Are Your Smart Devices Causing You a Pain In the Neck?

In little more than a decade, we have become high-tech beings, but evolution doesn’t happen that fast. Therefore, most of us get thrown off balance, physiologically compromised by a virtual lifestyle that leaves the body behind. The more cell phones, electronic tablets, virtual games and computers that we use, the more we build stress in our bodies. We move less and stare at screens more. And our posture suffers.

Poor posture contributes to stress, and stress contributes to poor posture

A human’s head weighs approximately twelve pounds when balanced above the spine. As the neck bends forward and down, the weight increases, placing a greater demand on your cervical spine. At a fifteen-degree angle, your cervical spine must support approximately twenty-seven pounds. At thirty degrees, forty pounds and so on.  Our trapezius muscles kick in to compensate, which affects the back muscles. Overworked back muscles weaken the stomach muscles, which truncates the breath. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as thirty percent. This domino effect spreads through every part of the body.

“That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone the way millions do for hours every day,” says Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, Chief of Spine Surgery at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Clinic. Over time, experts say, this type of poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration, and even surgery, all leading to more stress on the body/mind. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj told the Washington Post in their Nov. 20, 2014 issue. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”

Tom DiAngelis, president of the American Physical Therapy Association‘s Private Practice Section, told CNN last year the effect is similar to bending a finger all the way back and holding it there for about an hour. “As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore, it gets inflamed,” he said. It can also cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, or herniated disks. This unnatural compression degrades the neck’s natural curve.

Poor posture can cause other problems as well. The human body is designed to stand strong and erect, effortlessly. Poor posture leads to back pain and digestive problems. Our hips and knees don’t get the interplay with gravity needed to make enough synovial fluid to keep our joints lubricated. Lymph flow is slowed. Oxygen-poor blood doesn’t get pumped back to the lungs with efficiency. Sleep suffers, memory has more lapses, and our vital energy gets depleted. Poor posture has been linked to headaches, neurological problems, depression, and heart disease.

Solutions

  1.  Be aware of your body when you are talking on the phone or on your computer.
  2. Keep your head up and don’t lean in to your devices. Have them adjust to you instead of you adjusting to them.
  3. Take stretch breaks and especially stretch your neck back and around.
  4. Every 15-30 minutes take a spot check and notice if you are straining your neck or eyes? Get up and walk, and reboot and come back.
  5. To take a body awareness test go to http://wholebodyintelligence.com/bq_assessment
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Is Too Much Juggling Causing You Brain Drain?

I am writing this as much for myself as you, to remember to give my brain time outs from multi-tasking and smart gadgets.

Between the pressure to get more things in a day done then we are sometimes capable of and the easy access to smart tools, we switch our brain frantically between tasks which causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity and we burn out.

Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology scanned volunteers’ heads while they performed different tasks and found that when there is a group of visual stimulants in front of you, only one or two things tend to activate your brain, indicating we’re really only focusing on one or two items.

In other words, our brains try to perform similar tasks at the same time such as balancing our checkbook and talking on the phone and they compete to use the same part of the brain. As a result, your brain simply slows down.

Not only does multi-tasking burn us out, but research is showing that switching between tasks also makes us less efficient.

An American study reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology found that it took students far longer to solve complicated math problems when they had to switch to other tasks. In fact, they were up to 40 per cent slower.

The same study also found multitasking has a negative physical effect, prompting the release of stress hormones and adrenaline.

This can trigger a  cycle, where we work hard at multi-tasking, take longer to get things done, then feel stressed, and are compelled to multi-task even more.

Stress is a part of life but we can only take so much of it, so staying aware of the how much multi tasking without pauses adds to stress is something I am more cognizant of and recommend highly.

Taking at least two pauses daily to reboot my brain and body is a minimum requirement now, plus an hour to exercise as well. I also suggest taking breathing breaks regularly and originating the breath from as low down in your diaphragm as possible as it will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and relax you.

The other thing to watch out for is stress caused by separation anxiety.

I worked with an executive who had horrific anxiety attacks while in the shower in the AM. Sounds funny? It’s not. His fear of missing out on some transaction or an email from his manager caused him to stress big time when his cell phone was not in his hand. Sound familiar?

According to Tech Norms for Travelers, a survey by chip-maker Intel found that nearly half of all American travelers feel anxiety if they don’t have their devices with them. Also, three-fourths of young adults compromise comfort and hygiene to find an electric outlet.

Nearly 80% of respondents said losing their precious device would be more stressful than misplacing a wedding ring.

Of course we find ourselves more empowered and connected by technology than ever before, but as a result, many of us experience the same anxiety you would feel when being away from a loved one.

And then there’s social media.

Crazy huh? It’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious, as much as it’s being away from them.

I’ve seen kids turn down the beach to stay in the van and play hand held computer games instead and even had a friend visit me on Maui who dropped her electronic game box in the ocean. (I know you are probably asking, why she carried it with her to the sands edge.) As she put it, her “gamey” is with her at all times and she refused to get into the ocean or enjoy a nice mango drink, until we went to Radio Shack and got her a replacement.

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Change Your Movement, Change Your Brain

Being aware of how you move your body can help you think more clearly and turn up the dial on your brainpower.Research shows that the brain can take cues from body movements to understand and solve complex problems.

In 2009, University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, along with Laura Thomas of Vanderbilt University, conducted a study on problem solving and body movement. They set out to test if a person’s ability to solve a complex problem could be influenced by how he or she moves. They tested fifty-two University of Illinois students. The results showed that body motion could, indeed, affect higher order thought and that complex thinking can be enhanced by body awareness.

Lleras and Thomas reported, “People tend to think that their mind lives in their brain, dealing in conceptual abstractions, very much disconnected from the body. This emerging research is fascinating because it is demonstrating how your body is a part of your mind in a powerful way. The way you think is affected by your body and, in fact, we can use our bodies to help us think.”

This study confirms what I often see in my sessions. A client will be stuck in some unproductive thought loop or knee-jerk reaction. They become fuzzy and confused as to what is actually occurring right in front of them. I redirect their attention to the movements happening in their body, which consistently opens a window to solutions that aren’t being arrived at by the mind alone. Clients find the attention-shift consistently generates new insight, enhances creative thinking, and resiliency. They just seem smarter once they are conscious of how their body moves

We have the ability and hardwiring to usemovement awareness to discover and break the neural nets that work against us. Psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a researcher in the field of neuroplasticity, agrees. In his book The Mind and the Brain, he says, “Humans are neural electricians. We can take charge of our brain function. We are not restricted to working with existing wiring. We can run whole new cables through our brain.”

Make a Move

Open your arms wide, or raise your hand in a high-five, or mimic Steve Martin doing his “wild and crazy guy” shoulder shimmy. Sync that movement with your breathing and notice how that changes your mood. How did that feel? Do you notice a change in your thinking or energy level? Make that choice to pause and make expansive moves as often as you can. It can make a big difference in how you feel, how you make decisions or react to a situation. To discover more about your body and movement awareness go to http://wholebodyintelligence.com/bq_assessment

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Free Yourself

The heart knows what the mind sometimes can’t grasp.It’s been there from day one.When stress overwhelms us with strong emotions we often stuff it away in our heart, but the negative thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that we detached from mentally don’t just go away. Every one of our experiences is literally etched in our heart and imprinted in our consciousness. Holding back our emotions and expressions and enlisting our bodies to hold them for us may have been the necessary solution in the past, but it caused us to form habits and limiting beliefs that might not be in our best interest now.

How to Turn Anxiety into Peace By Turning to Your Heart

Dr. Paul Pearsall, in his book, The Hearts Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energyclaims, “ The human heart, not the brain, holds the secrets that link body, mind, and spirit.” In an interview with Author, therapist Carolyn Hobbs I learned how she blends practical Buddhist wisdom with quick, easy heart-centered therapy tools for transforming anxiety, fear, despair, guilt and sadness into joy, freedom and inner peace within one-to-ten minutes. In her newly released book, Free Yourself Ten Life-Changing Powers of your Wise Heart,she helps readers meet anger with understanding, fear with loving compassion, and worry with curious awareness. In our interview Hobbs shared, “We are all born with unlimited joy, kindness, compassion and inner peace inside our heart. But often, these innate heart qualities of our heart are clouded over by worry, disappointment, fear and despair. Or we postpone freedom, telling ourselves, “After work, or after I retire, or after the kids get out of my hair, or after I get well, then I’ll feel free. Other times we seek joy, freedom and inner peace in the wrong places.

Hobbs offers us solutions in her new book with two-to-ten minute “heart” tools that can be easily practiced during your morning workout, meditation or commute that help you feel lighter, more joyful and playful and will satisfy your mind. Sounds good to me.

Keep listening to your heart. It has a lot to tell you. For more on the heart and how you can learn to free yourself, go to http://joyandfreedomnow.com

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Conscious and Unconscious Regression

In a psychological context going back to early or past behavior is termed regression.  Originally Sigmund Freud classified regression as adefense mechanism for coping with stress; where one reverts to earlier, more childlike patterns of behavior to cope.

Since regression is a common phenomenon that occurs most often under stress, we all do it constantly, yet most of it is unconscious. When an executive feels stuck on a problem they regress to infant behavior sucking and chewing their pen down to the cartridge. When a spouse feels neglected they regress by throwing a tantrum and threatening to take something away. A new college student misses home and regresses by cuddling with their child hood Teddy Bear.

Notice the next time you chew your pen like a teething ring or throw a wild kicking and screaming tantrum. Ask yourself, “ Am I  regressing to cope or not feel something, or am I avoiding that tough conversation or decision?”

Since this “defense coping mechanism” is so prevalent we might as well consciously embrace and direct regression to our benefit. Today people are doing inner child work, regression therapy, rebirth and the list goes on.

Whether you do hypnotherapy, breath work or inner child work, consciously going back to high impact moments that influence how you behave today, can be enlightening and healing.

Assuming body posturesand feeling emotions associated with particular past experiences can be a very effective way to recall and heal past memories, even the ones buried deep in the recesses of your unconscious.

Helping clients and myself regress and go back in time through breath, body and movement awareness has surfaced material that has enabled us to understand the source of our behaviors, and the opportunity to have a do-over, get things off of our chest and change negative behaviors.

If there’s some pattern or behavior you want to change, I recommend regressing back to the original moment and have your self a do-over. Say what you didn’t get to say. Move the way you wanted to but couldn’t as a child. Breathe deeply since most likely when a past traumatic moment happened, you held your breath.

Go back……and move forward!

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