Prunes or Plums — Which Has More Benefits?

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

If you know anyone with osteoporosis, you may be familiar with some of the more overt signs, such as broken bones, weak grip strength or back pain. People with this condition may develop a “stooped” posture or even become shorter because their bones are literally being compressed.

There’s good news, though, as a new study has revealed dramatic and positive effects from dried plums. Scientists found that “dried plum not only protects against but more importantly reverses bone loss in two separate models of osteopenia,” another name for bone loss and the forerunner of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects both males and females, although more women than men. One study describes it as a “debilitating disorder” exacerbated by age:

“As the demographic shift to a more aged population continues, a growing number of men and women will be afflicted with osteoporosis and a search for potential non-pharmacological alternative therapies for osteoporosis is of prime interest.

Aside from existing drug therapies, certain lifestyle and nutritional factors are known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Our [three]-month clinical trial indicated that the consumption of dried plum daily by postmenopausal women significantly increased serum markers of bone formation, total alkaline phosphatase, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase and insulin-like growth factor-I by 12, 6, and 17 percent, respectively.”1

Ironically, several drugs taken for osteoporosis taken for five years or more have been shown to actually cause esophageal cancer, according to an Oxford study.2 However, in exploring non-pharmacological alternative therapies, researchers discovered dried plums may not only protect against, but reverse, the condition.

Researcher Bahram H. Arjmandi, Ph.D., from Florida State University, said that over his entire career, he’d examined many fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, but none of them come close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums or prunes have.

He added that in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.3 Studies show that a single serving of dried plums may prevent bone loss in older, osteopenic postmenopausal women as well as the previous recommendation of two servings, equating 100 grams or eight to 10 dried plums.4

Plum History and Description

Closely related to apricots, peaches and almonds, plums are an ancient fruit that experts believe may have originated in China, but were cultivated by Alexander the Great in Mediterranean regions by around 65 B.C.

Plums are about the size of limes, but that’s the only similarity. They’re dark purple (some have a golden tinge) with smooth, rather dull skins and sweet, delectable flesh inside, wrapped around a single, large pit, the main criteria for a drupe. Prunes are simply dried plums, the latter name thought to be more palatable.

All prunes are plums, but the reverse is not always the case. The high sugar content in plums allows them to be dried without fermentation. Further, like all dried fruit, dried plums are dehydrated by natural drying, sun drying and the use of dehydrators. Medical Daily clarifies:

“So if dried plums are just plums with the water taken out of them, why do they lower our colon cancer risk while fresh plums don’t? Not only does dried plum retain both soluble and insoluble fiber from its original form, but it also contains more sorbitol than fresh plums.”5

Far more than just a tasty snack, these juicy little fruits are loaded with flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants, primarily lutein and cryptoxanthin, as well as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid, which help prevent cell damage from oxidation of lipid molecules.

All cell membranes, including those in your brain, are mainly composed of fat-containing lipids, found to inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation and making them a significant factor in preventing chronic disease.6

A Comparison of Nutritional Attributes Between Plums and Prunes

Plums contain 26 percent of the reference dietary intake (RDI) in vitamin C; 13 percent in vitamin K; and 11 percent in vitamin A, or retinol, as well as iron, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin and calcium, plus vitamin B6 and niacin to metabolize one of their most serious drawbacks: high natural sugar and carbohydrate content.

As for prunes, a 1-cup serving gives you 87 percent of the RDI of vitamin K. The Guardian notes that soluble fiber helps slow down the absorption of glucose, which stabilizes blood sugar levels.7

Because prunes are a concentrated source of the nutrients and phytonutrients found in plums, their antioxidant potential is six times that of the fresh fruit. Prunes are also significantly higher in antioxidants than many other dried or fresh fruits or vegetables. Comparing the two, Healthy Eating observes:

“Although most of the vitamin C in plums is destroyed during the drying process, prunes contain significantly higher concentrations of most of the other nutrients found in the fresh fruit.

One cup of pitted prunes provides 129 percent, 36 percent, 27 percent and 9 percent of the daily recommendations for vitamin K, potassium, vitamin A and iron, respectively. Vitamin K is vital to the function of several proteins involved in blood coagulation, and vitamin A promotes healthy vision.”8

These vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients have several benefits throughout your entire body, including your skin and improved vision due to the high iron, of which a deficiency can cause hair loss.

Fiber: Good for Gut Health and Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Bone health isn’t the only benefit of this oft-neglected fruit, though. Studies indicate dried plums can lower your risk of colon cancer.

One factor that helps give plums and prunes such high marks in this category is fiber, crucial for moving food along smoothly through your colon for elimination, but also the natural chemicals sorbitol and isatin, both helpful for relieving constipation.

These three ingredients are why prunes have the (earned) reputation as a laxative. Media outlet Chatelaine notes that fiber:

“Helps to … [optimize] cholesterol by soaking up excess bile in the intestine and then excreting it. Bile is made from cholesterol in the liver in order to digest fat.

When the body excretes bile along with the fiber from prunes and plums, the liver must use cholesterol in the body to make more bile thereby lowering the amount in circulation in the body. Soluble fiber may also inhibit the amount of cholesterol manufactured by the liver in the first place.”9

Plums contain 2 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving, which also helps produce beneficial gut microbiota.

One of the big differences between fresh and dried plums is that the dried version contains 12 grams of fiber, which, compared to fresh plums, is about half of the RDI needed for an entire day (although I believe about 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is ideal).

According to Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, prunes are even more effective than psyllium as a laxative.10 Plus, the sorbitol pulls moisture into your digestive tract to help bring about a bowel movement.11 That’s where its effectiveness as a colorectal cancer preventive comes in.

More Benefits From Plums and Prunes

An online resource called Colon Cleansing and Constipation recommends stewed prunes to alleviate constipation, or infrequent bowel movements. Eating them regularly can help prevent subsequent stomach pain and hemorrhoids. All of these can become serious enough to necessitate surgery.

Aside from skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. It encompasses both rectal and colon cancer, which together have stricken around 140,000 people in the U.S., and more than 50,000 die from it every year, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.12

Medical Daily mentioned one study that found eating dried plums can help lower your risk for colon cancer by maintaining good gut bacteria in your colon, adding that “a diet high in [certain] red meats can increase colon cancer risk while a diet high in fruits … [and] vegetables … can reduce colon cancer risk.”13

A FASEB Journal study backed up the gut bacteria benefit, noting that their data supported their initial hypothesis:

“Diet is known to alter metabolism and composition of colon microbiota, which has major implications for disease prevention and treatment …

The hypothesis tested by this experiment was that consumption of dried plums would promote retention of beneficial microbiota and patterns of microbial metabolism throughout the colon, and that by doing so would reduce colon cancer incidence.”14

Fructose in Plums and Prunes

It takes around 4 pounds of fresh plums to produce 1 pound of dried plums, and both are very versatile. You can chop them up to add to raw grass-fed yogurt, blend them in smoothies and shakes and add them to salads and vegetable dishes. In fact, just about anything you use raisins for, prunes are a tasty, healthy alternative.

Eating plums and prunes may also help alleviate problems related to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. However, whether it’s fresh plums or dried prunes you crave, make sure you consume these in moderation, as they both contain high amounts of sugar. Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat cautions:

“Prunes are high in natural sugar, so too many may not be good for people watching their weight. After all, excess of anything is stored as fat in your body. Prunes have such high nutritional values ensuring that you can eat just one piece and still gain measurable nutrients.”15

However, the sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol, is not a source of ethanol, the substance found in alcoholic beverages. It’s a natural substance found in many fruits and vegetables, and is about 50 percent as sweet as sugar.16

Plums are often used to make the French form of Armagnac, a quickly distilled version of cognac with a raw, earthy body. They also end up soaked in brandy for several desserts, including brûlée. The sugar (and, for the former, alcohol) content in these, however, is considerable and outweighs the nutritional benefits that the fruit provides.

Additionally, prune juice is often loaded with high fructose corn syrup and, even if it’s not, will still be a significant source of fructose without the fiber benefits, so be aware that consuming the whole fruit is preferable.

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How Clothes and Personal Care Products Destroy the Environment and Circulate Plastic Back Into the Food Supply

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

While most of our grandparents used natural products packaged in reusable, recyclable or degradable containers made from glass, metals and paper, the current generation has grown up surrounded by non-biodegradable plastics made with toxic chemicals.

Saying that plastics are “everywhere” is hardly an exaggeration anymore. You can find it in virtually every area of your household: in containers of all kinds, bags, baby items, electronics and even clothing and personal care products, in the form of microfibers and microbeads.

Discarded plastic — both large and microscopic — circles the globe, choking our oceans and polluting our food supply, ultimately finding their way into your body where they can accumulate over time.

And, the potential for catastrophic environmental and biological consequences grows with every discarded bottle and bag, with every shower and every load of wash.

Plastic — A Most Harmful Convenience

Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and bisphenol-S (BPS), disrupt embryonic development and have been linked to obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Phthalates dysregulate gene expression and hormones, causing anomalies that may be passed down to future generations. DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), found in PVC pipes, may lead to multiple organ damage.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, the world produces about 299 million tons of plastics annually, and up to 20 million tons of it ends up in our oceans each year.1 The UN’s Environmental Program claims there are at least 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.2

Polycarbonate, polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) damage the ocean floor, and plastic that floats, such as low-density polyethelene (LDPE), high-density polyethelene (HDPE), polypropylene and foamed plastics accumulate into massive floating islands of trash.3

Microfibers4 from clothing pose a serious threat to marine life and migrate into fields and onto our plates.

And microbeads, the tiny plastic pellets found in body washes, facial scrubs and toothpaste travel right through wastewater treatment plants, clogging waterways and filling the bellies of sea animals with plastic that acts as a sponge for other toxins.

Whether you look at environmental or biological effects, our careless use of plastics really needs immediate attention and revision.

Microbeads Pose Severe Environmental Hazards

According to a previous National Geographic report,5 an estimated 4,360 tons of microbeads were used in personal care products sold in the European Union (EU) in 2012, all of which get flushed down the drain.

According to one 2015 study,6 there may be as much as 236,000 tons of microbeads filling the water columns of our oceans. As noted by National Geographic:

“A study completed in 2015 from Environmental Science & Technology alarmingly found that [8] trillion microbeads were entering aquatic environments throughout the United States every day.

This troubling statistic poses the question of how such massive quantities of microplastics are impacting aquatic wildlife

… As reiterated from the study by the French Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, ‘Oysters that consume microplastics eat more algae and absorb it more efficiently … [their] ability to reproduce is almost halved’ …

Filter feeding organisms are vital components of marine food webs, and their demise could mean severe threats to numerous trophic levels, and perhaps to the humans who rely on these species as a source of food.

Another concern with these foreign particles entering the oceans is that the chemicals comprising microplastics are causing reproductive complications in oysters, which is a very important point …

Chemical toxins such as DDT and BPA have been found to adhere to microplastic particles … which then ‘enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.'”

US and Canada Ban Microbeads While EU Dawdles

In response to the Environmental Science & Technology study mentioned above, then-President Obama signed a bill in December, 2015, banning the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products to protect U.S. waterways.7 The ban takes effect as of July this year.

Beginning July, 2018, microbeads will also no longer be permitted in cosmetics, and as of July 2019, they must be eliminated from over-the-counter drugs sold in the U.S. as well.8 As of July, 2018, a ban on microbeads in personal care products also takes effect in Canada,9 while the EU has taken no action on the matter.

According to a recent article in the British paper Independent,10 the U.K.’s decision to follow suit in banning microbeads from cosmetics “could be in breach of EU free trade law,” and if it’s determined that banning microbeads would “restrict free movement of trade,” the U.K.’s ban would likely be significantly delayed and ultimately unenforceable. The U.K. alone contributes up to 86 tons of microbeads into waterways each year.11

Microfibers From Clothing Add to the Plastic Pollution

Microfibers are another common water contaminant, and acrylic fibers release the most microparticles.12 Testing reveals each washing of a synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfiber, and the older the jacket, the more microfibers are released.13

Different types of machines also release different amounts of fibers and chemicals from your clothes. Researchers found that top loading machines released about 530 percent more microfibers than front loading models.14

Up to 40 percent of these microfibers leave the wastewater treatment plant and end up in the surrounding lakes, rivers and oceans. To address the problem, scientists are now calling for appliance companies to consider the addition of filters to catch the microfibers.15

Wexco is currently the exclusive distributor of the Filtrol 160 filter,16 designed to capture non-biodegradable fibers from your washing machine discharge. However, it doesn’t actually solve the problem in the long-term, since the fibers will simply end up in landfills instead.

Plastic Microparticles Threaten Ocean Life in Many Ways

Once in the water column, all this plastic micro-debris blocks sunlight, which plankton and algae require to sustain themselves, and the ramifications of this reverberates throughout the entire food chain. Astonishingly, in some ocean waters, plastic exceeds plankton by a factor of 6 to 1.17

Microfibers released during washing has also been shown to raise mortality among water fleas.18 In another study, the presence of the plastic fibers reduced the overall food intake of crabs, worms and langoustines (aka Norway lobster), thereby threatening their growth and survival rates.19,20 Not surprisingly, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have linked microplastics and microfibers to the pollution in fish.21

The tiny beads cleverly mimic natural food sources, and the microfibers, which are even more prevalent than microbeads, are even easier to consume, both by fish and other seafood. Research shows these particles are not likely to leave, however. Once consumed, they tend to remain in the body and accumulate, becoming increasingly concentrated in the bodies of animals higher up the food chain.

When Abigail Barrows, chief investigator for Global Microplastics Initiative, sampled 2,000 marine and freshwater fish, 90 percent had microfiber debris in their bodies. Near identical results were reported by Amy Lusher, a microplastics researcher based in the U.K. who co-authored a 2014 study22 on microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.

Microfibers have also been found in most water samples collected from the Hudson River,23 and studies show concentrations of fibers tend to be particularly high in beach sediment near waste water treatment plants.24 Making matters worse, these microscopic plastic fibers soak up toxins like a sponge, concentrating PCBs, flame retardant chemicals, pesticides and anything else found in the water.

And, since many of these toxins bind to fats, the fibers allow the toxins to bioaccumulate in the body much faster, reaching ever higher amounts as you move up the food chain. As noted in the featured video, these chemicals have been shown to cause liver damage, liver tumors and signs of endocrine disruption in fish and other seafood, including lowered fertility and immune function.

Seafood Is a Significant Source of Plastic in Human Food Chain

With all this plastic posing as food in the food chain, it’s no wonder researchers are finding it in our dinners as well. Last year, citing a report25 by the British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA], the Daily Mail wrote:26

“Microplastics have been found in a wide variety of species including zooplankton, mussels, oysters, shrimp, marine worms, fish, seals and whales. Chemicals on microplastics ingested by an organism can dissociate from plastic particles and enter body tissues … [DEFRA] said there is evidence from animal studies that small plastic particles can cross membranes into cells, causing damage and inflammation.

Looking at the implications for humans, [DEFRA] said: ‘Several studies show that microplastics are present in seafood sold for human consumption, including mussels in North Sea mussel farms and oysters from the Atlantic. ‘The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety.'”

According to the DEFRA report, eating six oysters could introduce about 50 plastic microbeads into your body. One-third of the fish caught in the English Channel also contain microbeads, as do 83 percent of scampi sold in the U.K.27

How You Can Be Part of the Solution

Our “disposable culture” has left a trail of destruction, in terms of both environmental and human impact. Now, how can you contribute to the solution? In short, by becoming a more conscious consumer. Really give some thought to the manufacturing of the products you buy, how they may affect you during use, and what will happen to them once you dispose of them. Few of us are capable of living a zero-waste lifestyle at this point in time, but every single one of us can take small but definitive steps toward the goal of reducing plastic trash in all of its forms. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Reduce your use of all things plastic: Purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. While the items involved are near-endless, here are a few ideas:

Use reusable shopping bags for groceries

Bring your own mug when indulging in a coffee drink, and skip the lid and the straw

Bring drinking water from home in glass water bottles, instead of buying bottled water

Store foods in glass containers or mason jars as opposed to plastic containers or bags

Take your own leftover container to restaurants

Request no plastic wrap on dry cleaning

Avoid personal care items containing microbeads. Many products containing microbeads will advertise them on the label, although they may also be listed as “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” in the ingredients list

Avoid microfiber clothing such as fleece, and/or wash them as infrequently as possible

Recycle what you can: Take care to recycle and repurpose products whenever possible, and/or participate in “plastic drives” for local schools, where cash is paid by the pound

Support legislation: Support legislative efforts to manage waste in your community; take a leadership role with your company, school and neighborhood

Get creative: If you have a great idea, share it! People’s capacity to come up with smarter designs and creative recycling and repurposing ideas are limitless, and creative innovations move us toward a more sustainable world

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Is Social Media Driving Americans Insane?

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

It’s only been a little over a decade since Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were created, and 10 years since the launch of the iPhone. The iPad, Pinterest and Instagram have only been around for seven years, Snapchat six.1

Yet in this short timeframe, Americans’ use of technology and social media has grown at a striking pace.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 Stress in America survey reported that only 7 percent of U.S. adults used social media in 2005. By 2015, that had grown to 65 percent (and 90 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds, up from 12 percent in 2005).2

Every month, more than 2 billion users sign on to Facebook and Instagram, revealing their massive following. Also revealing, 86 percent of U.S. adults own a computer, 75 percent an internet-connected smartphone and 55 percent a tablet, according to the APA survey.

What’s more, today about half of U.S. adults say they can’t imagine life without their cellphones, yet their ability to keep you online and connected 24/7 has its downfalls, especially if you’re a “constant checker.”

Forty-Three Percent of Americans Are ‘Constant Checkers’

A constant checker is someone who checks their email, text messages and social media accounts “constantly” throughout the day; 43 percent of Americans fit this bill, according to the APA, but they may be sacrificing their health as a result.

While non-checkers reported a stress level of 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being “a great deal of stress”), constant checkers’ average stress level was 5.3. This climbed to 6 among those who constantly checked their work email even during their days off.3 According to the APA’s 2017 Stress in America report:4

“This attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels for these Americans.

Generally, nearly one-fifth of Americans (18 percent) identify the use of technology as a very or somewhat significant source of stress. The most stressful aspect? Americans say technology causes the most stress when it doesn’t work (20 percent).”

The use of technology is in itself a source of stress for some Americans, especially constant checkers (23 percent compared to 14 percent of non-constant checkers). Meanwhile, constant checkers faced increased stress from social media, compared to non-checkers, namely due to political and cultural discussions.

Constant checkers were also more likely to report feeling disconnected from family due to technology (including when they’re together), while 35 percent of this group also said social media made in-person meetings with family and friends less likely.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 42 percent noted that they worry social media may be having negative effects on their physical and mental health (compared to 27 percent of those who check less often).5

How Is Technology Affecting US Families?

On the family front, it’s clear technology is affecting family units, and not necessarily for the better. While 72 percent of parents said they believed they were modeling a “healthy relationship with technology for their children,” 58 percent also said they feel “attached” to their cellphone or tablet.

Even on their days off, more parents than not constantly check their personal email, text messages and social media, while 35 percent said they also check work email. But it’s not only parents who are struggling to keep their technology use in check.

Fifty-eight percent of parents said their child is attached to their phone or tablet, and 48 percent described regulating their child’s screen time as a “constant battle.”

Nearly 60 percent of parents worry about the effects of social medial on their child’s physical and mental health, and 45 percent said technology makes them feel disconnected from their families even when they’re together.6,7

Teens’ Emotional Health May Be Tied to Social Media

A report by the non-profit Common Sense Media found U.S. teens spend about nine hours daily using media, and this only includes media used for enjoyment purposes.8 When just media on screens (laptops, smartphones, and tablets) was counted, teens spent more than 6.5 hours daily, while tweens spent more than 4.5 hours.

It’s an alarming trend not only because of research linking screen time to increased sedentary behavior and trouble sleeping, but also because teens’ emotional health is often tied to their social media accounts.

Teens use social media as a way to monitor their own popularity, and when they’re not online, they worry they’re missing something (either positive or negative), which leads to compulsive checking.

More than half of teens (61 percent) polled by a CNN study, “#Being13: Inside the Secret World of Teens,” said they check their social media to see if their posts are getting “likes” and comments, while 36 percent said they did so to see if their friends are doing things without them.

Another 21 percent said they check to make sure no one said anything mean about them.9 The APA survey suggested that teen girls may be bearing the brunt of this unhealthy emotional tie to technology, even more so than teen boys, noting:10

“According to a recent study in Pediatrics,11 in the U.S. more teen girls than boys may be experiencing major depressive episodes. Research also shows teen girls were more likely to use social media to communicate,12 which could expose them to the negative effects of this medium.”

Almost All Parents Try to Manage Their Kids’ Technology Usage

The APA survey also revealed that 94 percent of parents said they attempt to manage their child’s technology usage during the school year. Common management strategies included:13

? Not allowing cellphones at the dinner table

? Unplugging or taking a “digital detox” from time to time

? Not allowing devices during family time

? Not allowing devices during time with friends

? Turning off notifications for social media apps

? Limiting time spent watching TV each day

You should also follow your children on each social network they have joined, and talk about any posts or images that concern you. Keep tabs on your child’s social media activity each day, and if your teen appears sad after receiving a text, ask him or her about it.

During the CNN study, nearly all of the parents surveyed (94 percent) underestimated how much fighting was happening on social media, but one important finding was that parental monitoring significantly benefited their children’s psychological well-being and actually “erased the negative effects of online conflicts.”14

There were some benefits reported, too, like connecting with friends, feeling affirmed and supported and exercising positive leadership.

The key is to find a happy medium that allows your child to connect with friends without damaging effects to his or her self-esteem, sleep schedule, physical health or grades. In fact, this happy medium is what adults should strive for as well.

Texting While Driving Raises Your Crash Risk Six-Fold

Our obsession with technology is also putting people at risk behind the wheel. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that many “secondary tasks” related to the use of hand-held electronic devices (i.e., cellphones) are of “detriment to driver safety.”15

The researchers analyzed data from more than 900 crashes that involved injuries or property damage. They noted a dramatic shift in crash causation in recent years, noting that driver-related factors such as distraction, error, impairment and fatigue are present in nearly 90 percent of crashes.

Specifically, dialing a phone was the most dangerous distraction and increased the risk of a crash by 12-fold. Other dangerous activities while driving included texting (increased risk by six times) and reaching for a cellphone (increased risk by five times).

Many people are aware that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, yet for one reason or another continue to do it anyway. To help put an end to cell phone distracted driving, The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends these tips:16

  • Make a personal commitment to drive cellphone-free
  • Turn your phone off or put it on silent while driving so you are not tempted to answer it
  • Speak up when you are in the car with someone who uses a cell phone while driving — ask if you can do it for them or if it can wait
  • Change your voicemail message to reflect that you are either away from your phone or driving and that you’ll call back when you can do so safely
  • If you are talking to someone who you know is driving tell him/her to hang up and call you later

Are You Addicted to Social Media?

Psychotherapist Nancy Colier, author of the book, “The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World,” noted that when you have an addiction “it gets harder and harder to derive joy from the present moment. We’re in this chronic state of wanting to get our substance.”17

So strong is the allure of technology that one survey described it as a “fifth sense” to youth, with half of 16- to 22-year-olds saying they’d rather give up their sense of smell than technology.18 Research also suggests the feelings of validation you get when someone “likes” your post on social media may trigger releases of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.19

Keep in mind, too, that social media is designed to be addictive. “The biggest tool in the social media addiction toolbox is algorithmic filtering,” ComputerWorld reported.20

“Sites like Facebook, Google+ and … Twitter, tweak their algorithms, then monitor the response of users to see if those tweaks kept them on the site longer or increased their engagement. We’re all lab rats in a giant, global experiment.”21

In The Epoch Times, Silicon Valley software designer Tristan Harris even described what’s known in the field as “behavior design,” which is basically the practice of designing apps and devices precisely to get you to click and scroll more. Harris even started an advocacy group called Time Well Spent, which “appeals to product designers to create software that doesn’t exploit our psychological vulnerabilities.”22

Mindfulness to the Rescue

There are many strategies to break free from internet addiction — quitting cold turkey, setting a time limit or checking just once a day among them. Colier suggests another option: mindfulness. Mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds or distracting yourself from the present moment with various apps is essentially the opposite of mindfulness. The Epoch Times reported:

“Colier’s approach starts with awareness. When you feel that habitual itch to check for messages, play a game, or dig for details on the latest celebrity scandal, first ask what you might be distracting yourself from. ‘We flip it so the impulsive thought becomes an opportunity to check in on what’s happening, rather than an opportunity to anesthetize,’ Colier said.”

Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on the flow of your breath and the rise and fall of your belly. This can help you to stay better focused on any task at hand. If you find yourself being drawn back into compulsively checking your email, text messages and social media feeds, stop yourself and focus your attention back to the task at hand.

If emotionally distracting thoughts enter your head, including the feeling that you’re missing out on something by not logging in, remind yourself that these are only “projections,” not reality, and allow them to pass by without stressing you out.

Four Changes to Live Better With Your Devices

Assuming you’re not ready or willing to give up technology, your smartphone included, Time Well Spent compiled four simple changes you can make to “develop a more intentional relationship” with your devices.23 These are good starting points if it’s crossed your mind that perhaps your smartphone is taking over your life — and they’re worth sharing with your kids, too.

  1. Allow notifications from people only: Apps are designed to lure you back in with notifications. Visit Settings > Notifications in your cellphone to turn off notifications made by machines and allow only those made by people.
  2. Create a tools-only home screen: If your home screen is filled with a bunch of non-necessary apps, it will only tempt you to spend time on them. Instead, limit your home screen to the handful of essential tools you need on a daily basis, like Maps, Camera, Calendar and Notes.
  3. Launch apps by typing: Use your phone’s search feature to type in the name of an app you wish to open. As Time Well Spent notes, “This turns opening apps into a more conscious choice. There is just enough effort to pause and ask, ‘do I really want to do this?'”
  4. Charge your device outside of your bedroom: Do not bring your device into your bedroom. Leave it elsewhere while charging it overnight.

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