how dependent to screen time she had become. She did start reading books again during that week. She also found that when she avoided screens, getting to sleep was easier. The most fascinating thing she noted was how much more social she became without the distraction of screens.

Night time connection

Anybody remember the old days, before wi-fi and smart phones? And the cable went out because of a storm? We would actually light candles and snuggle together on the couch, play games together, be silly, and talk. Special times worth re-creating with a screen fast.

How about our health? Is there any evidence that all this screen time, especially at night, affects our health, over our lifespan? For sure. Read Power Down for Better Sleep by Heather Hatfield on WebMD. She quotes fatigue specialist, Dr. Mark Rosekind, “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation.” What we are watching on screens late at night revs up our brains and stirs us up physically. This stress (positive or negative) can create a flight/flight response, resulting in our body’s release of cortisol – bringing on a state of vigilance rather than the restfulness needed for sleep. Add to our body’s “high alert” status the blue light of electronics. Hatfield reports how this light passes “through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.” To my sleepless, techie friends and family: it makes sense, right? Put it (screen time) to rest.

[Damon Beres in a Huffington Post piece, writes how “reading on a screen before bed might actually be killing you”. He points out the health problems that can result partly from inadequate rest (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease). He also points to blue light filters that can help if we can’t imagine avoiding screen time at night.]

What about the impact of screen time on the brain over time? Debbie Hampton wrote a fascinating, sobering piece How Staring at a Screen Changes Your Brain (For the Worse). Hampton refers the reader to the findings of Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.

“Visual activities, like staring at a screen or even driving, continually narrow our field of view to a smaller box-like zone right in front of our eyes. Our brains learn to categorize everything outside of this box as a distraction not worthy of attention and get good at filtering out anything not right in front of us. By developing sustained attention in the central view, our peripheral vision suffers, and our view of the world slowly contracts. The field of view in humans decreases as we age. Over time, a person becomes immune to noticing life’s visual surprises, and their eyes move less often. As a result of these self-induced neurological changes, our brains and bodies get conditioned not to pay attention and not to react to the unexpected.”

What does that mean for us? You have probably already seen this in action. Our attention is drawn in, fairly fixed, on our screens. We miss what is happening around us. One day I’m going to write about situational awareness – as a personal safety issue as well as a sharpening discipline to appreciate life around us. This whole addiction to screens that is prevalent today will take the rest of the world out of our view, so to speak, if we’re not careful.

For our sake (at work and home) and for our family’s sake, consider: No screen time before bed.Blog - Screentime - mugmagPhoto Credit: MugMag

Speaking of the family…our children – I will just post these quick reads about little ones (and teens) and how so much screen time affects them physically, socially, and developmentally. We fall into these habits with our children, but we can also pull ourselves, and them, out of the same.

What’s your takeaway from this? I personally want to strategically narrow the screen use in my life. Writing makes screen time an occupational hazard but I love those screens way too much outside of blogging. Thanks to Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity and his book about his productivity project, I have already made some changes. No Facebook on my phone, as one change. Still have a long way to go.

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss the people I love, in the flesh, and I don’t want to miss the real world…and lastly, I don’t want to miss truly experiencing God…because of this surreal, burgeoning habit of screen time. So…I will leave you for now. Well-rested, hopefully. Sweet dreams.

Addicted to Distraction and the Possibility of Restoring a Longer Attention Span

Blog - Addicted to distraction - diygeniusPhoto Credit: DIY Genius

Recently I was at a training event in a remote area where I had no cell phone service and limited internet. It meant I went through stressful training and at the same time experienced a forced exile from screen time. I don’t even have to tell you which was more challenging.

Growing up in my generation was very different than now – playing outside until dark, talking for hours on the phone with friends, falling asleep to the comforting drone of Mom and Dad talking and laughing in their bedroom down the hall. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film October Sky, it makes me think of Dave’s growing up also – playing in the woods, biking everywhere, building rockets, hunting and fishing.Blog - Playing Outside - jeffs60sPhoto Credit: Jeffs60s

We are enjoying different advantages now for sure…I wonder how our grandchildren will one day describe their childhood. Having computers and the internet have been amazing assets to our lives. The dilemma is when our screen life becomes more engaging that our real life. When “Facetime” replaces face-to-face time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to see people via phone. For instance, friends of ours who got married recently had a small wedding, BUT they had a friend live-stream the wedding and all the rest of us got to “be there” via Periscope. Saw the kiss and everything. 2016 March 5 - Megan & Brian Wedding Kiss

There is something to be said about all the electronic capabilities we have today. For sure.BLog - Addicted to Distraction - littleredfrenchPhoto Credit: LittleRedFrench

The problem is when objects take command of our lives. These screens (phones, TV, computers) eat up so much of our day. Also, what about when we start exchanging real time relationships with the barest minimum associations via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? When a friend decided to go off Facebook, I was bummed… At that time, she lived 6 minutes from me. Not like my friends in Morocco or Egypt where I depend most on Facebook to keep up with them. She lives right here in town. We can have real coffee’s and real talks on the phone. Sigh… I had pretty much relegated keeping up with her to social media. Now we’re back affiliated only in real life where I might need to call her. Imagine.

I’ve written about this before (here) and want to manage my life better in this area. Multi-tasking was always something I thought was a strength, but now, getting older, it hasn’t helped me develop much of an attention span (see Charlie Munger’s thoughts on this here). It makes sense that thinking long and hard on something would have a powerful impact on our success or decision-making. Focus. Concentration. These are the things that have suffered in my life with all the distractions.

Kyle Pearce wrote a small piece on being distracted and introduced me to the work of Nicholas Carr (who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us). The 4-minute YouTube video below describes some of what he writes about:

Besides managing the distractedness in thinking, memory, and processing information, I want to nurture a habit of deep conversation. Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) writes about this and gives me hope.

Blog - Distracted - conversations - quotesgramPhoto Credit: QuotesGram

Turkle admits she loves computers because they have helped her make tremendous strides in writing, but they are not people. She writes as if she’s reading my heart. This disconnected connection we experience with one another is so illusory.

“Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” – Sherry Turkle
Here’s my hope and vision – to re-learn how to really be connected with people, including myself. To practice solitude. To quit living the excuse of being distractible. To learn how to think and work deeply, and to remember how to have deep, thoughtful conversations again.
I’m not prepared to stop using my phone for information, nor am I able to quit using the internet as a resource for work and life, but it’s entirely possible to restrict connection time.  Also, it’s exciting to think of how I might use that time I waste on the internet to actually be with friends and loved ones…to read more books…to rediscover what is right in front of me in real life…to know what it’s like to have (and enjoy) a quiet mind.

The good news is that the process of withdrawal is simple and the healing is spontaneous; because it is only the continuous high volume consumption of mass media that is keeping us sick. So, at root, the detox programme is merely a matter of Just. Say. No.” – Bruce G. Charlton

What might the next generation be like if our grandchildren are nurtured in this way? How can we help them have such mental muscle and true sociability that they could avoid being addicted to distraction?

It’s something to think about…off-line. Gone to find a real face and give that face my full attention.

Distracted? This is How the Internet is Changing Your Brain by Kyle Pearce

Multitasking – Giving the World an Advantage It Shouldn’t Have – Farnam Street Blog

Are We Addicted to Distraction? by Sophie at LittleRedFrench

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – originally written in 1985, brilliantly prophetic of the future (updated in 2015)

Love Your Neighbor – the Audacity of Thinking We Are Always the Strong One…or the Weaker One

Blog - Strong or Weak

Photo Credit: PostCalvinist

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.Romans 14:1

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Romans 15:1

Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.1 Corinthians 8:9

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Jesus – Matthew 7:3-5

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
 – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, there is so much wisdom in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles who wrote for the generations to follow.

Take his teaching on the weaker brother…his teaching is often directed to that “stronger brother”, but the wisdom is there for both of us. Through life, we may be one or the other, depending on how our thinking changes or how culture changes.

Many of the world religions require a certain works-based practice of those who would be devout. In Christianity, we are called to right living but we are not saved by right living. Because of what Jesus did to redeem us, we are free. Free to live, not under Law and its penalty when we fail, but to do righteousness out of love not obligation.

So what happens, when we experience the withering judgment of a seemingly legalistic “weaker” brother? Or on the flip side, the condescension of a “stronger” brother flaunting his freedom?

Social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) are brutally reflective of such biases, whatever our faith, culture, or politics. Here’s an area where I am that “weaker one”. Nowhere in Scripture are we forbidden generally from drinking alcoholic beverages. We are warned against drunkenness only. Years ago, I made a very conscious decision to stop drinking (for many reasons which may end up in my writing one day). Your drinking is not an issue for me…unless (here’s my weakness) it appears, through social media or from the pulpit, you flaunt your freedom in this way. I struggle with that. With so many of us, in the church and out, who have histories of addictions or loss related to addiction, I don’t understand that regaling of freedom. This is just one of my “weaker one” struggles. Any you want to share? Or “stronger one” struggles? We all have them.

Jesus and, in particular, the Apostle Paul are so clear on how we are to respond to each other – both weak and strong – with deference, love, and patience. Not enabling a legalistic clouding of what we are meant to have in Christ nor disabling our witness through arrogance or contempt.

In the article Who is the Weaker Brother? linked below, we are introduced to Garry Friesen’s teaching on the topic. In his book,  Decision Making and the Will of God, he points to four areas where we are either weak, or strong: conviction, biblical knowledge, conscience or will. If we limit our definition to just one of these areas, we also may err in how we deal, in patience, with each other.

From the Scripture, Friesen gives what he considers is God’s definition of the weaker brother: “A weaker brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of the weakness of his faith, knowledge, conscience, and will, can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example of a differing stronger brother.”

He then offers a like definition of the stronger brother: “The stronger brother (or sister) is a Christian who, because of his understanding of Christian freedom and the strength of his conviction, exercises his liberty in good conscience without being improperly influenced by the differing opinions of others.”

Both of these definitions encourages us to live in the freedom that we have through Christ and at the same time to seek unity with one another, even when we don’t agree. Especially in the area of  non-essential or disputable matters of preference.

One last distinction Friesen makes relates to what we see in Scripture as a “stumbling block”. This phrase is used in the active and passive. The stronger one in the faith is NOT to intentionally place a stumbling block in the path of a weaker one; i.e. not intentionally trying to influence a person to stumble, or sin. However, the weaker one is also NOT to take offense by the one who attempts to cause him to stumble. This is the beautiful teaching of Christ. The both/and of the Gospel. The call to love, no matter what.

Blog - weaker or stronger - stumbling block - lionhearteaglePhoto Credit: LionHeartEagle

Finally, in Adam Miller’s piece Mishandled – the Weaker Brother (linked below), he distinguishes between a truly weaker brother and three impostors. They are the legalistic weaker brother, the professional weaker brother, and the illusive weaker brother. Take the time to read these brief definitions of those of us who consider ourselves “weaker brothers” (or sisters) but who are really acting in ways that divide the church (or community). Miller also references one of the great sermons of D. A. Carson where he addresses those who would detract from the beautiful sufficiency of Christ to restore us to God.

When I think of how Christ calls us to love our neighbor, He calls us not just to those who are so like us we could see them in our own mirrors. He calls us to those “weaker” and “stronger” than us. It is an easy thing for me to love and hang out with those who agree with me. How much more God means for us to lean in to those with whom we struggle because of their life choices, or elevated (or demeaning) sense of self, or stations in life.

Can we do that…without compromising or stumbling in our faith? We can if our love for Christ is rock-solid and we allow Him to mark out the boundaries of our lives. If He is our example, He will fill our lives with both the weaker and the stronger…for our good and theirs, and for His glory…as He’s promised.

Who Is the Weaker Brother? Excellent Review of Garry Friesen’s book – Decision Making and the Will of God – on the Section Dealing With this Topic

Mishandled – The Weaker Brother (Part 2) by Adam Miller

The Weaker and Stronger Brothers (Parts 1, 2, and 3) by J. Gordon Duncan

How to Welcome a Weak Brother by John Piper

Go, Ye, Therefore and Be Enablers – This is a hair-raiser. A very different view than I have taken but one that may be familiar to you.

Decision Making and the Will of God – Garry Friesen – 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition

5 Friday Faves – On Foster Care, Losing Control, Best Bakeries, Pornography, and Efficiency

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I have guests visiting from out of country so writing time has taken a back seat to sweet times with friends. Still, what a week this has been in discovery. I chose just five favorites but would love to hear (in Comments below) what some of your faves of this week are. Learning is one of my favorite pastimes.

  1. On Foster Care    – It’s dangerous for me to start with such a topic because many will click out of this blog just on reading the title (“Not me”; “Not interested”). Foster care is not for everyone, but it has to be for some of us. What if we worked together to provide safe and loving homes for every child in crisis? Chris Campbell and Team of 111Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, started just such an initiative. I read a bit of the story in his wife’s blog  A Turning Point then I wrote about foster care. We can care for these children together.Blog - Foster LetterPhoto Credit: AshleyAnnPhotography.com

2.  On Losing Control – This week, a blog by Jenilee Goodwin entitled The End of Me popped up in my inbox on a busy day. It might have gone unread except for that title. My Mom, my life-long best friend and the head cheerleader of Team Me, died over a decade ago. That was a grace-covered jolt to my sense of life and its dependability. God helped me through that long season of grief because He had already brought me through an “end of me” experience very similar to the one Jenilee describes in her blog. Crossing cultures and learning languages and the raw not-doing-anything-well are huge opportunities to see how tenuous our “control” is. God is dependable; our circumstances are not. Her piece was beautiful and deeply personal. Wherever you are in life, you will gain much by reading her story.Blog - Mom's funeral

3. On Best Bakeries – When Business Insider does an photo-splashed article on The Best Bakery in Every State, I took the time to read it. Or should I say “savor it” – without endangering my health. Finding that the “best bakery” in Virginia to be Blackbird Bakery in Bristol (as far across the state from us as could be found), I will drop my own “Best Bakery” in here. For doughnuts anyway, that bakery is the Westhampton Pastry Shop.  Ridiculously yummy. What’s your favorite?

Blog - Best Bakery - Westhampton Pastry Shop

Photo Credit: Westhampton Pastry Shop, yelp.com

4) On Pornography – A very serious topic – I placed it on purpose under “best bakeries” because there are all kinds of addictions. The scary difference is the fact that some addictions have outward presentations (like food, drug, and alcohol addictions). Not pornography. Addiction to pornography can do its damage in the quiet and isolation of one’s personal space in front of a screen (phone, tablet, computer). Yet, its damage reaches into relationships, career, and even our own anatomy and physiology. This Is Your Brain on Porn probably won’t deter someone addicted to pornography, but it could sound a warning that what you think is “not hurting anyone” really is…those you love…and you.Blog - Your Brain on PornPhoto Credit: Ideapod, Churchm.ag

5) On Efficiency – If you got this far, you are in for a huge treat. This week, as I watch friends go through a company downsizing, the subject came up of efficiency and effectiveness. Does one necessarily lead to the other? Are they the same? In learning more about that, I came across this happy little article by Eric Gilbertson on the push for efficiency in our colleges and universities – The Pursuit of Efficiency and the Pursuit of Folly. Sweet article. Then the book Team of Teams which my husband recently read (devoured really) came to mind. General McChrystal writes brilliantly about adaptability, not efficiency, as our greatest need in the workplace of the 21st century. Work matters…and the people doing the work matter. Get this book…your appetite will be whetted by the articles linked below.Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystal

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

Efficiency in Business Isn’t Key Says Retired General

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to win in the 21st Century

Work Smart – Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability trumps Hierarchy – Forget everything you ever knew about your company’s org chart—and that’s an order.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment – General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness

Your Brain On Porn

Love Your Neighbor – Foster Parenting & Adoption – Every Child in a Safe and Loving Home – www.debmillswriter.com