Put down smartphone and stop to smell roses

Robert Houk • Jul 22, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Feeling stressed these days? You’re certainly not alone. The economy, the government and even the weather seem to be conspiring against us. We live in a world that seems to spin much faster than it did just a generation ago. Every day we are bombarded by new information, new technology and new challenges.It’s no wonder we are so stressed — Americans are wired because so many of us are wired (digitally speaking, that is). Research suggests that while our digital devices keep us connected to home, school and work, they also can become an obsession that deprives us of much-needed down time. Being connected can actually disconnect us from meaningful dialogues with family members and friends. It also could be fundamentally changing the way we take in and process important information. As we recalled a few years ago in this very space, a writer for The Atlantic magazine believes the Internet could be making us stupid.“As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information,” Nicholas Carr wrote in 2008. “They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”Many pundits think Carr, who also authored the book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” is an alarmist. The new technology is not going away, they say, and humanity will just have to learn to adjust to it. Humankind is still learning to catch up with all the advancements made in the digital age. And even though we are more than two decades into the Internet age, we’re still in an adjustment phase. The challenge is to reach a happy medium between our digital connectiveness and time away from our smartphones, Facebook pages and iPads. We don’t have to become Luddites to achieve this goal.We can enrich our personal down time while improving our mental concentration by doing something that used to be popular during lazy, hazy days of summer — reading. And we are not talking about surfing the Internet, but rather picking up a good book and getting lost in its words.Taking long walks in the evening is another good way to combat stress, as is enjoying a good laugh with a friend. Learn to simplify your life by knowing what has to be done right now, and what can wait until tomorrow. And remember your mind will never be as fast as a microprocessor, so don’t sweat it.Stop and smell the roses. There are some varieties in bloom now, and its a good bet the National Security Agency hasn’t found a way to spy on you through their petals. At least not yet.

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