Month: December 2022

Taking a break from Tik Tok

One of my school teacher friends was bemoaning recently the drop in concentration spans she has noticed in the children she teaches. ‘They can’t focus on reading or watch a programme for more than 5 minutes!’ Clearly, I am not the only one who thinks we’re in danger of forgetting about things that aren’t five seconds long.

Before we begin, I want to make clear that this is not some boring old millennial slagging off TikTok. This social media platform can be incredible. It gives under-represented minorities a platform and a voice, it finds genuine talent, and for a vast proportion of the world, it is now ‘just the internet’. A Google executive recently noted that 40 per cent of 18-24s now use TikTok to search for a place to have lunch instead of their own search engine.

That said, moderation is key. I hate myself for spending valuable minutes of my life mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, my brain too overstimulated to form any meaningful emotional response to any of it. Nice video of a cute cat playing with another cute kitty – “that’s cute,” says my brain. Next!

Since the pandemic started, studies show that many of us have really struggled with our concentration levels. We’ve became so reliant on our phones to stay connected that we’ve found it really hard to get out of the habit.

Of course, a phone can be a portal to some brilliant things that enrich your life, articles that enlarge your brain and music that alters your mood in an instant. It’s where everyone and everything is. All of the time. All of it. All content ever right there on tap.

Unmoderated, it’s completely overstimulating and overpowering and because of this, you can easily forget about the other places and ways to find joy. For instance, you might find it hard to pick up a book to read and leave your phone alone but when you crack it, it makes you so happy and calm, opening up new worlds and stimulating the imagination.

The same can be said for when I watch the television. I think I enjoy it much more when I’m watching it and scrolling on my phone. But I don’t. I’m not fully present. Social media and the internet can wait. And I’d be better off forming my own opinions instead of looking for someone else’s.

Our brains should only be doing one thing at a time, and admitting to myself that it’s a problem with this has really helped. I now set aside time to read every day. And I’m getting better at not having instant gratification from the things I watch. A recent new release hubby and I enjoyed on Apple TV for example forced me to wait a week between episodes. Initially, I was annoyed – I want it now like everything else in life! – but it made the whole thing much more enjoyable and when I watched it, I thought about it.

I then talked it through with hubby, savoured it and genuinely looked forward to each Friday because there was a new one. It’s far better than bingeing the whole thing in six hours. Your brain cannot possibly process the nuances of the writing or the subtlety of the acting. These things have been painstakingly made, so the least we can do is painstakingly watch them.

If I want to have half an hour being mindless on TikTok, then that’s great. It can be really fun to zone out occasionally. But I want to be the one in charge. It’s a horrible feeling when you look up and realise your phone’s stolen an hour of your life and you weren’t in control of it. As good as police chases and endless videos of Harry Styles in his jumpsuits are, they can’t be the only things we put into our brains. I want things in there that I remember and treasure. Things that inspire me and nourish my Covid-addled brain.

We need to slow the pace of everything down, because these apps are deliberately set up to hook us in and get our brains used to an insanely fast turn over of content. It’s unhealthy, not to mention unnatural. As the late great Terry Wogan once said: “Take it easy, life’s short enough as it is without rushing it”. We can only cope with so much.

The art of giving ….. and receiving.

“The universe operates through dynamic exchange . . . giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.” – Deepak Chopra

As we approach the time of year where giving and receiving may begin to be at the forefront of our minds I wanted you to consider what is better, to give or to receive?

The answer may not be as simple as it seems. The action of giving and receiving has a powerful impact on our relationships, not only with others but with yourself as well. Are you better at giving or receiving? I know that I certainly favour one over the other…and it’s probably not the one you would think! Whilst I love buying gifts for others and make an effort to compliment others, I”m not very good at receiving either of those myself.

Receiving is as necessary and important as giving. While giving feels wonderful, it only works when there is a receiver. Allowing yourself to be a gracious receiver is a humbling experience and a true act of love because it offers a chance for others to give.

Receiving is not about expecting others to give to you. It is about receiving a gift without guilt or without feeling obliged to give back. Maybe you can’t receive gifts without negative thoughts popping up, such as, “I don’t deserve this” or “Now I feel like I owe her/him.”

How you receive is just as important to the giver’s happiness as it is to your own. To receive in a good way requires you to do away with the negative thoughts and instead pause and reflect on the exchange and what it means: friendship, support, love, etc. This fuels a great deal of happiness in both the giver and receiver.

Nature provides perfect examples of this dynamic exchange of giving and receiving that is necessary for the flow of life. You receive the gift of oxygen from trees, and you give them carbon dioxide. Insects receive nectar from flowers, and they give the gift of pollination. Symbiotic relationships are abundant in nature and are needed for the ecosystem to continue to thrive. Since you are also part of nature, you too need to both give and receive to stay happy and healthy.

Giving can inspire great positive change and healing in a world that needs it.

Spending more time thinking about ways you can give is often accompanied by feelings of peace and joy. Giving comes naturally to humans because it taps into that innate part of ourselves that gravitates toward connection.

Become conscious of your current relationship with giving and see how it can be improved so you don’t fall prey to the downside of giving too much (or too little) of yourself.

This is where self-care, in the form of being able to receive support, love, and encouragement from others plays a vital role in keeping the energy of giving and receiving circulating in your life.

Here are some small (free) ways you can strengthen the flow of giving in your life:
Compliment a stranger.
Send a message of appreciation.
Give a hug.
Say “thank you.”
Give a homemade gift.