*Fear of boredom or missing out. **unplugging
Are you like me? Every time we have a spare minute we have a screen in front of our faces. It helps us to avoid boredom. And it does help to keep up with all the news. And it makes us appear busy, so no one will judge us as lazy.
However, every time we swipe left or right, every time you scroll past someone’s questionable politics and manage not to comment, every time you make a color bomb in Candy Crush, you get a tiny little hit of dopamine. Because you actually did a thing worth a tiny celebration. But you know what happens after a tiny hit of dopamine? You want another one! Until suddenly, you realize that you’ve spent an hour on Facebook, played Candy Crush until you have no more lives, and can’t decide if you should try Sodoku or pick up a book.
According to this article in Medical News Today, “higher levels of dopamine can lead to feelings of euphoria, bliss, and enhanced motivation and concentration. Therefore, exposure to substances and activities that increase dopamine can become addictive to some people.” If you want to get super geeky, check out this article on how aggression, and its comorbidities depression, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse, are tied to under production of serotonin and over production of dopamine. There are lots of actions we can take to make sure we are balancing our levels of dopamine and serotonin for maximum physical and mental health. One of those actions is to make sure that we give our brain down time.
I’ve been talking a lot to my coaching clients lately about the value of down time. Especially when they’re stuck or having difficulty finding solutions to nagging problems. It seems totally counterintuitive – that when we are at our busiest at work, taking time off will help us feel less busy. And by downtime, I mean actual slack time, doing nothing, allowing the brain to wander aimlessly, having no purpose, not even mindfulness.
Listen, y’all! I sat in my hot tub in the middle of my yard last week for 20 minutes without my phone or a book or anything. Just sat there staring at the trees. Twenty minutes! I had like four great ideas for our business. Just by giving my mind time to wander.
Human brains are not evolved to move at the speed of modern technology. The very things we think are helping us, may be the things adding to our stress. Don’t get me wrong – I work from home, I do 90 percent of my work online, I use technology. AND I see that the pressure to be constantly available is not good for us.
Keep shoveling stuff in and you never have time to sort it out. You end up with a brain that looks like a hoarder’s house. WE NEED DOWNTIME! According to psychologist Dr. Scott Bea, “Our brains are like sponges, they can only soak up so much information before they’re saturated, then they have to dry out a bit… Research has found that taking breaks can improve your mood, boost your performance and increase your ability to concentrate and pay attention.”
For some of us, it can be hard to do downtime. We are so used to rushing and running, that we become afraid of sitting still. If you’re in that camp, you can start by combining your down time with movement – a walk in the woods, bike or swim, or mindless household chores or mowing the lawn – as long as it doesn’t require processing information. You may have to work through some emotions, but I promise that your subconscious will come to understand that doing nothing is good for you. And more fun than eating kale.