Monthly Archives: May 2016

Review- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Just going to copy and paste my Goodreads review. You guys know how I struggle with distractedness/attention issues… I may be on my way to fixing some of that.

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 Really fascinating read! Well… the chapters on the history of how technology has influenced the human mind/culture were engrossing. The ones on the potential future of reading were terrifying for me as an author who does not want to write multimedia books in tweetable snippets that people can bounce in and out of without deep reading and engaging with the content. I mean, that was all interesting, too. Just in a less pleasant way than the bits about maps and clocks and printing presses. 🙂

I picked this book up because I feel the effects of what the internet/social media/constant connectedness are doing to my brain. I have no attention span. I’m constantly distracted, as though my brain is searching for diversions when I try to work, eager for any notification or excuse to bounce off and do some research instead of becoming engrossed in what I should be doing. I can only read for extended periods if I haven’t touched my phone/computer that day. If I have, I’m primed for distraction and can’t get into a book (especially fiction). And this book mentions all of those symptoms. I was basically just looking for the science behind it, not to be convinced. I was already there, just from my own experience.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t tell us what to do about it. The author acknowledges that there are many advantages to our new technology (obviously, and the book is definitely not all gloom and doom, as the title suggests), and points out that it’s far too late to close the gates on this progress and its effects, positive and negative. He outlines in detail how computer and internet use affect our brains. He does not address practical ways to curtail the effects while maintaining our connection to the benefits.

So while this was a really interesting read, I can only recommend it to those looking for information on the problems we face, not those looking for practical solutions. I’d love to see a book on that. For now, I’m experimenting. “Social Media Sabbaths” are becoming a regular thing here on Sundays for me, and I’m actually getting some reading done. I’ve already got all notifications turned off on my phone, as absolutely none of them are necessary and all of them derail me from real life and important tasks. And I’m going to start leaving my wifi off/ leaving my phone outside the office until after my work is done for the day. My short experiments have shown that my concentration on reading does improve when the internet is off-limits… we’ll see what happens for my writing.

So there we go. I got on this book via another book that I’ll review on my YouTube channel: “The Productivity Project.” That one was less in-depth, but more helpful in practical ways.

 

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My Writing Routine

…such as it is.

I got a question from Charlotte on Facebook about my writing routines (do I have one, do I write every day, etc.) and answered in video form.

Can’t watch? Long story short, I have one… and it doesn’t always work out so well. 🙂


This is so awkward…

I did a thing.

You guys know how I’m trying to stretch myself a bit. Not just in my work, though I am taking on new challenges there, but in my attitudes, my lifestyle, and my actions. I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone so I can learn to be more at home in the world outside of my house and maybe add more to it.

Well, one of the things that’s way outside of my comfort zone is any form of public speaking. Or any speaking, unless I’m with people I’m comfortable with. Writing is just easier, so I like to talk through my fingers. It works most of the time, but my discomfort with speaking is likely a huge part of my social awkwardness and desire to never have to go out and talk to anyone in person.

And my anxiety over making phone calls, actually.

So I’ve started a vlog. It’s not a big thing in the grand scheme of the universe, but it’s a huge step for me. It’s another way I can connect with you guys, too, and that’s important when I have no idea how many people actually read posts here. It’s a little more interactive, a little more challenging for me, and hopefully a little more fun for you. Videos will be short. The first one is 11 minutes, but I’m going to try to keep them under eight. I know you’ve got things to do.

Know what I’ve got? A Canadian accent, apparently. That’s been the big comment so far. At least people seem to enjoy it…

Anyway, here you go. Please enjoy my fumbling first attempt at letting the world see what I’m actually like when I’m not hiding behind my keyboard. Some day I’ll release the outtakes so we can all laugh. O.o

I’ve got a page of ideas for things to talk about (mostly non-writing), but if you have questions or ideas for topics, I’d be happy to fit them in. If I know what you want, I can give it to you. 🙂


Victory (again… for now)

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago with the caption below, and enough people found it helpful/motivating that I thought I’d share it with you guys.

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I cried a little at the end of our run today. Not because it was hard, but because I realized that I had won again. A lot of you know that I went through another bad round with depression back in the fall/winter, and I’ve been fighting to get out of it using exercise, reading and taking action on self-help stuff (even the silly crap), and weekly self-therapy sessions (don’t laugh). It’s hard work, like dragging my reluctant ass up a steep and muddy slope. But as I collapse here with my running buddy/motivational canine, I feel like I’ve made it back to what passes for normal for me. I broke my reading slump. I have an amazing book coming out in less than 2 months. And I feel good.

Next challenge to add to this one: getting the headaches and brain fog sorted out. I can do this. Baby steps.

So there’s the update for people who have been following along since I started talking about pulling myself out of this pit (here and here). I’m still doing weekly question-and-answer therapy sessions with myself to dig down to the roots of things that are holding me down and trying to drag me back into the pit. Through that I’ve broken my reading slump, changed some of my beliefs, and found a bit of the balance I’m looking for in my life (still a long way to go there). I’m on week four of Couch to 5K (C25K) training, and having that challenge to look forward to/achievement under my belt in the morning/extra exercise is helping a lot with my motivation.

This doesn’t mean my depression is cured. It means that for now, I’m finding ways to change my brain chemistry and thought patterns in ways that allow me to be less anxious, less hopeless, more motivated, and on an upward spiral. Most days are still challenges. There are still triggers that can snap me back into a low mood/closed-off state, but I’m learning to identify and deal with them through changing my perceptions and reactions. (And THAT, my friends, is slow going. But I’ll get there.)

It’s hard work, and I know how fortunate I am to have the time to do it. I’ve been in a lot of different places with my mental health. I’ve been crushed under panic attacks. I’ve been depressed enough that I lacked the motivation to kill myself, but passively wished I was dead. I’ve survived times when none of that responded to medications until I was on high doses of antidepressants that turned me into an emotionless, anhedonic zombie (but hey, they helped me survive). I’ve suffered withdrawal symptoms from coming off of those drugs that were worse than the side-effects. I’ve wanted to exercise and eat better and lacked the time, energy, and resources to do either.

This post isn’t to say “LOOK WHAT I DID, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT TOO,” because screw that. This isn’t advice or a how-to, but an encouragement. My path to feeling better is the one that’s working for me right now, and if sharing my journey helps one person decide that it is possible to feel better, that the fight is worth fighting, or that they’re going to speak up about the shit that they’re going through and seek help, my mission will be accomplished. Maybe for you that means speaking to your doctor. Maybe it means admitting to your family that you need help to find time to get ten minutes of walking in. Maybe it means opening up to a friend who’s been there who can tell you that it can and does get better.

If you’re fighting depression (or not fighting it… I’ve been there, too) or any other mental illness, you are not alone. You are not a weirdo. You’re not defective. You are amazingly strong, and the proof of that is the fact that you’re still here. You are not your illness, and YOU are still there under it.

And if you don’t believe that right now, that’s okay, too. I believe it for you.

It’s Mental Health Week. I’m getting loud.

(As for the end of that facebook status, about the headaches and brain fog… CT scan results are in and my doctor asked to see me next week. Fingers crossed.)

*Though it is a cycle. When I took the baby step of walking for 20 minutes a day, I gained the energy to walk for 30. And my mood lifted a little. And I found motivation to make other changes.

 


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