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The Way We Are

Mindfulness Monday: Put Down Your Phone!

Our smart phones are such a blessing because they're just so darn...smart. You can hail a cab, order a pizza, convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and learn a new language, probably all at the same time. You can connect with anyone, anywhere, at any moment.

What you can't do with your cell phone is feel the cool air on your face, see the natural details in the trees outside your window, or really be fully present. Our phones connect us to so much... but not the here and now. What our phones connect us to is pretty much the opposite of here and now: somewhere else, maybe a couple seconds ago.

Forest is a nifty new app that encourages us to get off of our phones and back into the real world. Sure, at first it may seem counter-intuitive that something designed to keep you off your phone is...well, on your phone. But forest encourages less distraction by challenging you to leave your phone untouched for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours while the app grows us a little digital tree. The more you stay away from your phone - the more trees you grow. If you touch your phone, your sapling dies! At the end of the day, the hope is that your phone screen is home to a tiny, lush forest.

A lot of the time, when we notice ourselves avoiding being fully present, it's because we're worried that some troubling thoughts or feelings might bubble up if we slow down and check in with ourselves. If you notice you've been a little too "go go go" recently, give us a call and let us help you practice being comfortable in your head and heart, and comfortable with the "now".

In the mean time, I've already grown four trees in my forest today... Think you can beat me??

Self-Esteem in the Age of Social Media

Social media can be a wonderful thing. It offers us opportunities to stay connected to far-away loved ones, gives us a platform for our passions, and fuels new creativity and career opportunities. It's called social media. So it keeps us happily connected to our society, right?

Maybe not. Amanda Forest and her adviser Joanne Wood conducted a study at the University of Waterloo in 2012 concerning the ties between low self-esteem and Facebook usage. They found that people who thought of Facebook as a safe place to express thoughts often struggled with low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

It's possible that social media platforms encourage people suffering from low self-esteem or social anxiety to draw further away from face-to-face interaction that might be difficult for them.

In fact, a University in Sweden found evidence to suggest that our self-esteem and Facebook usage, either negative or positive, was negatively correlated; as Facebook usage goes up, our self-esteem goes down.  Women were more likely to show this pattern, and were more likely to use Facebook to discuss their unhappiness.

Putting your thoughts and feelings on pen and paper can be a great way to process negative emotions, so why is it that expressing our worries in the virtual web of society is tied to low self-esteem? Having a Facebook profile is similar to having a billboard about yourself that you change and update regularly. While everyone has their down days, those of us who are typically more well adjusted would use our own personal billboard to advertise our best side, and save the more vulnerable pieces of our story for the closer, more intimate connections we have in our family and best friends.

Someone who is feeling isolated and alone in their life, discouraged from the vulnerability that is so crucial for these close friendships, might use Facebook to find connection while allowing them to avoid their struggles with social anxiety. Furthermore, the constant perusal of other people's achievements that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make all too possible, can perpetuate the vortex of comparison that often fuels our negative self judgements.

So what's the moral of the story? Facebook and social media may seem like a great outlet for our struggles, an easy way to connect with others while remaining safely behind a screen, but it's not a substitute for one-on-one connection. In fact, the assumption that it is might be more dangerous than you think.

So, while we'd love for you to like us on Facebook, we'd also love for you to give us a call and come chat about any self-esteem issues this post has stirred up!

Happy surfing, Facebookers!