-THE NAVIGATEUR- 
                     
n. One Who Navigates

Have We Become Victims of our Own Devices?

Our relationship with the entertainment industry is like a wild fire. It spreads quickly, devours resources, and once started, it can be almost impossible to keep in check. 

Does it have to be harmful? Well, no. Not if you’ve done the work to keep it contained. But that’s difficult to do, and it requires forethought. Remember Smoky the Bear’s famous line, “only you can prevent forest fires?” What would he think of today’s over-abundance of entertainment-seekers, many of whom can’t put their devices down even when they’re out for an afternoon hike? 

Attempting to keep up with the latest experiences, newest phone apps, the smartest phoneundefineds, gaming platforms, and technology can certainly make one’s head spin like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. Yikes! And because of the evolving entertainment industry, albeit not to blame them, we have somehow lost our ability along the way to be intentional with our use of entertainment. 

Being intentional means being deliberate in the choices you make in the type, amount, and kind of entertainment you use. But while you’re scrolling through Facebook, rolling your eyes or LOL, grab the popcorn because this reading is going to be entertaining! 

Life has become one big entertainment experience from dusk ‘til dawn, literally. It’s no wonder we can’t focus, concentrate, stay on task, or get adequate sleep because our minds are constantly divided between the real world and fantasy. When was the last time you weren’t multitasking? Can you even get through a show on Netflix without pulling up your social media newsfeed on your phone or taking a whirl at the latest level of Candy Crush or Trivia Crack? 

Let’s not even get into the litany of social improprieties suffered as a result of being bombarded with entertainment options. For example, failing to acknowledge your server who has approached your table to take your order. It’s like a nightmare and we’re being chased by Pokémon and his entourage of monsters. Have we become victims of our own devices? 

Nobody likes to think of themselves as a victim, but honestly, we really have to ask ourselves, “Is the amount of time I spend with entertainment a problem?” And maybe more importantly, how can you tell? 

If you’re using entertainment more often than not as a way to escape from your emotional world or to avoid responsibilities altogether, I’d say there’s likely a problem. For instance, are you having Netflix binges on a regular basis? Or neglecting your home because you have to be at the latest event, coolest restaurant, or upcoming concert? 

Nowadays, over-committed is the norm. We’re constantly engaging and interacting on so many platforms that it feels like we’re building our own real life SimCity. And after building what feels like a city in a day or so, who wouldn’t want to escape reality? It’s one thing to disconnect and enjoy some entertainment, but it’s something quite different to remain disconnected and caught up in a world of fantasy and numbness. People who retreat into their entertainment for hours at a time describe this experience as being “sucked in.” 

Is there anything wrong with that? Well, it all comes down to intention. Some people might set aside hours in a day for an entertainment activity they’ve been looking forward to. They plan for it.  It is intentional, and they are present. But getting sucked in isn’t something you do with intent. It’s not you being in charge—it’s you checking out and letting your entertainment be mindless, not mindful.  

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with entertainment. It has been around for centuries, after all. The methods have changed, but the motivation has remained the same: a bit of escapism and a way to relax outside the daily drudge. But our access to entertainment has reached unprecedented levels, and it’s time to dial it back. Entertainment is meant to be fun. It shouldn’t leave you feeling numb, depleted or guilty. So how do you approach entertainment with intention? By putting yourself back in the driver’s seat. 

1. Create boundaries. If you’re at work, you should probably be working. But if you get a few breaks and a lunch and you want to play Pokémon Go, then have at it. I see this one a lot...people at dinner on their phones. When eating, put your phone away. Let your guest know that they’re important and a priority. It’s amazing how much time gets lost when you’re picking up your phone every 5 minutes. And turn off those flippin’ notifications, they’re so distracting and time consuming!

2. Escape reality with intention. Instead of watching your favorite TV series while working on a project around your home, sit down on something comfy, grab a beverage and maybe a snack, and focus on the show. If the TV series is something you enjoy, then make it a priority and schedule it out. Record your shows and watch them later when you can devote your undivided attention. You’ll be glad you did.         

3. Use entertainment to inspire, motivate, educate, and encourage. There’s a lot of negativity out in the universe more recently, so use some of your free time soaking up all the warm and fuzzies out there. To do this, check out some of the phone apps on quotes and affirmations and post them on your social media. This is a great way to re-energize and rejuvenate your mind and body.

4. Don’t allow entertainment to consume your life. If the amount and time you spend with your entertainment of choice is impacting your work, relationships, and mental health, then it’s likely a problem. If you’re curious how much time you spend with entertainment, record the time and activities you do in a given week. I bet you’ll be surprised!

5. Take a break. If you feel your entertainment use is out of control, take some time away and re-calibrate and come back with a game plan. Most people who take some time away report feeling glad that they did. Sometimes just separating from entertainment for a brief time can be a grounding experience.  

Entertainment should be fun, exhilarating at times, satisfying and fulfilling. It is supposed to give us some respite from the monotony of life. Our use of entertainment doesn’t have to feel like a possession, and if it does, then it’s possible you’re misappropriating the purpose of entertainment. Take some time to re-evaluate your use of entertainment and reflect on ways you might be able to use entertainment more intentionally. And P.S., if Pokémon starts talking to you and chasing you, then we should probably talk!

The Sweet Spot: Living a Life of Authenticity

undefinedLet’s take some time, maybe a minute or two, and imagine the perfect place where you can exist being your most authentic loving self without fear, regret, worry, hate, etc. How do you look? What are you wearing? What kinds of things are you doing? Are there people you’re talking to? What does this place look like? Is it familiar? How does it feel like to be in this utopian space? What do you see? Are there particular or familiar smells? How does it make you feel, imagining this perfect world?

Utopias are societies where communities exist in harmony with no divisions or divisiveness. Doesn’t that sound ideal? It’s no surprise that as Pride has come and gone, I think about my own ideal society. One where everyone is free to be their own genuine, honest, transparent self without apologies, restraints, or labels. A utopia where everyone lives authentically and is at peace with themselves as well as the world around them.

For the LGBT+ person, living authentically is probably one of life’s biggest challenges. We live in such a hyper-competitive, judgmental and critical world and that takes a toll. We’re bombarded from birth with homophobic messages. Whether it was about sexuality, gender norms or gender expression, the message was the same. We’re unacceptable. We’re judged every moment and we are found lacking.

And that’s where living authentically comes in. The world doesn’t embrace the kind of self-awareness that living authentically requires, and it’s not something we’re taught. It’s something we must actively create in our own lives.            

Living a life of authenticity requires you to really know yourself. Not just who you are, but who you want to be, both in what you value and what you stand for. And here’s the hard part—it means you have to accept all of you...the good and the not so good and all the imperfections that come with being human. Instead of hiding behind a mask, living authentically forces you to not only acknowledge all that you’re made of, but to celebrate it.  You aren’t just accepting who you are, you’re reveling in it.  This means that being authentic requires vulnerability, and ultimately, requires being genuine. In a culture that emphasizes a “Fake it till you make it” mentality, there is no better time than now on learning how to live more authentically. But how do we do this?

1. Live the life you love, not the one you think society accepts. Begin to act in a way that aligns with your values, beliefs, likes and dislikes. If it isn’t you to attend the biggest soirees, stop attending. Or only attend when it feels right. People pigeonhole themselves and don’t allow themselves the latitude to do what feels right in the moment. Just because it didn’t feel right yesterday doesn’t mean it’s not right today. Above all, be genuine to who you are.

2. Accept your strengths and your weaknesses. Sorry to be the party pooper, but you can’t be amazing and perfect at everything! Just be yourself because nobody can do that. And be your own ideal, not someone else’s!

3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. If that’s uncomfortable to you, start small. Find someone you feel comfortable with and allow them to see your vulnerable side. Or better yet, take a risk and put yourself out there and let others see who you really are. It’s freeing just allowing yourself to be. If you want more intimacy in your life, take a chance and be vulnerable.

4. Dump the homophobic messages you received growing up. These aren’t yours to carry anymore. Imagine yourself writing these messages on a piece of paper and tossing them into open flames. It’s time to release this baggage because it’s weighing you down and creating obstacles to living authentically.

5. Make a note when you’re acting inauthentic. Take some time to reflect on these experiences. Get to know yourself at a deeper level and what might have driven you to act inauthentic. When we have a deeper understanding of who we are, we can tell when we aren’t living according to our own values and beliefs. In those moments, have the courage to examine your behavior and reflect on the experience so you can identify the triggers and better arm yourself against them in the future. Gaining self-knowledge is so important in becoming more authentic.

6. Take some time with guided meditation. Guided meditation is a deep state of relaxation by the use of a guide. This is usually a calming experience and will open your mind. Having an open mind typically allows a person to see the bigger picture and many perspectives. So often we can find ourselves getting stuck in a rut because of how we might view or think about ourselves, others, and the world. If this is something you resonate with, mediate and you might be surprised to learn some things about yourself! 

Living authentically requires a great deal of work, but overtime, you’ll soon find that just being yourself is pretty easy. I think Brené Brown sums it up quite well when she says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” I’m learning that there’s nothing sweeter in life than living a life of authenticity. 



Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): It's More Than Just The Blues

undefinedHibernation...who's got time for that? With calendars packed to the max, never-ending errands to run, and social calendars galore, reality just doesn’t leave space to hibernate. But for some of us, that's all we can think about. Although evolutionarily there were benefits to this behavior, times have changed. Unfortunately for some, our bodies haven't kept up.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, is a depression that occurs around the fall and winter. A lot of people report having the "winter blues" during the colder months, but SAD is more than just the blues, it can be a serious condition. Individuals who suffer from SAD often report the following:  
  • hopelessness 
  • anxiousness and irritability 
  • sadness
  • lowered energy and motivation (e.g., sluggishness)
  • feeling withdrawn
  • decreased libido
  • increased sleep, appetite, and weight gain
  •  increased alcohol consumption
  • bodily aches and pains
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • when serious, some may report thoughts of suicide    
Simply, SAD is a Major Depressive Disorder that is Recurrent with a Seasonal Pattern. Curious about whether or not you’re suffering from a winter depression? Take the online self-assessment titled, “Your Current Level of Depression" to see how many markers for SAD you have. Print your results and share with your healthcare provider.

Sad is the body's response to the seasonal shift in the amount of daylight. A person's circadian rhythm can be affected when the nights become longer and days become shorter. Our bodies are programmed to equate darkness with sleep, so the loss of daylight means our bodies want to go to sleep earlier and sleep longer.

This physiological process is driven by melatonin, which the brain produces in larger quantities during the fall and winter. Melatonin is responsible for helping the body fall asleep, so when it's introduced into the system in larger amounts and earlier in the day, thanks to the early sunsets this time of year, it can make people feel sluggish. Also, during fall and winter, we know that serotonin, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the body lowers, affecting one's mood. Sometimes to increase serotonin, people consume more carbohydrates like cakes, cookies, ice cream, and pizza and pasta. Why? Because this indirectly increases one's serotonin-the more serotonin we have available the better we feel. Despite these benefits, I wouldn’t suggest going on carb binges anytime soon because there are healthier ways to manage your SAD as you will see here!

Some people are at greater risk of developing SAD than others. Generally, we tend to see it more often in women than men. Living further from the equator where the nights are longer can also be a trigger. We know SAD can run in families, so one may have a predisposition to develop it.  It's also more likely to hit someone who has a history of depression or mood disorders. Since there aren't any particular medical tests that can be performed to diagnose SAD, it's very important to know your risk factors. Since the symptoms of SAD can be similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions, your doctor is likely to perform tests (e.g. blood work) to rule out other medical conditions.

The first line of treatment for moderate levels of SAD is light therapy also known as phototherapy. If you have milder symptoms of SAD, try to get more access to daytime light. The best time for this would be around noon when the sunlight is the strongest. Even though it might be super cold, put on a coat and try to spend approximately 15 to 30 minutes outdoors. If going outdoors isn't feasible, find a window that would be conducive to allow the light to enter the eyes.

For some however, this isn't enough. When this is the case, SAD is treated with light therapy using what is a called a "light box." Basically, it's a box with bright white fluorescent bulbs with UV radiation filtered out. The typical intensity of this light is 10,000 lux with an average daily exposure of 30 minutes, which is ideally administered in the morning. Since everyone's circadian rhythm is different, take the self-assessment online titled, “Your Circadian Rhythm Type" to know when to administer light therapy. 

Although light therapy is one of the first lines of treatment for SAD, there are additional treatments that can also be effective. Keep in mind that sometimes it takes ‘trial and error’ to see which one(s) work best for you. These include:
  • psychotherapy
  • taking antidepressant medications
  • exercising
  • eating healthier
  • taking supplements (e.g., Fish Oil, Vitamin D & B12, St. John's Wart, SAMe)
  • Aromatherapy
  • participating in mind-body practices such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation/guided imagery, and massage therapy    
It's important to know there is help for those who suffer from SAD. If this describes you, reach out to your medical doctor or healthcare provider to determine if what you are experiencing is SAD. And before you take measures to treat your symptoms, learn about your treatment options.  

RESOURCES

  1. Unsure where to buy SAD products, check out the Center for Environmental Therapeutics and click on the “Shop” tab.    
  2. Also, if you’re someone who enjoys being on your computer up until bedtime, it’s a MUST that you download f.lux. This filter will automatically adapt your screens brightness to the time of day.

« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 »
NorthStar Psychological + Consultation Services, LLC
429 E. Vermont Street
Suite 307
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Phone:
317-572-7847 (ST4R)
Fax:
317-632-3253
eMail:
info@northstarpsych.com
Hours:
Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Closed all other days.