Thursday, January 9, 2014

Time to unplug!

I love this article by Daniel Goleman... I encourage you to reflect on this topic...

Think About the Benefits of Unplugging

A recent New York Times article and viral video about pervasive smartphone use ask, “Is experiencing life through a small screen distracting us from living our lives and forming real connections?” We all know distraction is a big problem in the workplace. We're addicted to responding to endless alert chimes from apps or texts. We feel compelled to share our every move (or mood) with our "networks" throughout the day. And that's just a small sample of how we spend our time glued to our smartphones.
While it's the norm, it goes without saying that such practices and distractions can affect performance and our face-to-face communication. But what's the toll of so much virtual living on our emotional well being? Mirabai Bush, key adviser to Google’s Search Inside Yourselfcurriculum, spoke with Dr. Richard Davidson, founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, about the latest research that suggests adopting attention training skills can help us lessen the harmful impact of our hyper-wired, ADD culture. Here’s what Dr. Davidson had to say.
“One of the great heroes in American psychology, William James, dedicated a whole chapter on attention in his classic tome from 1890 called The Principles of Psychology. In this chapter he said the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. Then a little later he goes on to say an education, which should improve this faculty, would be the education par excellence.
We clearly understand that many contemplative practices can be thought of as training methods for educating attention. A number of other scientists have now marshaled very compelling evidence to indicate that we can learn to focus our attention betterWe can be more skillful at not being hijacked by distractions. We may notice them, but there's a big difference between noticing that something may be occurring, being aware of it, and being hijacked by it, being pulled away from one's central focus.
There is now quite a bit of evidence to indicate that the circuits in the brain that play a role in regulating our attention, and very rigorous behavioral measures of attention, change in response to mindfulness meditation practiceOne of the central indices of that change is our capacity to not be hijacked by distracting events in our environment, particularlydistracting emotional signals, which often pull us away from our task at hand.
There's a recent study that was published by friends and colleagues of mine at Harvard that involved a technique we call "experience sampling", where people are actually using smart phones, the very technology that we're discussing. They're randomly beeped at during different time in their daily life, and they're simply asked what they're doing right now, and whether their mind is focused on what they're doing.
It turns out that in a very large sample of adult Americans, 47% of the time people were mind wandering. That is, during waking periods, 47% of the time, people were not actually attending to what they were supposed to be attending to. It's quite remarkable. This is really one of several indicators that our culture is suffering from attention deficit disorder.”
You can read the rest of Dr. Davidison’s conversation with Mirabai Bush in her new ebook collection Working with Mindfulness: Research and Practice of Mindful Techniques in Organizations.