LIFE HACK: An App For People Who Have Trouble Staying Focused

forest

I have a problem. I try to do multiple things all at the same time which leaves me feeling agitated and depleted. Why sit and peacefully watch t.v. when I could also scroll through my emails on my laptop (is what my brain constantly tries to tell me)? What’s the problem with reading emails while watching t.v., or scrolling through your Instagram feed while walking the dog, or trying to reply to a text while also have a conversation? Well for one thing, when we multitask, nothing is ever done really well. It also leaves our brains feeling fried and for many of us we wind up feeling on-edge and irritable. I have also started to notice a link between how much time I spend mindlessly online and the amount of energy I have to do other tasks. Being online literally drains me.

According to this Time Magazine article, trying to multi-task, especially with electronic devices, can hamper our attentiveness, mindfulness, and ability to learn. In fact, higher amounts of technology use has been linked to mental health problems in adolescents. It’s no wonder, with kids constantly seeing images of “perfection” on their peers’ social media feeds. I have found that the more time I spend on social media (as a 43 year old), the more agitated and anxious I get as well. This article does a good job of explaining why that is. One positive of technology use in adolescents is that more frequent texting appears to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. perhaps because they are reaching out to real friends and connecting rather than perceiving that everyone else has perfect “Insta worthy” lives.  Read the article to find out more.

So, what am I doing about this problem? I found out about an app called Forest, and have been using it for a few days. So far it has really made a difference. You can plant virtual trees and set a time for how long you want to focus on a task without looking at your phone. When the time is up, your tree has grown. By planting trees and growing trees, you earn virtual currency to use towards buying and planing a REAL TREE through Trees For The Future. The app costs $1.99 for iPhone and it’s free for Android.

This might be the sort of thing where I use it for a relatively short amount of time to rewire my brain and seal in a new habit. I’m perfectly ok with spending $2.00 for that life hack!

P.S. I wrote this entire blog post without checking email, reading my texts, or inexplicably ending up shopping on Bananrepublic.com. WIN!

You might also like:

Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

Summer Intentions

Maybe I Need A Timeout

So, I woke up feeling agitated about something this morning. And I was laying in bed just ruminating and getting more worked up. And then I remembered a tool I always have in my back pocket anytime I need it: my breath. Thanks to the regular use of my favorite mindfulness app Headspace for the past few years, I have built up all kinds of tools and mechanisms for when I feel angry, sad, stressed, overwhelmed or just in need of a break. 

#1 is always go back to the breath. When we are stressed our breaths become shallow and restricted, which depletes our oxygen levels and makes us feel worse. Spend a few minutes focusing on helping your breath normalize. When we take a slower, deeper breath and hold it at the top for a moment or two before letting it back out, it sends a signal to the brain that things are OK. 

So, when you begin your day at 5:45 am already stressed like I did, try some relaxed breathing. Or check out Headspace and take advantage of their free trial offer. Maybe you could also look up free meditation videos on YouTube if that’s more your thing.  The point is to find something that works, and revisit it when you need it. 

Headspace

meditation-cairn

It’s been quite the couple of weeks, hasn’t it? I think it’s safe to say that many of us are feeling a little bruised and battered by the contentiousness of the recent elections. Many people are frightened, worried, angry, anxious. When you add Thanksgiving travel, cooking, and spending a lot of time in close proximity to many other people to the mix, it can feel completely overwhelming for many of us.

Because like me you might be feeling overworked and short on time, I want to take just a brief moment out of your week to tell you about something that I have found very helpful for a few years now. It’s an app called Headspace. It guides you through mindfulness meditations in a way that I find really helpful and comforting. You can choose different tracks like Self Esteem, Performance, Anxiety, and even Running. There are also two minute “S.O.S.” meditations you can do if you are feeling on the brink of disaster (hint: it’s pretty easy to slip away from talking politics with your great Aunt Ida for a few minutes to hit the reset button and gather your wits).

Various studies have shown that meditation slows down the heart rate and the autonomic nervous system, decreases cortisol levels (that’s the stress hormone), improves our working memory, helps us cope with pain, helps us sleep and may even boost our immune system.

You have to pay for Headspace after finishing the 10 day free trial, but my  opinion is that it’s totally worth it. If you want to avoid paying for guided meditations, YouTube is full of them. Promise me you won’t think that meditation is only for “those other people”. Trust me, it’s for everyone. Kids who are being taught mediation in schools have exhibited fewer discipline problems and higher grades, as well as lower anxiety and depression. It really does work, if only to help you quiet your “monkey brain” for a few minutes every day.

This week might just be the best time to give yourself a little bit of a respite from all that stress and worrying. If you do, I’d  love to hear how it worked for you.

You might also like:

LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!

Magnesium: “The Relaxer”

Friday Cocktails: The Painkiller

*Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for mentioning Headspace in this post. I truly love this app and just wanted to share.

 

HEALTHY NEW YEAR

Another year has come and gone.  Now that I’m a grown-up, the years seem to go by so much faster than when I was a kid.  One day my kiddo is a newborn and the next she’s 11 and listening to Adele’s new album 21 on repeat. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that time continues to tick on even if we aren’t ready for it.

The New Year is a perfect time to remember to take stock of what’s important (staying mindful, feeling gratitude, eating healthy, spending time with family) and toss out those things that aren’t (saying yes to anything you don’t want to do, living your life in “shoulds”, SlimFast shakes, you get the idea).

This coming week I’ll have a new Gwyneth recipe to share.  But in the meantime, enjoy your New Year’s Eve however you wish to spend it.  I’ll be hanging with my family at home eating sushi because the thought of going to some crowded event downtown gives me hives.  See how I said “no” to something I didn’t want to do?  It gets easier the more you do it. Practice it a lot this year. Trust me, it’ll change your life.

Happy New Year 2016