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Digital detox

John O’Neill
Special to the Daily

If you go ....

Who: Dr. Brian Luke Seaward discusses the importance of unplugging from technology

When: Tuesday; 5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. presentation.

Where: The Timber Hearth, Cordillera, Edwards.

Cost: $25 in advance, $35 at the door, $10 students, teachers, VVYPA members.

More information: Dr. Seaward will also host a workshop on resiliency in the digital age on Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Vail Public Library. Visit http://www.VailSymposium.org to register.

CORDILLERA — Tapping the top of your phone, swiping right or dotting in a digital security code has become more muscle memory than mental memory — a testament to society’s relatively newfound addiction to screens, technology and communication.

Dr. Brian Luke Seaward is a renowned and respected international expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and health promotion. Seaward wraps the ancient practice of mindfulness into the modern issue of screen addiction to restore health to the mind and body.

“The topic of mindfulness is gaining great receptivity in the American culture,” said Seaward, who has a doctorate degree in psychophysiology (health psychology). “Not by coincidence, so is the parallel use of screen technology.”

Seaward visits the Vail Symposium on Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Timber Hearth Grill in Cordillera to discuss how getting away from technology helps heal the mind and improve the still-personal world in which everyone lives. The program is sponsored by Cordillera.

He will also hold a separate workshop on resiliency in the digital age on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Vail Public Library.

Before the event, Seaward offered some insight into the topic of digital detox and mindfulness in the modern age.

Vail Daily: What are the health concerns with screen addiction?

Brian Luke Seaward: First let me say that there are many great things about technology and social media. I think we can all agree that life has changed for everyone with these aspects of technology in our lives. But with anything such as smart phones and iPads, moderation is key, and we are not seeing moderation in play these days. The abuse of high tech gadgets leading to what is now being called “screen addictions” is the new social addiction of the 21st century.

Specifically, the health concerns about screen addiction span the spectrum, from obesity to brain tumors.

VD: What is it that attracts us to our screens day in and day out?

BS: In a few simple words: the ego. There is a basic human need to feel need, and social media does a great job feeding this need, which in many cases becomes an addiction — where each text, email or Facebook post give a sense of a “high.”

VD: How is modern technology threatening the health of our minds? Bodies? Spirits?

BS: Aside from the physical problems we see mounting (e.g., insomnia is a huge problem related to screen addictions and evidence regarding the effect of the electromagnetic energy on the pineal gland is quite dramatic. It is the pineal gland that produces melatonin, often called the sleep hormone. In terms of how it affects our minds, the repeated use of technology tends to augment functions of the left brain (decision making, rational and judgmental thought processes, time consciousness, etc.).

The left brain skills are associated with stress. Using these skills without a balance of right brain skills tends to hypertrophy the left brain and atrophy the right brain, which is associated with relaxation and calm. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots. Social media is great, but sociologists suggest that people who use social media feel very alienated. Other experts suggest that many people age of 20 and younger have very poor interpersonal skills because they spend so much time online instead of interacting.

In terms of how technology affects us spiritually, it is a mixed message. In some regards, it has strengthened the connection between people, but it has done so at a virtual level, not a real one.

VD: Is it a coincidence that the subject of mindfulness and the issue of screen addiction have both recently become very popular?

BS: I don’t think it is a coincidence. Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years and people have been overwhelmed with sensory bombardment for generations, so this is nothing new either. But the practice of mindfulness has moved out of the fringes, from the age of hippies and yoga retreat centers to the mainstream, including corporate trainings and even in some schools.

VD: Could you tell us a little bit more about FOMO and the recent research done by MIT and Stanford?

BS: FOMO (fear of missing out) is an expression to explain why people seem so addicted to social media. Turning on their smart phones and iPads has become the first thing people do these days. Sherry Turkle, a sociologist out of MIT, has written a book based on her research. The book is called, “Alone Together,” where she has observed many of the things we have talked about here.

VD: How can someone apply an ancient practice such as mindfulness to a modern issue of screen addiction?

BS: This is what we are going to chat about at the Vail Symposium. The short answer is healthy boundaries. The long answer … come and find out.

John O’Neill is the program and marketing director for the Vail Symposium. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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