Orienting Behavior and Technology Addictions

Last week, we attempted to see what would happen if we disconnected from technology for a day and then compared it to a day filled with technology.  Those of you that did the exercise felt a sense of freedom, a sense of peace, a feeling of being more connected with life.  When we are connected with our devices, the world passes us by because our brains are engaged along technological lines and not "real" lines.  As predators, we naturally align our minds to seek prey and avoid predation.  That is how we are wired.  Technology, whether in the form of mobile phones, television, movies, etc. activates the orienting part of the brain.  The orienting part of the brain is addictive.  It is intoxicating because it releases dopamine to help us to solve a problem.  We orientate towards movement.  When we see movement, our brains immediately go on the alert and we are driven to keep watching the movement.  That is why we can watch television for hours (and hardly remember what we watched) or flick our screens on our Facebook accounts endlessly; often to the detriment of the life that is going on around us.  

Understanding this basic human concept of orientating is essential to breaking the technology habit.  Find a place this week that is absent of movement.  This can be a wide open space in your city like a park or if you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, go there on a calm day with little movement.  Sit down and soak it all in.  Stare out and calm yourself with the lack of movement.  Slowly start to notice little movements in the scene.  Fish jumping.  Birds flying by and landing in trees.  When you notice movement, see what your brain does at this moment.  You will notice that you must stay with the movement.  It's wired into your brain.  Imagine a thousand birds now, all moving around the scene or hundreds of fish jumping all around the water.  This will be very confusing to you and introduce confusion, stress, and even a level of fatigue.  This is what is happening when you use technology.  The same orienting behavior that you see in the calming scene is taken to a much higher level when you watch an action movie.   Last week we disconnected to reconnect.  This week, we must move higher and become self aware of when we use technology and only use it when we absolutely have to.  We all realize that not using technology is almost impossible these days.  So try this method.  Use technology whenever you have to use it.  Then find a calm place in your mind's eye to calm yourself back to the reset point. With practice, you will do this all the time without thinking about it.  It will become a habit.    If you don't do this,  and operate all day long using your orienting part of your brain on overdrive, chances are you will be mentally exhausted by the end of the day, if not sooner.   In summary, we will do this:

- Recognize that we need to use technology at times

- Use technology wisely, and definitely not mindlessly

- When you are done using the technology, reset your brain in the calming scene described above

- With practice, you will seek out the calming scene and only stay with or use technology when you absolutely have to

Using or not using technology starts with a decision and the knowledge of what technology does to your mind.  Remember to strive to have more human time than technology time every day.

"Lean into it"

Dr. N


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