Welcome to the February installment of Wellness Wednesday here at Tuning Hearts! This month I wanted to dig a little deeper and write about some of the things I have been learning as regards healing the mind in a distracted world. Those who have been following me for a while now know that in October I started taking an extended break from social media. Since then, I have also been reading a few books on the topic of internet and media usage, distraction versus deep work, and the control we have in maintaining our mental and physical health.
Three of the most influential books for me on this topic have been Switch on Your Brain:The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
In Switch on Your Brain, Dr. Leaf gives a compelling argument from neuroscience research that we actually change our brains physically as we think. When we think positive, true and worthy thoughts, our brains grow new healthy tissue and send signals to our bodies that actually help us stay physically healthy as well. Conversely, when we dwell on negative or toxic thoughts, our brains make unhealthy connections and weaken, even changing our DNA to release disease and dysfunction in our bodies. It’s truly fascinating stuff! I found her ideas on taking control of our thought lives and choosing what we tell ourselves and what we allow to get “stuck” in our brains (and therefore, in our bodies) truly encouraging and challenging. I have not yet tried the “21-Day Brain Detox” method that she recommends in the later portion of the book, but I am definitely going to in the near future.
Going along with that idea of choosing what we let into our minds, when I read Carr’s book The Shallows, I was struck by how easily we let media of all sorts determine what we think about. It was rather sobering. As much as I appreciate the ease of the internet, I do see how much it can be a detriment to my own mental health, and I know I’m not the only one. The fast pace of the internet alone is a real threat to our ability to stay focussed on one thing at a time for a long period of time. During these months that I have been off social media, I have seen my attention for reading books grow a good deal. Yet, I still feel that pull to check email, news headlines or a homeschool parents’ forum to which I belong. Even just picking up my phone at random spare seconds throughout the day shows me how distracted I have become since I started using a smartphone. It is something I know I will always be working on now that these devices have become a seemingly inseparable part of our daily lives.
Cal Newport argues for kicking some of this constant connectivity to the curb in Deep Work, particularly as it relates to creatives and professionals. This book was a little harder to apply to my current life as a stay at home mother and homeschool teacher, at least as far as the practical rules of tuning out distraction in order to work in a professional setting. But the principles of clearing the clutter of connectivity from email, social media and the like still do apply. I can choose to focus on my children and my work here at home and my inner thought life instead of allowing the virtual world to encroach on my mental space and energy so much of the time. And I have found that when I keep the media distractions to a minimum, I do make more time for my creative pastimes and have a greater capacity for stillness and quiet.
To sum it all up, if we want to have better mental health (which is interconnected with emotional and physical wellness), we need to reduce the time we spend scrolling and increase our awareness and intention toward our thought life. I know that just being more alert to where I am placing my attention and how much time I am spending in distracted activities has been helpful to my state of mind.
How about you? Do you see a connection in your life between mental health and distraction and/or internet usage? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments!
Want to link up? I would love to read your thoughts on your own health and wellness journey! Follow the instructions below to join the link-up and share!
How to participate:
- Write a post on a topic related to wellness, and add your link to the list below.
- Grab the Wellness Wednesday logo graphic below and put it in your linked post, also with a blurb mentioning and linking back to that week’s link-up.
- Please stop by at least two other participants’ blogs and leave a comment on their Wellness Wednesday posts. This doesn’t take long, and it is really encouraging and helpful for building community and continuing the conversation!