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home : education : schools January 16, 2019

12/18/2018 1:28:00 PM
'JOMO' reduces holiday stress
Kids can have fun without their devices — with things like Lincoln Logs. photo by T. Lee Brown
+ click to enlarge
Kids can have fun without their devices — with things like Lincoln Logs. photo by T. Lee Brown

Gifts for a joyful holiday
Before screens, we had books. A good book can feel impossible to put down. Yet unlike our phones, books were not engineered to addict their users.

The following books explore our brains and technology. Try walking into a brick-and-mortar bookstore to find your copy. This supports local businesses that employ real-life people in your community. Unlike the robots in Amazon's warehouses, you can chat with these folks and learn something new.

"Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self" by Manoush Zomorodi (St. Martin's Press). This one's genuinely fun! Popular podcaster Manoush challenged her listeners to experiment with changing their phone habits. She was surprised when thousands of people signed up. Bored and Brilliant combines the real-life stories of her listeners with cutting-edge research about how our brains work, and what technology is doing to them. The book is appropriate for teenagers on up, and isn't anti-technology. It's more a fascinating exploration of our culture, our apps, and our minds.

"How to Break Up with Your Phone" by Catherine Price (Random House). Don't let the title fool you. Founder of the JOMO Project, Price is not out to eliminate technology but to help readers take control. Hoping to balance your phone and device use to make your real life happier? This slender volume gets right to the point. Practical, not preachy, Price presents information and techniques in a simple, nonjudgmental way.

"Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now" by Jaron Lanier (Henry Holt). Need a present for the dashing but nerdy over-thinker in your life? The one who keeps up with cultural trends and makes interesting connections between a variety of subjects? Here you go. Even if they don't personally use social media, your big thinker may get a big kick out of Ten Arguments. Author Jaron Lanier is an old-school virtual reality pioneer, an influential thought leader in Silicon Valley since the 1980s. He's not always right, but he's always smart, entertaining, and thought-provoking. And he understands, from the inside out, how we've all been buffaloed by Silicon Valley's culture, political views, and ability to "highjack users' brains."

"Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy" by Siva Vaidhyanathan (Oxford University Press). This one's neither fun nor simple. Bracing and rigorous, Antisocial Media is a beautifully researched condemnation of the Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp empire. Vaidhyanathan lays bare embarrassing fact after embarrassing fact. He tells the story of how Facebook clumsily evolved from a "hot-or-not" style app for rating the attractiveness of Harvard students into a global mind-control leviathan. I don't know how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sleeps at night, knowing he inspired a book like this!

Paulina Springs Books in Sisters offers a 15 percent discount on these titles. Ask at checkout for details.

By T. Lee Brown

Family feasts. School concerts. Church services. Labyrinth walks. Spiritual and secular traditions light up the darkest month of winter. Making all this happen takes a lot of work: cooking, crafting, shopping, collaborating, organizing, and traveling.

With the work comes stress - and the feeling that there's not enough time to get everything done right. Family conflicts erupt for some folks; others feel left out and lonely.

One way to alleviate stress and reconnect with holiday goodness? Cultivating "JOMO," or the Joy of Missing Out. It's the opposite of FOMO, Fear of

Missing Out.

FOMO is the nagging feeling that we're going to miss out on something exciting. Ironically, this fear sends us to our Facebook feeds, video games, Snapstreaks, cable news that matches our political silo - causing us to miss out on our real lives.

"When we're on our devices, we lose the ability to mark the passage of time," Dr. David Greenfield, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, recently told the LA Times. "This phenomenon is called dissociation, and virtually everyone experiences it to some extent when on screens."

Those missing minutes cause more stress once we come back to real life, where there are turkeys to be stuffed and stockings to be hung from the chimney with care. During the hustle and bustle, every minute counts.

Also back in real life, we find real human beings. Some of them may have traveled hundreds of miles to spend time together. Connecting with them in a deep and present way isn't possible when we continually check in with our devices.

"We have to all work and be even more intentional about having face-to-face time and interactions with people," said Audry Van Howeling in an interview with The Nugget. Founder of She Soars Psychiatry, Van Howeling works with patients around the state of Oregon.

Van Howeling takes a functional medicine approach to emotional and mental wellbeing, addressing root causes rather than relying primarily on pharmaceuticals.

"We are built to be social creatures," she explained. "There are very real psychological and physiological benefits to looking each other in the eye, maybe a light touch - that's a bonding experience."

Disembodied socializing via devices is linked to anxiety, depression, and a soaring suicide rate, particularly among young people. Excessive social media, video games, and Internet pornography use affect thousands of people and their loved ones. "We're more 'connected' but also more lonely than ever before," said Van Howeling.

Catherine Price would likely agree. The author of "How to Break Up with Your Phone" and founder of the JOMO Project, Price believes it's possible to use technology wisely.

"More and more people are realizing that the time they spend on their phones doesn't always make them feel good - and that staring at our screens is having negative effects on our brains and bodies," Price recently told The Nugget.

She aims to help people "redefine their relationships with their devices so that they're able to use them in ways that feel good or that are useful," she said, "without getting sucked in for hours at a time."

Breaking a heavy addiction may not be easy during the action-packed holiday season. Price and her readers plan to launch a New Year effort toward better digital device use. Look for helpful details in The Nugget's special Focus on Health issues in January.

In the meantime, applying a few JOMO principles to everyday life can de-stress the holidays. Putting phones out of sight to charge and asking for a phone-free dinner table are two easy techniques. See "Cultivate Holiday Joy" in this issue for more suggestions.

The holiday season offers many opportunities for discovering meaning and connection in real life. Music concerts, church services, parties, community meals, volunteering opportunities, and craft fairs abound. There are many ways to enjoy missing out on the endless Facebook scroll.

Cultivate holiday joy
Ready to have a joyful, meaningful holiday season? Jump into JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out. Detach from the constant news cycle. Don't worry about who's doing what on social media. The holidays are a great time to connect in real life with real people (see related story, page 3).

1. Make a Decision

Decide whether you really want more time, connection, and real-life joy. If the answer is yes, try a couple of the following methods. Keep in mind that you'll probably slip, and these attempts won't go perfectly. That's OK.

2. Try a Screen-Free Zone

Designate times and places where phones aren't used. Start with the dinner table; use a box or basket where people can deposit their phones. Consider adding in the living room, fireplace, kitchen, or wherever folks gather. If you normally keep a TV on in the background, banish it for special days like Christmas. Cover it with a pretty cloth. Even a simple yule log video can trigger addictive responses in people who are used to being on screens all day.

3. Go for Games & Stories

Have your family and friends lost the art of friendly chit-chat and storytelling? Bring in a game for a conversation starter. It can be a wacky board game, a round of cards, or a simple prompt. For example, go around the table and ask everyone to tell about the most creative, surprising, or embarrassing day they had in 2018.

4. Set Up a Charging Station

Find an out-of-the-way spot to charge your phone. Out of sight, out of mind. Add a power strip so that guests can park their phones at your station, too. Having to sneak into someone else's bedroom to get at a phone can make us more aware. Half the time, we don't really need the phone; we're just reaching for it out of habit.

5. Handle Photos with Care

Don't let the camera - which may be a phone, full of distractions - derail holiday activities. Decide ahead of time when you'll bring out the camera. Ask one person to shoot a few photos on one device. Then put the device away. If you feel the need to share photos with friends and family far away, take the device into a separate room. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes. Upload photos. When the timer goes off, log out of social media and email, and return to real


6. Enjoy Your Senses

Scrolling words and pictures are nice, but they don't engage your body and all your senses. Slow down and enjoy the pleasure of natural scents. Take a long whiff of a freshly cut wreath or Christmas tree. Savor the aroma of roasting veggies and bubbling pies. Go for a walk and listen to the winter birds and squirrels; hear your own soft footfalls in the snow. Pay attention to how ingredients feel in your hands while cooking holiday treats. Take a hot bath with no videos or podcasts to distract your attention. Engaging your senses is good for your brain and body, and reduces stress.

7. Change Your Bedtime Routine

Screens mess with our sleep. One hour before bedtime, turn off all screens. Unplug your cable modem and/or wifi router from the wall. (If you have kids or device addicts in the house, unplug both ends of the cable modem cord, then hide it. Some local families lock their cords in a safe at night.) Plug in your phone far away from your bed. It's best to turn the phone off entirely and use a separate alarm clock.

8. Rediscover Ink & Paper

Does your phone contain all your lists and calendars? Adding milk to a shopping list or scheduling a doctor's appointment can turn into 45 minutes on Instagram. Frequent smartphone use causes most of us to become more fragmented thinkers. As a result, we constantly pick up our phones to send reminders or take notes.

Instead, keep pens, paper, and little notebooks at the ready: in each room of your house, back pocket, car, backpack, purse. When a thought comes up, jot down a physical note. Later you can collect them and decide which ones are worth following up on. Revert to old-fashioned paper calendars for everyday scheduling-Moleskine makes lovely, pocket-sized appointment books. Hang a pen and paper on your fridge for the grocery list. It worked back before smartphones existed; it'll still work today.

9. Have a Beautiful Holiday

How did your JOMO holiday go? Got a good tip for managing screen time? Was the whole thing a failure? We want to hear your story. Send it to freelance writer,

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