A Spoonful of Laughter

Copyright : Jacek Dudzinski (courtesy of 123RF.com

The curative effects of laughter are now widely known, and many people (myself included) thrive on humorous social media posts. From the time I was a small child, I gravitated towards comedy, watching Carol Burnett, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen (does anyone remember this fella?) and Benny Hill faithfully, all the while leaving my mother puzzled by my intense interest in the funny television variety shows which were the order of the day back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. She became even more concerned when I picked up a copy of Eddie Murphy: Comedian in 1982 and laughed my ass off while listening to the album repeatedly. Eddie’s stand-up style was so off-color for my mother that she bitched and moaned about me listening to him, but I found him hilarious and kept on listening. I have the record album (yes, a vinyl LP) in my collection to this day.

My love of comedy has never waned, and though I don’t watch enough television to get drawn into current sitcoms or other comedic shows, I am in my car often enough that I have developed a habit of listening to comedy while I drive. I find it much more enjoyable to listen to comedy than music while I am in the car, and since SiriusXM has a number of comedy stations, I have them loaded as presets on my radio and rotate through them. I would much rather listen to a comedy bit by a talented stand-up comedian than to toggle through radio stations which often play the same tunes over and over. The fact that I can laugh while driving, especially in Los Angeles, is a godsend. It’s a great way to arrive at my destination in a relatively good mood, even if I have to sit through hellish traffic.

Even if you don’t have SiriusXM, you can catch some pretty amusing morning radio shows. In L.A., I like listening to Frosty, Heidi and Frank. Most large metropolitan areas host morning radio shows which are worth a listen.

Copyright : yuriz (courtesy of 123RF.com)

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Who Can Still Read A Map?

I am willing to bet that a fair portion of the millenial generation finds it difficult to read a plain map. Sure, they can look at a navigation screen which continues to re-center and process information to ensure that they will get to their desired destination, but what would happen if a paper map was unfolded in front of them, and they were put to task to find out how to go from point A to point B only by reading the map?

I remember using Thomas Guides, those large spiral bound collections of maps which yielded detailed geography within large metropolitan areas. I always had a Thomas Guide tucked away in my trunk at all times, so that I would be able to reference it in case I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town. However, without some sense of direction, some sense of where my home, or some recognizable geographic reference, was, a Thomas Guide would have just been a jumble of confusing roads. In stark contrast, with GPS navigation apps, all I have to do is select “HOME” on my trusty navigation system and allow it to guide me, without having any clue to where “home” is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the technology which GPS navigation affords, especially when it can factor in traffic flow and estimate time of arrival. But I think it’s tragic that an unavoidable dumbing down of our society has also occurred as a result of GPS technology. What should be an essential survival skill, namely, reading a map, has been largely lost. I still run into people who don’t have the slightest clue of north, south, east, west, and whose lack of spatial knowledge is being coddled by computer programs which do the thinking for them.

I do think that when it comes to short distances within an area, especially if one is walking from point A to point B versus driving, there is some spatial mapping and learning which occurs. However, longer distances with numerous circuitous navigation paths are best handled with forfeiting complete control to the navigation stream without really processing what turns have been made, etc. One prime example I have is a destination about 50 miles away from me which I must drive to each month, which also happens to be quite tricky to get to, because it is nestled deep in the next county, hidden from major highways. I rarely repeat a route to this destination, thanks to the fact that Waze factors in traffic flow, and puts me on the most complicated navigation paths. Waze wasn’t working on one of those days, and I honestly couldn’t think of how to get to my destination! I ended up plugging the address into my vehicle’s GPS, and was able to get to my destination. I had given in to Waze to show me the way, but hadn’t processed enough on my own to map out my route unassisted.

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

Put Your Phone Down!

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Please read my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/put-your-phone-down/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Cell phones are a necessary evil these days, but if you think about how much of your day you spend looking into a mobile device, you might realize that you have become overly dependent on it. Why is this such a bad thing? Well, for starters, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to tasks which we perform throughout the day. Whether you are cooking an omelet, driving to work, or drafting a letter, chances are that your cell phone is close by, and that every time it makes a notification sound, you stop what you are doing to attend to your phone, which draws attention away from what you should be focused on.

Cell phones are so distracting that scientists discovered that texting or engaging in conversation on a cell phone while walking can interfere with your ability to walk enough to cause accidents. This is because working memory and executive functioning are required during cell phone use, which distracts the user from the motor function of walking.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

If you want to be more productive, leave your cell phone alone when you first wake up in the morning, and avoid using it while eating, driving, or performing other tasks. The messages and emails aren’t going anywhere, and neither are social media updates.

References:

Lamberg EM, Muratori LM. Cell phones change the way we talk. Gait Posture 2012 Apr:35(4):688-90.

How Technology Is Making Us Stupid

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/how-technology-is-making-us-stupid/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation has become one of modern society’s necessary evils, making printed maps such as Thomas Guides pretty worthless these days. People with a poor sense of direction consider GPS to be a godsend, but even people like me with strong directional skills have been grateful for GPS navigation. As a matter of fact, I can no longer imagine having a car without navigation built into it (thankfully, many car manufacturers are making this feature standard in some car models), and when I travel, I make good use of the navigation application on my smartphone.

However, GPS navigation threatens our ability to mentally map our surroundings, enough to make us quite blind to our surroundings. Basically, by getting comfortable with the convenience of GPS, we have become drones as we follow the directions on the screen, and the virtual roads become more imprinted in our memories than the actual terrain on which we have traveled. This means that we never fully experience the mental mapping that usually occurs when we are fully aware of our surroundings. In addition, if we make a wrong turn, GPS systems simply recalculate, so we never learn to re-map, and instead just follow the adjusted prompts.

According to neuroscientist Veronique Bohbot, not only does the convenience of GPS decrease one’s ability to adjust or improvise an alternate route, it results in a decrease in gray matter in the seat of spatial learning known as the hippocampus. Accordingly, people who practice mental mapping on a daily basis, like taxi drivers, have more gray matter in the hippocampus than those who are not regularly engaged in mental mapping.

The virtual world which a satellite navigation system relies on also robs us of the richness of experience which comes with pausing to notice our surroundings. We should pay more attention to the real world in front of us instead of allowing technology to turn us into idiots.

Go ahead and use GPS, but try to remain aware of your surroundings as you travel around. Your brain will benefit.

Driving Is A Privilege…Enjoy It While You Can Do It

Many teenagers cannot wait until they learn to drive, because it is a rite of passage and a means to a certain amount of freedom and movement which they never had before. I remember being excited to drive, but that feeling dissipated very quickly when I found out how tedious it could be to navigate through Los Angeles traffic. I guess it’s a small price to pay for the flexibility I get from having a reliable car and all the necessary faculties to drive it. I have become so dependent on being able to drive wherever I need to that taking the car in for servicing is a major test of patience. It seems ridiculous that I can’t sit still for one hour while my car is serviced, but I simply can’t stand it. I also do not enjoy riding with other people to events which I may want to make an escape from earlier than my friends do. Even when I travel, I prefer to drive to the destination in my own car or rent a car while there.

I have seen elderly loved ones lose the ability to drive over the past few years, and it breaks my heart. My favorite aunt, my mother and now my father have lost the ability to drive as a result of progressive weakness, arthritis, loss of vision and cognitive decline. Both of my parents initially exhibited a stubborn refusal to accept their diminishing ability to drive, and kept talking about how they were going to resume driving soon. Sadly, they are both ambulating with great difficulty and only with the use of assistive devices. It is especially difficult to see this when I used to rely on them to drive me around when I was a child.

Even getting my parents into a vehicle is a major task, because flexing both at the knees and hips is no longer rapid or automatic. It terrifies me to think that I might ever get to that point in my later years. I don’t ever want to lose the freedom to jump in a car and go whenever I need to. I would hate having to rely on others to cart me around all the time. I hope and pray that my body remains nimble and that my distance vision remains sharp (thanks to Lasik). Driving is definitely a privilege and one which I value greatly.

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No Sense Of Direction

The advent of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation has been a godsend, especially for people with poor spatial orientation or sense of direction. Even those like me with adequate directional skills who were getting tired of thumbing through Thomas Guides have been grateful for GPS navigation. As a matter of fact, I can no longer imagine having a car without navigation built into it (thankfully, many car manufacturers are making this feature standard in some car models), and when I travel I make good use of the navigation application on my cell phone.

GPS and BrainHere is what I don’t like about GPS navigation. I don’t think people pay nearly as much attention to where they are going, and instead act sort of like drones as they follow the directions on the navigation system without looking at their surroundings. It is as though the virtual roads are more ingrained in our memories than the actual terrain on which we are traveling. This means that we never fully experience the mental mapping that usually occurs when we are fully aware of our surroundings. In addition, if we make a wrong turn, GPS systems simply recalculate, so we never learn to re-map, and instead blindly follow the adjusted prompts.

While typing this I ran across an excellent article on The Boston Globe site which is a must-read.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/08/17/our-brains-pay-price-for-gps/d2Tnvo4hiWjuybid5UhQVO/story.html

Honestly, I think we need to pay more attention to the real world in front of us instead of allowing technology to turn us into idiots. Go ahead and use the GPS, but be aware of your surroundings as you travel around. Your brain will benefit.