There Is Absolutely a Point to Unplugging

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
There Is Absolutely a Point to Unplugging
I have a confession to make: I didn’t participate in the National Day of Unplugging this year. The event, which has people completely disconnect from their screens from sunrise to sundown, happened earlier this month — and for circumstances out of my control, I had to use my phone.

But just because I didn’t participate in the holy grail of unplugging holidays doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in completely ditching my devices for a few days. In fact, I’m a huge advocate for it.

Earlier this week, Casey Cep wrote a column for the New Yorker, criticizing the idea behind taking a digital detox. “[T]he unplugging movement is the latest incarnation of an ageless effort to escape the everyday, to retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in search of its still core,” she wrote.

“Like Thoreau ignoring the locomotive that passed by his cabin at Walden Pond or the Anabaptists rejecting electricity, members of the unplugging movement scorn technology in the hope of finding the authenticity and the community that they think it obscures.”

But isn’t the whole point of unplugging to do just that? We unplug to make the escape, to reconnect with the world, to play with our real pets instead of watching ones on YouTube. And when we do so, research shows we’re a lot better for it physically and mentally. So I’d argue that Cep’s reasoning — that disconnecting is rather pointless — is missing, well, the point.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love technology just as much as the next person and I see the immense value of it (after all, I do work for an online media company). I also agree with Cep when she argues that it connects us with others in ways we were never able to before. But there are extreme advantages to going off the grid for a while — and there’s science behind it that can’t be ignored. Studies have shown that being constantly plugged into our devices can make us feel more lonely, less likely to engage in prosocial behavior, can severely mess with our sleep and can even cause weight gain.

And it’s not just ourselves we’re protecting by being mindful of technology — it’s future generations. Now more than ever, children as young as 2 have their eyes fixated on screens — and it’s negatively affecting their growth. Children’s excessive technology use have the potential to cause attention, brain and behavioral problems. When I think back on my childhood, I think about playing jump rope outside and going swimming. The only faint recollection I have of technology is the grating sound of dial up. When the next generation gets older, what will be the source of their nostalgia? Angry Birds over the real birds they’d hear if they were playing outside?

Many of us seem to forget that there was an existence before technology. People were able to meet up for coffee without carrying a phone with them. They were able to find out urgent news. They were able to communicate with their families without Facebook. Was it better? No, probably not. But were people able to function? Were they able to lead joyful and fulfilling lives? Absolutely.

It’s my belief that the point of “unplugging movement” isn’t to completely tear us away from our devices — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The point of disconnecting from our devices and reconnecting to the world around us is to remind us that there is a world outside of our screens — and as a result, there’s a way to come back to them and use them in a more mindful manner. There are real interactions waiting for us, not just the Facebook chats and emails waiting in our inboxes. Unplugging reminds us that life is happening.

I urge you to think about the happiest moment of your life — was it something you saw on social media? Or was it the moment you got engaged, or saw your best friend for the first time in years, or heard incredible news from a doctor? Happiness lies in the moments where we’re living. It lies in the company of others or a randomly warm day in the middle of a miserable winter. Our joy shouldn’t be dependent on what’s written on a screen. And that is the point of unplugging.

Do You Have Grit?
Have you ever wanted to give up on something that you really, really wanted because it was just too darn hard to keep trying?

You can’t run one more step, write one more word, endure one more dead end?

Join the club.

Can I Sit Down Now?

But, before you throw in the towel, there’s something you should know.

People who succeed at getting what they want in life aren’t smarter, more talented or luckier than you.

They just might have something psychologists call grit: the ability to keep going no matter what. Grit, it turns out, may be one of the most powerful ingredients in your success recipe.

Smart Grit

I’m not talking about trying endlessly to reach a goal where the chance of victory is close to zilch, like opening an ice cream shop in Antarctica. Although never say never.

I’m talking about the grit you need to stay on your healthy diet, save money or follow your dream. Grit is different from willpower, the ability to focus for snippets of time, say, just long enough to resist that cookie. Grit is willpower’s big brother. It’s endurance for the long haul; the stamina to keep going even when you stumble.

I Want Some Grit, Please

When I was writing my doctoral dissertation, an intense research project that was my final step before getting my PhD, I needed a giant dose of grit.

That’s because the dissertation experience can be pretty grueling. I’d met students who were in dissertation-anxiety support groups, and I’d watched exhausted graduates-sporting newly spawned gray hair-lumber down the aisle to finally accept their diplomas, some after 10 years.

It was clear; I was going to need some serious stick-to-itiveness if I wanted to make it to graduation before my social security benefits kicked in.

Santa To The Rescue

My own grit arrived in an unexpected flash of inspiration. In the midst of a late night writing session, I suddenly remembered a television show my brothers and I watched every year at Christmastime called Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. In the show, there was a song I never forgot called “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other.”

I suddenly realized that to complete my dissertation, that’s exactly what I needed to do: put one foot in front of the other. Rather than looking at the enormity of the task ahead of me, I needed only to write one word, one paragraph, one page at a time. If I could do that — over and over again — I could find my grit and finish my dissertation.

To remind myself, on the wall over my computer, in big blue letters, I taped the words “Darlene, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other.” When I felt my spirits sag or there was a unexpected detour, I looked up at those words on the wall. I pushed ahead-one step at a time — and made it all the way to graduation day.

You Can Do It

Are you chasing a dream that feels distant? Or do you want to improve your life in some way, but it’s hard to stay on track? I know it’s tough to keep going when you’re alone on your path or the road ahead is unclear.

That’s why I want to share with you the 3-minute video clip that inspired me. Watch it, and remember its simple message: put one foot in front of the other. Those words were so encouraging to me, they’ve since become my personal mantra. No matter where you’re headed — one step at a time — that’s how you’ll get there.

To the Person in a Hurry
I’m sure you were in a hurry. I’m sure you thought you could make it across the busy street. The street covered in morning traffic, in unplowed, powdery snow.

It was 6:50 a.m. The sun had risen despite the grayness of the day, the misty haze hitting cars like fine sand. It glistened as it stuck to my windshield, made my car fishtail in wavy, curving lines. There was a stoplight ahead, a 7-Eleven on the right. You were on the left, about to bolt from a side street.

And then you did. With no warning, just a daring slam of the gas as you sped across my path, making me slam on my brakes, making my car lock up, serve and crash into the side of the road. The woman behind me, not wanting to hit oncoming traffic, crashed into me instead.

I’m not sure you even realized what happened. You may have just slid into your parking spot, walked into the store toward the pastries, the coffee or the spinning sausages. It really doesn’t matter. But the people you could have harmed do.

The woman who hit me was young and in her 20s, had a brown ponytail, concerned eyes, a sweet disposition. She was visibly shaken, kept apologizing. I’m sure she has a family, people who love her.

You don’t know (or perhaps didn’t consider) that I have a family, too. That my toddler could have been in the back seat (thankfully she wasn’t). That we’re about to buy a house. That hopefully my car isn’t totaled, because we really don’t need (can’t afford) another car payment.

But please know this: our actions matter. Every one. The selfish ones. The careless ones. The reckless ones. The seemingly insignificant ones. When we forget others. When we’re impatient or preoccupied. When we’re discourteous, graceless, or tactless. When we don’t check in. When we check out.

Thankfully there are the good actions: the caring actions, the considerate actions, the patient and poised actions, the helpful actions, the loving actions. Those all happened that day, too. I’ll hold onto those.

I suggest you take hold of them, too.

Thanks.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I’m okay. (Thanks.)

This Chart Will Take You From Grumpy To Happy In Just A Few Minutes
Dogs, babies and Beyoncé… what else does anyone need in order to turn their mood around?

Whether it’s puppies playing in a ball pit or a tune you can’t help but tap your foot to, you can boost your feelings of happiness in just a matter of minutes. Research has shown that upbeat music can promote feelings of positivity and elevate our moods. But indulging in those silly animal videos isn’t actually the same as procrastinating at all — in fact, cute vids and satisfying songs are probably making you a better employee. A study conducted by Hiroshima University found that a few minutes of YouTube can help spike productivity and allow you to focus better, making a little bit of joy — and a little bit of work — truly just a click away.

Still not convinced you’re a few moments away from turning around your grumpy demeanor? We dare you not to smile after you go through the chart below.

Interactive by Alissa Scheller for the Huffington Post.

27 Things You Need To Know About Happiness
We all have different ideas of how to achieve total bliss. For some it’s in the company of loved ones, for others it’s following their passions — but is there more to it when it comes to the bigger picture of happiness?

It turns out there are a lot of factors that can affect whether you’re sporting a sunny disposition. Ranging from mindful presence to the scents in the air, you may not even know these influencers could be contributing to your overall life satisfaction. In honor of the International Day of Happiness, below are 27 scientifically-backed facts that you need to know about getting to your happy place.

It’s a choice.

happy

As Aristotle once said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Perhaps the most simple way we can find bliss is to accept that it’s completely up to us.

As much as 40 percent of our happiness levels are within our control, according to some happiness researchers. In order to turn happiness into something you create, adopt small habits — such as lingering on positive moments and forcing yourself to smile — and you’ll start to feel joy on your own.

The weather can influence happy feelings.
If you live in temperate climate, there’s a chance you may be a more cheerful individual. Some research has discovered that there is a correlation between milder summers and winters and happiness. And just as mild climates can boost your mood, harsher climates can have a negative effect. During the winter months, many suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, mainly due to the lack of light that comes with the season.

Happiness has a fragrance.

roses

If you’re looking to feel more cheerful, it may be time to stop and smell the roses — literally. Researchers at the University of Florida found that the flower’s smell has a positive influence on your emotions. Studies have also found that certain perfumes can have a prosocial effect and make people more altruistic.

Music can elevate your happiness.
Upbeat music = upbeat mindset? According to a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, those who listened to rousing music were better able to put themselves in a positive mood.

Happiness grows when you’re older.

It may be time to forget everything you thought you knew about happiness and youth. Results from a 2013 Harris Poll revealed that life satisfaction is higher for older adults than young adults. Nearly 50 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are very happy, compared to just 31 percent of those ages 18-24.

Giving to others can give you a happiness boost.
Whether it’s through helping charity or just a small act of kindness, altruism makes us feel good. One study even found that the happiness gleaned from volunteering can increase your longevity.

Joy is contagious.
Connecting yourself to happy people will make you happier too, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The research uncovered that if a close friend is happy, it increases the likelihood that you’ll feel happier by 15 percent. Even being near people who you don’t know very well — or “third-degree friends” — will increase your chance for joy by 6 percent.

Getting a little nostalgic can help you look on the bright side.

nostalgia

Reflecting fondly on the past can make you look forward to the future, according to a Personality and Psychology Bulletin study. Researchers discovered that past memories help maintain feelings of self-worth and promote optimism for what’s to come. Allowing yourself to feel nostalgic will also help you to feel less lonely. Sounds like a good excuse to flip through those old photo albums!

Happy people prefer deeper conversations.
Exuberant human beings are social butterflies — but only if you forgo the trivial small talk. Researchers at the University of Arizona discovered that a spike in happiness occurred during social interactions when people were engaged in more substantive conversations.

Quick thinking is associated with positive feelings.
If you have a quick wit or pride yourself on being a fast reader, you may also have a more positive mood. A study published in Psychological Science discovered that happiness was more commonly associated with faster cognitive thoughts.

Job satisfaction can impact your happiness.
An examination published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology linked happiness with work to overall happiness and life satisfaction. Another study conducted by the University of Aberdeen revealed that job fulfillment was ranked as one of the most critical factors to overall well-being and happiness.

There are approximately 18 different types of smiles.

smile food

Scientists have classified expressions that range from an amused smile to an embarrassed smile.

Certain foods can make you happier.
The key to a quick boost of happiness may lie in your diet. Foods like nuts, chicken and milk all contain higher levels of tryptophan, which can lead to the production of serotonin, a chemical that helps induce calm and happiness.

Marriage protects against declines in happiness during adulthood.
But all family structures bring their own joy: Although childless married couples ranked as happiest in a recent study conducted by the United Kingdom’s Open University, the survey’s results also revealed that mothers are the most content with life overall compared to any other group.

Getting some shuteye can help you retain more positive thoughts.

sleep

In an observation of sleep-deprived college students, one experiment found that the participants remembered fewer positive words from a list of words they had previously memorized. It works the other way too, as a 2013 Cornell study found that a happy outlook on life will help you get a better night’s sleep.

The happiest country is in Europe.
For the second year in a row, Denmark was crowned the globe’s happiest country according to the United Nation’s World Happiness Report. The U.S. ranked 17th, falling six places from last year’s spot.

Practicing gratitude can help you lead a happier life.
When you’re thankful, you’re more likely to be a more joyful person according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Expressing gratitude has also been proven to generate a more optimistic outlook on life and can even help lower stress. “Life is a series of problems that have to be solved — and a lot of times those problems cause stress,” Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, told HuffPost Healthy Living. “Gratitude can be that stress buster.”

Pets make you happier.

happy dog

When we pet our furry friends, oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”) releases in our brains, making us instantly happier. The chemical also helps to reduce stress levels and lowers our blood pressure.

People are happier in the mornings.
When the sun rises, so does your mood. One Cornell study found that the brightest periods of the day are when you first get out of bed. Researchers analyzed the tweets of 2.4 million people across the globe and found peaks in positive messages at the start of the day, the tones of which grew more negative as the hours passed.

Exercise can make you a more exuberant person.
Bad day? Running it out may be your solution. Research has shown that just 20 minutes of physical activity can have subtle, positive mood benefits that can last far beyond the extension of your workout, SELF Magazine reported. Feel-good chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrin, all rise during exercise.

Our brains tend to have a negativity bias — but it’s possible to overcome it.
Although we naturally dwell on the negative, there are ways to wire your brain to focus on the joy. According to Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science Of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, all it takes is spending more time lingering on the positive in order to train your brain to naturally focus on happy moments over time. “[Lingering on the positive] improves the encoding of passing mental states into lasting neural traits,” Hanson told HuffPost Healthy Living. “That’s the key here: we’re trying to get the good stuff into us. And that means turning our passing positive experiences into lasting emotional memories.”

Your happiness minimally depends on external circumstances like owning a house or a car.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life you Want, the composition of our happiness rarely depends on our bank accounts or our physical attractiveness, because we adapt quickly to most situations. “Ultimately, whether we drive a battered truck or a Lexus to work; whether we have hypertension or asthma, our ability to be happy and get happier doesn’t vary much,” she told U.S. News in 2008.

And although our genes may count for approximately half of our happiness levels, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be more joyful. “You can teach yourself optimism and happiness just like you teach yourself a new language,” happiness researcher Shawn Achor told Women’s Health. “You’ll be just your genes unless you make positive habits in your life.”

Experiences are worth more than possessions.
Looking to make a purchase? You may want to look into a vacation or a concert — it will make you happier in the long run. A San Francisco State University study surveyed nearly 160 participants and the results showed that, while most didn’t regret their purchases, those who focused on their experiences showed a higher satisfaction long after the moment or event passed.

We shouldn’t constantly try to pursue happiness.
Focusing too much on happiness may be doing you more harm than good in the long run. Researchers out of the University of California, Berkeley found that a constant pursuit of happiness can even start to feel lonely. In a blog post on Psychology Today, psychologist Douglas Kenrick explained why getting caught up in chasing happiness can ultimately lead to dissatisfaction:

The paradox is that you don’t want to directly seek happiness as an end in itself. Instead, happiness, contentment, and satisfaction are all natural consequences of other activities, such as productive work, and ironically, going out of your way to make other people happy … If you set up the expectation that your life will be like a series of episodes from a happy 1950s situation comedy, supplemented with a bigger modern house, a new car every year, all the latest technological gadgets, and exciting vacation adventures, you’re sure to be disappointed. If you expect it to be more like, well, real life, and you do what you can to make that real life easier on the other people around you, well, you might just find yourself better off.

Positive emotions can make you more resilient.

resilient

People who view their lives with a more optimistic attitude are able to come back from their challenges better, according to one study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Participants who were more open to looking at smaller moments in a positive light were more able to rebound from adversity and better manage stress. Having a positive mood also helps people become more resilient physically — the study also found that those who had happier outlooks were able to stabilize their heart rates more quickly than those who were influenced by negativity.

There is a difference between a happy life and a meaningful one.
It’s no secret that being happy adds value and meaning to your life (and vice versa), but according to recent research the two aren’t always one and the same. Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that while there’s often some overlap, happiness is directly tied with getting what we seek — whether that’s money, relationships or other circumstances — where meaningfulness deals more with giving back and effort.

Researchers also found that living a meaningful life includes more stress and challenges and involves looking at the past, present and future. Meanwhile, those seeking happiness mainly focus on the present moment.

The older you get, the happier you are with ordinary moments.
Researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania surveyed participants on how extraordinary and ordinary experiences contributed to their overall happiness and discovered as we get older, it’s the little things that make a difference. No matter the age, extraordinary moments always created a spike in happiness, but older adults were much more satisfied with the simple experiences. Older individuals saw these tiny moments as more self-defining than younger participants.

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