Seek Happiness, Unplug

Confession: I have looked at my smartphone, at a Facebook message, while in the midst of a conversation with another human being.  A live, in-person human interaction, and because they weren’t clicking “like” every time I made a statement, I felt the need to see that others WERE.

Psychology Today is so reassuring: I am an addict.  Yep. Recent research tells us “instead of dopamine causing you to experience pleasure … dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive. It’s not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your searching for information. Research shows that it is the opioid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure.

According to researcher Kent Berridge, these two systems, the “wanting” (dopamine) and the “liking” (opioid) are complementary. The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied. Evolution again  seeking is more likely to keep you alive than sitting around in a satisfied stupor.” (Psychology Today)

Seeking online things to keep us motivated can be a good thing, unless it interrupts real-life human interaction, which I see too often. Have you ever Instagrammed a hike in nature so thoroughly, you can’t actually remember looking at the trail, listening to the birds, freezing in your tracks to marvel at a butterfly’s color?

Like any addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?  So put down your phone. (Seriously. Put it DOWN. Turn it OFF.) It doesn’t have to be for a long time, especially as you start to wean yourself.  What can you do without a panic attack today?  An hour?  Two?  Fifteen minutes?

Remember when we didn’t have mobile phones, or when they were so unwieldy, we didn’t pop them in our pockets?  Reading the HuffPo’s “Habits of Supremely Happy People,” one may notice, obsessively refreshing social media is NOT listed.  However, appreciating the simple pleasures in life IS listed.

So let’s do this together.  Even if you’re reading this ON your phone, finish this paragraph, and then turn it off. Plan phone-free time with friends, or with your dog, or with nature. Pay attention to what you’re thankful for, the little things in life, like a cloud formation that looks like your second-grade school teacher’s beehive. Or the sound of silence, or the sound of your own breath, or the sound of a friend’s laugh.

And then, after it’s done, use social media for what it’s good for – share your moment with us, and encourage us all to unplug a bit, and find more happiness in the present.  @TheCityFarm