written by Dr. Jamie Chan-Ortega, Ph.D. 08/12/20
ONCE UPON A TIME we had to wait for the 6 o’clock news to find out what’s happening in the world. We’d get a palatable 30-minute dose and then be on with our lives.
Now, information pounds at our front door; it bloats our bellies and spreads like weeds in the garden of our minds.
Sadly, we continue to allow this relentless influx of unedifying information to enter into our temples, in the name of “knowledge” and “connection.” All the while our brains sizzle, our moods decline, and our time vanishes… and we wonder why we don’t feel well…
I am 44. I’m part of a unique generation who’s lived through the advent of the internet and smart phones, and adapted fully to this digital age (unlike many of our parents & grandparents).
I’m proud to have known life with pay phones, cassette tapes, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and Thomas Guides.
We had to WAIT until the evening news came on to find out what’s happening in the world.
We had to WAIT until we drove home to call our friend from our rotary phone.
We had to WAIT for the bus.
There was actually a PROCESS flipping dictionary pages from aardvark to Aztec to find out what azure meant.
PROCESS & PATIENCE.
These are now lost artifacts, rarely to be found in our modern culture. Everything is now or, God forbid, a 2-day Amazonian wait.
We never ever have to wait for the news or any morsel of information. It is everywhere and in excess, and we consume it voraciously. This makes for a society of terribly ANXIOUS and OVERWHELMED people.
A simpler, slower time. That is a fundamental part of every treatment plan I give to my patients to reduce stress and optimize health. A return to nature, to the natural biological rhythms that sync us with our environment. Sunlight. Fresh air. Movement. Prayer. Silence.
These are such simple therapeutic strategies that it may almost seem laughable to many of you who may have become accustomed to expect high-tech, high-intervention answers to your chronic health issues. But with statistics showing that up to 98% of all doctor’s visits are stress-related and a mammoth body of scientific research showing inflammation as the common denominator of all chronic diseases, we must take seriously our psychological well-being and understand how inflammatory and damaging stress really is on our physical health. Then we must guard our minds more, cultivate it as a well-tended garden, pull out the weeds, then plant good seeds that will grow into good fruit.
Let’s translate these poetic terms into practical items.
The WEEDS we must uproot are:
- Excessive social media (beyond 20 minutes a day is excessive)
- Excessive news (beyond 20 minutes a day is excessive)
- Chronic multi-tasking
- Keeping up w/ the Jones’, Kardashians’, Californians, celebrities, models, and all that we consume from the media that typically make us feel bad about ourselves and the lives we’re living
- Tribalism / polarization
- A critical spirit
The SEEDS to plant more of in our lives are:
- Daily prayer (what time have you scheduled this in?)
- Daily meditation
- Time in greenspace (wherever there is natural greenery)
- Movement, especially outdoors in sunlight
- Margin time (intentionally scheduled breaks in between errands, tasks, and appointments to allow for the unknown, to reduce the negative impact of unforeseen delays or challenges, and to maintain an unrushed, steady pace)
- Quality rest time
- Self care (when was the last time you came in for acupuncture, massage, or Functional Medicine?)
- Mirthful laughter (what’s fun in your life? What makes you joyfully, humorously laugh?)
- Play time (have you become a grumpy, serious grown up?)
The FRUITS that these good seeds will produce in our lives are:
- Wellness – individually and collectively as a family/society/nation
I must say here that while these things may be simple, they are not easy. Social media is addictive. There is no hyperbole here. Social media is biologically addictive, triggering classic addiction and withdrawal behaviors as seen in addictions to sugar and drugs like methamphetamines, opioids, and even cocaine. With this addiction comes increased depressive disorders, neuroticism, feelings of loneliness, irritability, and life dissatisfaction. We really must see our smartphones and laptops as powerful drugs that can be helpful in very small doses, but incredibly detrimental if we use them too much.
Social media is here to stay. The internet is intricately weaved into the fabric of our lives. Smart phones are profoundly utilitarian in our busy, modern-day lives. And the irony is that most of us need social media in order to communicate the message of using less social media, like this very blog!
Nonetheless, there are measures we can and must take to defend ourselves against anxiety and overwhelm, and to preserve our mental health. In so doing, we’ll redeem our time.
5 Actionable Steps To Save Your Time and Guard Your Mind:
- Schedule a 20-min “drop-by visit,” twice a week to tune into the news. Never go over time.
- Schedule a 20-min “social media ride,” 3 days out of the week. Pick the days and the time and stick to it. Don’t stay on the ride longer than 20-min or it becomes a roller coaster ride down black holes. Literally set a timer for yourself.
- Schedule 2-4 hours of self-care time EVERY week. Call Oasis Healing Arts for an acupuncture appointment. Schedule that Functional Medicine consultation with me you’ve been wanting to do but keep putting off. Get a much-needed therapeutic massage. Go for a hike. Hit the beach and walk barefoot on the sand.
- Decide on the 20-minute timeframe you’ll pray or meditate every day. Now lock it into your planner or calendar. For me, I’m committing to 6:40-7:00AM every morning. Need help with meditation? Check out the Ziva technique.
- Schedule a play date with your significant other and/or children. Be present with them. And promise them you’ll turn off your phone.