Slow Down and Re-Connect
Dr. Greg Allen, Ph.D., LMFT
Technology has changes our lives in many ways. While there is more efficiency in terms of organizing information and social networking there are also some negative consequences of these technogical advances. As I was walking past a news stand on Jan. 1, 2011, I noticed the headline of the USA Today newspaper; ‘2010; The Year we stopped talking.’
I paused to try to figure out what it meant. I realized it meant we’ve moved most of our communication to texting, computers, websites, games and phones which draw and hold our attention.
Technological devices are amazing. However, there is a disconnect happenning between people. A function of this disconnect is that we communicate less in person and spend less time together in person.
There is surprising research results regarding families that eat a meal together even a few times per week. These families show a decrease in negative attributes in their children. This includes less risky behaviors, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse. It seems the more kids physically spend time with their parents, the greater the opportunity for healthier functioning. These children are then less vulnerable to harmful influences.
Our teens are faced with many challenges that their parents did not have to deal with.
There are academic, social, extra-curricular, lifestyle and technology influences that pull at them daily.
Psychology and psychiatry have increasingly incorporated strategies to help people based on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a combination of mental skills that seek to calm the mind and in turn our emotions. Another goal is to help us react differently to the things that happen to us.
The rise of the popularity of yoga is another example of our society feeling the need to relax, discharge stress and learn to manage ourselves in a more internally peaceful manner. Additionally, there are communities across the country which are focused on simplifying how they live their life. It seems we need to re-connect with ourselves and with each other.
A PV News teen panel a few years ago cited the high percentage of activities that teens have besides attending school and doing homework. The results indicated that over 50% of teens have 5-9 extra activities they are involved in. It’s no wonder that teens report their main challenge as struggling to cope with the stress they experience.
Fifteen years ago, teens reported that the #1 reason they abused alcohol and drugs was ‘to be cool and fit in’. Currently, the #1 reason is to cope with stress. Teens like adults need to find ways to manage stress, take a time out, relax and ‘have a mental break’. Unfortunately, when you are overscheduled you are not able to use healthy coping skills. The result often is the quick relief that comes from drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana or taking a pill, among many substance that might be used.
This need for safe, supervised activities for teens is a main reason we began Freedom4U, a youth non-profit organization. Teens need healthy ways to have fun, express themselves, be with their friends without using substances.
There are too many destructive and risky things happenning with teens every week. We need to be proactive in providing opportunities to improve the overall health, lifestyle and future of our young people.
However, it’s not just teens who need to adjust their lifestyle. Adults also may need to consider reducing the activity in our schedules with the goal of prioritizing what we are committing ourselves to daily. A healthy goal would be to have more of a balanced schedule that incorporates relaxation, fun and down time. Spending time together as a family would also be a priority. I realize this may seem impossible considering the current busy schedules of our teens, parents and families. However, it seems a significant solution to the increased activity and disconnect that is happening in our culture. Re-connecting, slowing down, having fun, remembering or learning how to healthily relax is imperative.
Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach (drgregallen.com). He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U (freedomcommunity.com). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org