Social Media is Confusing to the Brain

Original comments for an interview in Esquire Magazine with Luke O’Neil

Animal videos, family news, staying connected and innocent jokes were the original intent of social media but when you deviate, there is the potential for problems for you and others. Fake news, political arguments, hostile or inappropriate content and even enhanced images can confuse social media. And when you are switching back and forth, for example from an image of a mistreated animal to a funny video and then back to a more serious post, the brain has to multi-task and switch quickly which may not be good in the long run.

While all media has been switching moods for some time, as images that range from horrific to banal, but with social media the speed and frequency is greater. Does the brain have the time to process it all? Not usually, because you aren’t sticking with anything long enough for it to really sink in before moving to the next post. And that can diminish the involvement and attention that something you deem worthy gets from you. Most of all, your brain and emotions are pressed to multi-task at a level that can cause fatigue and over the course of life, can even cause wear and tear on the brain. For women, who typically multi-task more, the result is memory loss in later life.

The upside is that, continually switching images inhibits a full reaction to a disturbing post and that isn’t always a bad thing. It causes “pattern interruption” and shifts your mood in a good way. However, if there is a post that touches you or that you connect with, stay with it and feel the full range of your reaction before moving on. Most disturbing information does not require dwelling, but some is meaningful and triggers something that you may want to pay attention to, if you have time.

I shared with Esquire that information overload isn’t new, nor is Twitter, TV news, or magazines and newspapers, They have long presented the worst alongside the mundane. The difference is that social media makes the experience more passive. You have less of a choice because with other forms of media, you can change the channel, close the magazine or shut down in any way you choose. But with twitter the information comes at you fast and furious.

There is a LOT of information about how distracting it is to constantly be checking posts, and the info shows that it causes lack of attention to tasks, anxiety and sleep issues. It’s easy to say spend less time on social media, but for a lot of professions, it’s crucial to stay on top. Staying grounded and oriented to the task at hand requires sitting back from this chaos in order to have a healthy response. In my most recent book, Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life, I explain what I call “conscious viewing.” When you view any video, post, movie, etc. view consciously. so that you see exactly what it is presenting and be ready to step back from it if it isn’t constructive. It’s kind of what you do automatically when something is too violent, but is a conscious decision.

I explained to Esquire reporter Luke O’Neil, that shutting down is easier said than done, particularly as social media apps actively keep you addicted, but noticing that something has become a problem for you is always primary for any dependency. When you are wading through your posts decide what is worthy of your attention and what is not. Allow yourself to receive information that is important to you more deeply, by conscious viewing.Take a moment to ask yourself how something is this affecting you? Is it inspiring, compassionate, humorous? Checking your reaction puts you back in charge.

Some Key tips for managing social media:

  • Stay away from political discourse on a family friendly site, such as Facebook.Too many people lose friends due to political disagreements that went public this way.
  • Block any sites that are disturbing.
  • Get your news from news outlets and publications, not social media and don’t subscribe to news sites on social media
  • Limit social media time and use of devices in the family
  • No devices on during sleep
  • Never fall for false associations ( like the ones in ads, that show a beautiful couple dancing to french music and the product is something like potato chips or bath fixtures The same connections are made in news as in advertising, there is no logical connection or a slim one, but it can stick. I explain this in my award-winning book, Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life. I have coined the term adsociation© – an ad or news post creates an association that does not exist, and it applies to all media. Once you say something and associate it often enough, it can become a part of your thinking. The TV ad about the apple is a great “pattern interrupt,” because it reminds you that no matter how many times you are told that an apple is a banana, you know it is not. And that is good advice for all media viewing.

Music: how and why it works for better health

Originally from an interview with Jenna Birch at Fitbit   

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MUSIC’S EFFECT ON YOU?

The potential benefits of music as a therapeutic and healing tool are endless!  The ways that music affects you can have a big impact on health, happiness and personal growth, or they can just be a way to reduce stress and enhance mood.  Some of the specifics about music include:

-This is Your Brain on Music” (Plume/Penguin, 2007) tells us that listening to and playing music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

-Children with emotional disorders receiving music therapy show less anxiety, greater emotional responsivity and better communication skills.
http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/music-therapy-emotionally-disturbed-children

-Outcomes reported by the American Psychological Association indicate that music is medicine for premature infants, depressed people and those with Parkinson’s disease. Lullabies may soothe pre-term babies and their parents, improving their sleep and eating patterns. It is also calming to the parents.

– In the trial with 42 children ages 3 to 11, University of Alberta researchers found that patients who listened to relaxing music while getting an IV inserted reported significantly less pain, and some demonstrated significantly less distress, compared with patients who did not listen to music  (JAMA Pediatrics, July, 2013).

-Music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April, 2013).

-University of Toronto’s Music and Health Research Collaboratory brings together scientists from around the world who are studying music’s effect on health.The group is  examining something called thalamocortical dysrhythmia — a disorientation of rhythmic brain activity involving the thalamus and the outer cortex that appears to play a role in several medical conditions including Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease, says Bartel, who directs the collaboratory.”Since the rhythmic pulses of music can drive and stabilize this disorientation, we believe that low-frequency sound might help with these conditions,” Bartel says. He is leading a study using vibroacoustic therapy with patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease. The hope is that using the therapy to restore normal communication among brain regions may allow for greater memory retrieval, he says.”

With all of the evidence of the power of music, when doctors listen to music during procedures, the patient should talk to the surgeon about the kind of music they would like to hear while they are in surgery.

FUN FACTS
There are many, many studies on the effects of music and it is a broad field so there is much more to tell, but here are some fun facts:

-The Mozart Effect –  Mozart’s music has been found to have powerful properties. Monks who played Mozart during baking of bread or making of beer found that the food and drink were reviewed differently than the same products made without the music; the products made to a background of Mozart were rated as tasting better.  There is much to be said about the Mozart Effect and more can be found at http://mozarteffect.com/

-Another fun fact is that there were plant studies in which plants that were exposed to classical music fared better and were healthier than those exposed to heavy metal music. In one study http://www.dovesong.com/positive_music/plant_experiments.asp experimenters showed that the best schedule of auditing sound was not to play it continuously but rather to have it play for a few hours intermittently.  When it was played continuously it caused fatigue.

HOW CAN MUSIC BE USED TO REGULATE MOOD?

  • Generally, music that resonates with the body’s natural heartbeat is best.  The body responds to beats, rhythms and sounds.
  • Choose the most soothing, uplifting, happy and high-quality music you can. Think of it as food – you want to put the best food into your body and music has a similar effect of nurturing the self.
  • The body responds to soothing music by slowing down the stress response, by slowing the breath which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is necessary for the body to relax and to heal from any health condition or just from one day of stress
  • Music that is raucous and is random or chaotic has the opposite effect and raises the body’s stress level. Also, any music that evokes a negative emotional response due to past memories.
  • You have most likely had the experience of walking in public and you hear a song on a loudspeaker that reminds you of specific things that have happened to you in your life and your mood quickly lifts. Listen to music from your generation or favorite movie to generate happy feelings.

ARE THERE WAYS TO USE MUSIC THERAPEUTICALLY?

  • Use the music you need; for example, if you are low energy, play a march and get up and move around or play music that energizes you.
  • When stressed, use classical music, especially Mozart or  Pachelbel’s Canon and allow yourself to stop and just listen.
  • Listen to the best quality music in your favorite genre that is available to you, something with a positive message.
  • To change a mood when feeling low, start with music that reflects your mood and them move to slighter more positive music and then to very positive music. Your mind and body need time to respond so this approach is effectively used in music therapy programs.
  • Use the research above and listen to music intermittently, rather than all the time.
  • See my chapter in Spiritual Fitness on using music as therapy, and the bibliography of music at the end. http://drnancyonline.com/product/spiritual-fitness-by-dr-nancy-mramor/

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN THE FUTURE?
Possibly, ways to develop doseable music both amounts and kinds for specific purposes!

 

Why Couples Rush to therapy

Couples Blog for Bravo – Jen Glantz
Originally written for Bravo, Personal Space, September 2017. Personal Space is Bravo’s home for all things “relationship.”

 

The days of When Harry Met Sally when you could marry your long-time best friend aren’t over, but they have taken a backseat to new ways of meeting online. Rules for relationships aren’t clear online and they need to be written in a way that is understandable. But Integrity, honesty and being upfront about who you are haven’t gone out of style though, and when things get rough more couples are going to therapy in real life. And because media always keeps up with real life, you can catch celebrities working it out on the air in Couples Therapy.  So why is everyone using therapy to help their relationships? Read More

Why do people like Hillary Clinton Love Watching HGTV?


Originally appeared in Dow Jones Moneyish interview  Sept. 19, 2017

Of all of the magazines that I have in my waiting room at my psychology practice, HGTV is the one that everyone reads! And the HGTV channels are the ones that everyone watches because they can they can lose themselves in a sea of possibilities. Many Pinterest pages are really about decorating and home projects, as these topics are very appealing to a large number of people.

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