Protecting Our Mental Health Within the Storm of Disrespect and AgitationJuly 6, 2023
Replace “anxious” with “aware”September 10, 2023
Where would we be without our cell phones? For some, it’s feeling LOST. For others, it’s feeling FOUND. And for many, a bit of both, experiencing a mix of disorientation, disruption, relief, and relaxation, each with their own unique descriptions.
Recently, I traveled outside of the US, and to my delight, I found myself offline for certain periods. Nothing major; I have been offline for a lot longer, but for some reason this experience made it clear to me how dependent so many of us are on our phones and other devices. Perhaps the “Covid shut down” (and this being my first major trip since then) heightened my sensitivity as I observed people (one of my favorite activities) and was surprised by just how “attached” we are to our devices.
First, a bit of background.
I credit my parents with my love of traveling. My sister and I were introduced to travel from a very young age. With family in Canada and California, we often took vacations to visit them. I remember, at 5 years old, “walking” to California on a flight that seemed to take forever. I am certain that I still have the “wings” I earned from that trip. Twice, we drove a new Chevrolet station wagon from New Jersey to California, singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” more times than Dinah Shore, leaving the car with our relatives, and flying back home (earning more wings).
Our first coast to coast drive was the “southern route” and a few years later, “we embarked on the “northern route.” We took in the landscape, interacted with people, tasted new foods, and heard English spoken in ways we had never heard. As we “lost” familiar stations with crazy static we received signals with music that were new to our ears. In certain regions when we tried to order a “soda” we needed to order a “pop “and the further south we went we had to say “Coke” (even if we wanted a “7-Up”).
During World War II, (before my father was sent to the South Pacific), my mother followed him around the country to various Army Air Force bases. Often, she was given the job as a base driver in order to be close to my father. Together, as young newlyweds, they saw places in the country that most of their friends from home had never seen.
Whenever we traveled, with our parents or on our own, we talked to people. We shared our lives and they shared theirs. When we were lost, we asked people for directions. More often than not getting lost resulted in a warm invitation to join for a coffee or to spend time together. Many cherished family friendships sprouted from these encounters with people from around the world.
I am fortunate that in my 3/4 of a century, I have traveled a lot.
I did much of my traveling by myself for pleasure or work. I would usually start talking to whoever was next to me. Fortunately, I rarely encountered the “accidental tourist“ whose face was buried in a book, sending signals of disinterest in my companionship or conversation. If that was the case, it was not a problem. Because I, too, always had a book to read or a letter to write or sleep to catch up on.
Even when I wasn’t in the mood to engage with others, there was an unspoken acknowledgment of a fellow human being in our orbits. A brief hello, an exchange of names, and a mention of our respective origins and destinations were customary. It was an expression of “common courtesy” that enriched the travel experience.
As a lifelong traveler, some of my deepest and most meaningful friendships began while waiting for a delayed flight, or sitting next to a stranger on a plane, train, ferry, or bus. Because of those encounters, I’ve had adventures I could never have imagined and, in some cases visited places I had never heard of because they are only known to the “locals.” And fortunately, those locals who were strangers became my friends.
Now, as we shuttle through our travels it is possible, (and often our choice) to avoid interaction or engagement with another human being for an entire trip. For boarding passes, train, bus, ferry tickets, taxi payment, selection of menu options in a restaurant / café, or getting descriptions of what we see as we wander through a museum or historic landmark, our “source” and “resource” is our phones. And when we are standing in a line, waiting to have an experience, many of us are on our phones, thus preventing an opportunity for interaction with a person nearby. When we are in a new place, using Google Maps to find our way with “the woman who lives in the phone” (whose cousin lives in our cars), “she” informs us when to turn right or left.
One night as I was strolling through the winding streets of Palma in Mallorca, I noticed that my familiar, visual landmarks were closed — shuttered for the night. Everything looked different and I had no idea which alley I was supposed to take. The streetlights were dim; it was difficult to see. I admit, at that moment, I was relieved to have “her” guide me back to my hotel. (Full disclosure: I double-checked “her” directions with two humans, reaffirming my faith in people’s willingness to help and be kind.)
Of course, I am a fan of having my phone available so that I can be in touch with loved ones while away, if I choose.
I have watched my grandchildren playing in the surf of a distant ocean and I have spoken with a sick friend while I was traveling, thousands of miles away. This is truly wonderful. What concerns me is what I observe more and more: the various missed opportunities to connect with real-live human beings who are right beside us. I question why playing video games and scrolling through TikTok appears to be more important at “that” moment than making space for the possibility of creating a new connection with another person. Embracing these opportunities for authentic human interaction could make our journeys more enriching and fulfilling.
I am asking each of us to be aware and intentional when we use our devices. Perhaps immediately going to the phone as a “knee-jerk” response isn’t the wisest. In our tech-driven world, let’s not overlook the value of genuine human connections during our travels. No doubt countless incredible stories await as we are open to shared experiences. We can cherish these unexpected moments as we appreciate their potential depth and meaning.
August Reset: Regrouping and Achieving Your Year’s Goals
As we enter the month of August, it’s an opportune time to regroup, reassess, and realign our focus on the goals we may have set at the beginning of this year. With half of the year behind us, it’s natural to feel a sense of urgency to accomplish what we set out to achieve. To help make the most of this pivotal month, here is a list of tips to revitalize our motivation and propel us towards achievement or at least a re-examination of those goals.
- Reflect on Our Progress: Take a moment to evaluate how far we’ve come since the start of the year. Celebrate the milestones achieved and identify areas that require more attention. Reflecting on our progress can provide clarity and inspire us to keep moving toward the goal.
- Revisit and Refine Our Goals: Review the goals and make necessary adjustments. Prioritize the most important objectives and break them down into actionable steps. Setting smaller milestones will make our goals more attainable and keep us motivated.
- Create a Clear Plan: Develop a detailed action plan for the remaining months of the year. Set specific deadlines and establish a roadmap to guide our progress. Break the tasks into manageable chunks and consider leveraging productivity tools or apps to stay organized and stay focused.
- Seek Accountability: Share our goals with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor who will hold us accountable. Regular check-ins and constructive feedback can help us stay on track, not feel so alone on our journey, and make the necessary adjustments when needed.
- Stay Focused and Eliminate Distractions: August can be a challenging month. There are vacations, social events, and last minute “summer” plans, projects, and other distractions. Identify potential time-wasters and create boundaries to protect the focus. Dedicate specific time slots to work on goals without interruptions.
- Embrace Self-Care: Remember to prioritize self-care during this intense period. Take breaks, exercise regularly, eat nourishing food, and get enough rest. Nurturing our physical and mental well-being will enhance our productivity and ability to deal with challenges productively and creatively.
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Approach any setbacks or challenges with a growth mindset. Embrace them as learning opportunities and keep a positive outlook. Learn from past experiences and use them to fuel a deep determination to succeed.
We can use August as an opportunity to regroup, recalibrate, and reignite our passion for achieving this year’s goals. By reflecting on our progress, refining our objectives, and developing a clear plan, we can set ourselves up for success. With accountability, focus, self-care, and a growth mindset, we can navigate the rest of this year with renewed motivation and determination. We can embrace the power of August and make it the month that propels us closer to our dreams.
Notice Something That You See Everyday
We can make a mental note to spend more than the usual time (which is often “no” time) with something that we experience every day. Anything can be “paid attention to.” Perhaps it is the fragrance of our morning coffee or tea. Or the color and feel of the wood grain banister on the stairway. It may be the way the fruit is arranged in a bowl. Or the feel of the water on our hands as it flows from the faucet.
When we think about the countless things that come before our senses each day, it is easy to select just one to highlight for an extra few moments.
Regarding visual input, rather than “seeing without noticing,” commit to “noticing what you see.”
One thing each day.
One thing that is part of our day.
Stop. Look. Notice. Reflect.