Background and lock-screen pictures have become a feature of modern life. Your computer and mobile device were probably delivered with some pre-loaded scenes from nature and some of us personalize our devices by up-loading photographs taken on holiday or a recent excursion into the countryside. Perhaps, we do this intuitively, because recent research has shown that immersion in nature, even at the superficial level of viewing a picture can improve brain function. Brisk walking stimulates the production of new neurons and, when you do it in an environment enriched with natural stimuli, the connectivity and stability of connectivity between neurons is increased. For those us whose biological systems are in terminal decline, the opportunity to retard this decline by walking in the wild is too good to miss. I have gone to the English Lake District to produce and connect some more neurons. I’ll be back next week – feeling hopefully creative and empowered, as well as, probably rather damp but what else can be expected from northern England in April!
For those of you who want to immerse themselves vicariously in the damp natural environment of England in the rain could read ‘Rain: Four Walks in English Weather‘ by Melissa Harrison.
I’m in digital detox over the Christmas and New Year holidays. So no post today. Instead enjoy the picture or if you’re having withdrawal symptoms or want to know more about digital detox then read ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ posted on August 10th, 2016. Otherwise ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ [see my post on December 23rd, 2015].
It’s official – half of us are addicted to our internet-connected devices and a third of us have attempted to kick the addiction. A recent study by the UK’s communication regulator, OFCOM found that 59% of internet users considered themselves ‘hooked’ and spending the equivalent of more than a day a week on-line. They also reported that one in three internet users have attempted a ‘digital detox’ with a third saying they felt more productive afterwards, while slightly more that a quarter found it liberating and another quarter said they enjoyed life more. So, switch off all of your devices, take a deep vacation, do some off-line reading (see my post entitled ‘Reading offline‘ on March 19th, 2014), slow down and breathe your own air (see my post entitled ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd, 2015). Now, you won’t find many blogs advising you to stop reading them!
Health warning: OFCOM also found that 16% of ‘digital detoxers’ experienced FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out’ (‘FOMO’), 15% felt lost and 14% ‘cut-off’.
Writing a weekly blog must be a little like being a newspaper columnist except that I am not part of team of writers and so there is no one to stand in for me when I go away. Instead I have to get a few weeks ahead before I go away. So I will be on vacation when you read this post and I hope that I will have achieved a certain level of ‘steadiness and placidity’ to quote Michael Faraday. Faraday used to escape to Hastings, on the south coast of England, for breaks away from the hustle and bustle of London. He would take walks [see my post on August 26th, 2015 entitled ‘Take a walk on the wild side‘] and spend time on the seashore [see my post on May 4th, 2016 entitled ‘Horizon Therapy‘] to achieve ‘a kind of mental detachment, an ability to separate himself from things as they are and accept the given – certainties and uncertainties’ [from his biography by James Hamilton], which he described as ‘steadiness and placidity’.
Hamilton, J., A life of discovery: Michael Faraday, giant of the scientific revolution. New York: Random House, 2002.
In her introduction to the ‘World’s Wife’ by Carol Ann Duffy, Jeanette Winterson says the ‘punishment of the Gods turns out to be a 24/7 always-on meaningless managerial job, where no matter how many emails you answer, your inbox will be full again the next day’. As a professor, I am fortunate not to have the meaningless job part of this punishment but I do sometimes feel that my inbox fills up no matter how many emails I answer. Actually, I suspect that the filling rate is related to my answering rate but it appears to be a complex feedback relationship.
Many of us compound the punishment by shackling ourselves to the inbox via our smartphones. You may not see it as a punishment to be constantly in touch with everyone but it is probably a handicap. We have a limited bandwidth to handle information and people tend to over-communicate and lack understanding. We need to reduce the level of communication and increase the level of understanding.
I am breaking the relentless cycle of communication by taking a holiday for a couple of weeks. There will be some horizon therapy [see my post entitled ‘Horizon Therapy‘ on May 4th, 2016] and mind-wandering [see post entitled ‘Mind wandering‘ on September 3rd, 2014] as well as doing pretty much nothing.