Technology Is Killing Your Mobility, Productivity and Happiness!
With the amount of modern day conveniences at our fingertips it should be easier than ever to live healthy and fulfilling lives, but actually the opposite is happening. The fact is we have developed unhealthy lifestyles due in large part to our advancements in technology and our digital world. Many of the things that make our lives easier also make us less mobile, less emotionally connected and create unnecessary stress in our lives. With the help of our electronic sidekicks we have become out of touch with our personal health needs. In the high speed digital age we are constantly inundated with information, gadgets, food, activities, entertainment and anything else we want within seconds of thinking about it and this can be very bad for our lifestyle and our health.
What are “YOUR” thoughts?
The initial victim is our peace of mind and focus. It is practically impossible to clear your mind and just absorb and analyze your thoughts and feelings with all of the digital noise that surrounds us each day. It is crucial to be proactive and create intentions for yourself before you open up your inbox and become reactive – working to meet everyone else’s needs. Create a “To-do” list that has 2-3 things that are for you. Not for your job. Not for your family. Not for your friends, coworkers, or for any other reason. This will ensure you are maintaining a healthy balance and allow you to have the energy and focus to help others when they really need you.
Look at the real me!
We are becoming more of a shallow society because every social media platform promotes filtering ourselves and what the world sees of us. We have begun to only reveal our best selves and not necessarily our true selves. I call this “living only screen deep” and this is leaving many of us unhappy and unhealthy. The digital world is expertly designed to grab our attention and drive us to seek out Facebook likes, Instagram follows and Twitter retweets. These media platforms are distracting us from working on our weaknesses and becoming better people. Instead we decide to post the pictures of us doing the things we want people to believe we consistently do. Your social media existence can be changed and filtered with the click of a button, but real life change takes really hard work. It is important for you to discover who the real you is and what the real you needs. We must be willing to highlight our weaknesses and work to improve them if we want to succeed in life!
Family over Followers!
Social media can also lead us away from cultivating real lasting relationships and replace them with our virtual friends/followers list. Real physical relationships provide us with the lasting continuous support and love we need. These long term real relationships will not only provide us with the interactions that will ensure we are supported and loved when the screen is turned off, but also keeps us balanced mentally when these feelings are reciprocated by our loved ones. You cannot build these relationships through a computer screen. Make sure you are spending time with your friends and family in person whenever possible to maintain a healthy balance and remember to put away your cell phone.
Stand up before it’s too late!
The largest muscle in the body is your gluteus maximus and no that is not Latin for seat cushion. Wouldn’t you think the size of your butt alone means it is supposed to be used for something important? Standing, walking, running, lifting and carrying all primarily use the glutes as one of the major muscles. We were made to move, not sit and stare. Unfortunately our digital lifestyles and many of our current popular professions force us to sit down more than our bodies were designed to. To counteract these habits we must choose to add more movement into our daily lives. A well-designed purposeful exercise program can help you add more general daily movement and work your specific muscle groups more frequently in a shorter period of time which is one reason why exercise is so important.
Sitting isn’t only a pain in the butt. It also causes pain and mobility problems in other areas of the body. Even while reading this post it is important to ensure your posture is good, you are taking frequent breaks, and you are keeping a consistent breathing pattern. Believe me as someone who works on the computer every day I understand how hard it can be to remember these things, especially when you are really focused on your work or have deadline to meet, but what is more important, an email or your back health?
As a fitness professional working with 100’s of people, I see the negative impacts technology driven habits can have on the human body and they are becoming more prevalent. If you want to maintain your health and functional mobility you must learn to adapt. Poor posture and spinal issues are two of the major problems arising from the prolonged sitting and spinal flexion that correlate with computer and mobile device use. (1)One study suggests that more frequent standing rest breaks can help reduce lower back pain. So, set up a timer and have it go off every 30 minutes to prompt you to stand up for 1-3 minutes and walk around or stretch.
Are you connected to being disconnected?
The development of our computer and hand held device based lifestyle has also started to keep us from doing some of the healthiest and most positive things we can do for our emotional and mental health. When was the last time you had an electronics free day? Plan a day away from home and away from your cell phone. Find a local park and go for a hike to clear your mind of all the unnecessary information and distractions. Have you read a book lately? This keeps your mind sharp and helps you detach from the stresses of your day. It’s important for us to identify which modern luxuries and conveniences can have negative effects on our health and limit or at least alter our use of them to mitigate their negative long and short term effects. By planning ahead and setting parameters around your technology usage you will allow yourself to completely disconnect from time to time. This is critical part of maintaining your mental and emotional health.
Don’t let your diet conveniently kill you!
I like to focus on an 80/20 rule to help me balance my choices and still enjoy the foods and beverages I love. Our overall diet can have the biggest effect on our health and it is also one of the hardest things to manage, but a little preparation can go a long way. Let’s discuss a few easy ways to eat healthy in this hectic world and keep it simple so we use our time efficiently. Have you ever attempted meal prep? How about a local healthy food preparation service? These services are becoming more accessible and affordable. Even if you decide to only use them for a short time they can help you get back on track.
Blended breakfast shakes can be as easy as a blender full of your favorite fruit, steel cut oats, ice, milk of your choice, peanut butter and either protein or meal replacement powder. Blend up enough ingredients made mainly of whole foods to last you 3-5 days. You can split single shakes up into sealable mason jars. Wrap each glass with plastic wrap and freeze them. Take one out each night put it in the fridge before bed and you’ll have an easy grab and go meal in the morning. For lunch preparation, toss a bunch of chicken breasts in a crock pot with the vegetables of your choice, boil a pot of brown rice, bake a few sweet potatoes and you will have several easy ready to go healthy lunches.
Studies show much of our eating is mindless so why not eat to fuel your body and to achieve your health goals? For those moments when you need a pick me up. Stock your cabinet with fresh fruit, nuts, dehydrated meats, dark chocolate and healthy protein bars. These are just a few good snack choices among many. Snacking can be a great asset for fueling your workout, but if not controlled it will also fuel the size of your waist line. If it has a ton of ingredients you don’t understand, doesn’t require refrigeration, and is loaded with simple carbohydrates, sugars and artificial flavors try and avoid it.
For dinner how does an oven baked ginger, pepper, and honey glazed salmon filet, bag of microwaveable quinoa, and frozen vegetables sound? Frozen vegetables sometimes get a bad rap, but they are a good source of the essential micro and macronutrients we need and are convenient as well. You can cook multiple filets in one day put them in the fridge and you’ll have no excuses to eat takeout! Pour a glass of pinot noir for a boost of resveratrol at the end of the day to wash it all down and you have created multiple healthy and delicious meals for your entire week!
Stop letting them consume you!
With the amount of consumer data that is being collected about us and the on demand delivery of almost anything we want, things have started to consume us. There are many pluses to our get it on demand lifestyles, but there can also be many negatives if we don’t remain aware and in control. We have basically become a society of mindless consumers in many ways and these consumables have lost some of their value due to this. We consume information, entertainment, electronics, clothes, food, drugs etc…. and if we are bored with one product, we demand another. So, what happens when we are out of new products to consume and are left to discover happiness and contentment without these things? The further down the rabbit hole you go the harder it is to turn back!
Here are a few ways to ensure you are fulfilling your most basic human needs while enjoying as many healthy wants as you’d like. Take time to just sit and meditate for 10-15 minutes each day and see what thoughts and feelings come up that have been buried under the distractions of things. Sit and write down how you currently feel about your life’s relationships, faith, work, health, family, friends, hobbies and anything else that is important to you. Review the past month and see where you could have done something that may have been more fulfilling and beneficial for any of these areas of your life. Take action on a few of these things and give your real needs the attention they deserve.
Adapt and overcome!
The truth is our technology is way out in front in the race we call life and we must learn to adapt sooner than later. It is a good thing that we have so many options, but we have to ensure that our ability to function in all arenas as humans remains an important part of our daily game plan. I know we have all thought of the human existence portrayed in the 2008 Disney-PIXAR movie Wall-E and imagined we may not be far from there. This is a partially accurate and sad reality as our obesity rate is higher than ever and our life expectancy dropped for the first time in decades last year. We are happier and more fulfilled as individuals when we are able to move, think, and feel without limitations. Unfortunately, if we don’t make some changes soon we may lose all three of these luxuries!
(1) School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, 28 Division Street, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada.