Garden at Giverny – Claude Monet 1895
If We’re All So Connected, Why are Our Kids so Lonely?
Our children are spending an increasing amount of time staring at screens. And a new study released in January found that children today are struggling with “loneliness or deep levels of unhappiness” as a result of the time they spend on the Internet. The experience of loneliness has always been a part of childhood, of course. But technology, which in some cases can connect children to others virtually, clearly also has the potential to aggravate and introduce new sources of loneliness.
Where can we go to understand the loneliness of childhood? Loneliness is a central theme of Francis Hodges Burnett’s classic, The Secret Garden. The book is a hymn to lonely children and lonely places, lost families and sparse friendships. In this most unhopeful of themes, Burnett gives children the brightest and most hopeful of alternatives, a garden, itself transformed by death and the loneliness of loss. Here is a place where the roots grow deep, and the illusions of what one is and what one has lost fade behind the real sights and scents of life allowed to flourish
Technology will be a part of most children’s lives, in useful (and useless) ways, but teaching children how to step away from their screens, and gravitate toward what can be felt and cultivated in the real world—where they might discover their own secret gardens—will reveal to them the difference between the beauty of stillness and the loneliness of isolation.
What might be the best resolution to have?
Read the top five regrets of the dying. It discusses an Australian nurse who worked with patients in their last twelve weeks of life and then wrote a book on her experiences, highlighting the five most common regrets she heard. These were:
I wish I had let myself be happier
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
A great way to determine what the best new year’s resolution might be is to work backward from those who have lived a full life and have very little left. What do they wish they had done? Before you solidify those resolutions for next year, take a moment and ponder what things you might do to feel you are living your life more authentically. Striving to achieve authenticity goals is (potentially) extremely challenging and (potentially) extremely rewarding. But when it comes to making resolutions, I favor looking to those who wish they had more time and being bold, taking the risk of doing you, being you.
Encourage people to do what is most authentic for them, regardless of what others around want them to be doing.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
So how do you reduce your anxiety and permit your brain to sleep effectively?
Here are some suggestions:
During the day, practice not reacting to incoming alerts or notifications like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Don’t check your phone every time it beeps. In fact, turn off notifications and check on a schedule to retrain your brain’s neurotransmitters (particularly cortisol). Start by checking every 15 minutes, and gradually increase that to 30 minutes or more. Tell your family, friends, and colleagues that you may not respond immediately, but you will within a specified amount of time, such as 30 minutes to an hour later.
Stop using all devices one hour prior to sleep.
Put all devices away in another room rather than keep them in the bedroom to discourage you from checking them during the night. (If you must keep a phone nearby in case of emergency, set it so that it only rings when certain people are calling, but still place it across the room and away from your bedside.)
An hour before bedtime, start dimming the room lights slowly to release melatonin.
During the last hour before bedtime, choose an activity that your brain will find predictable and, thus, not anxiety-provoking. Consider any of the following:
Watch a television show that you love, maybe even a repeat.
Read a paper book (or use a Kindle which doesn’t emit blue light) by a familiar author.
Listen to music that is very familiar like a playlist of your favorite songs. If you need a device to do this, burn CDs and get a CD player. (The key is to use a device that doesn’t have internet access, email, or a phone.) Keep the volume low.
If you awaken in the middle of the night, try this trick: have a song lyric in mind (not the whole song) that you plan to sing in your mind over and over to block the anxiety and allow you to fall back to sleep. Another option is to learn one of many meditation techniques and practice and use those skills to calm your mind.
Our devices are a gift that connect us to so many people and so much information, but they do not have to raise our anxiety and harm our all-important sleep. We need to control our devices, rather than letting them control us.
Relax, Turn Off Your Phone, and Go to Sleep
It’s hard to learn from experience when there is no experience.
It’s harder to generate silver linings for things you never did
Turn disappointment into gratitude.
Say “yes” to opportunity.