Doomed: The Long-Term Impact of Mental Laziness
Our society’s lust for comfort and entertainment is insidiously reducing its ability to observe reality. The further society moves away from observing reality, the faster it will collapse. History has demonstrated that societies rise and fall as do businesses. The battleground in a democratic society supported by capitalism appears to be between government and business. What are they battling for is the question? Our attention is the answer! They apply different strategies for capturing our attention. For example, the media (media is a business posing as a third-party informant) knows that negativity and sensationalism appeal to our primal nature. Humans are hard-wired for fight or flight at every turn. The media (and politicians) exploit this natural tendency at every turn. Businesses exploit this tendency by limiting quantities through supply management. Nothing sells better than scarcity.
This article is not intended to denigrate businesses nor government. It is intended to highlight the importance of self-reflection in maintaining a firm grasp of reality. First, let’s explore self-reflection. Self-reflection is exercising our capacity for introspection about our true nature or essence. Self-reflection has nothing to do with society and only to do with understanding ourselves. Some people would consider self-reflection an act of vanity, but it is the surest way to avoid acts of vanity. Self-reflection done well leads to self-efficacy. Self-reflection is not easy. It requires us to shut out the sources of distraction that are prevalent in the world today. It takes focus and observation. Some use meditation, some use pen and paper, while others use coffee and the sunrise. The essence is what truly matters to us. Only you know what that is, but for most of us, discovering can be our most difficult work. Unfortunately, it is far easier to distract ourselves from our inner reality by focusing on an external mirage. As a result, the average adult spends 5 hours per day watching TV and an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes on social media. Our societal focus is almost 100% external and the media businesses, and government officials love it. We can’t blame them because it is our fault for allowing them our most precious commodity – our attention. When we frequently give them our attention, we become trapped in their reality. To maintain a grip on our attention, they sensationalize everything they want us to focus on to take full advantage of our under-developed limbic system. Humanity’s under-developed limbic system costs it billions, if not trillions of dollars each year. Now, at the risk of being sensational myself, allow me to explain. The limbic system is our emotional center and where our fight or flight survival behavior originates. The counterbalance to the limbic system is the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the rational part of our brain. It might be more accurate to say that these organizations are taking advantage of the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. When we take the time for self-reflection, we are strengthening our prefrontal cortex. Here are some ways of strengthening your emotional control system (prefrontal cortex):
- Meditation – Studies have proven drastic changes in the prefrontal cortex of participants in just eight weeks with daily ten-minute meditation sessions. The brain is a muscle, and therefore it should be exercised. Meditation is not a religion; it is an exercise that helps to develop the brain muscle. I am speaking from experience when I tell you it has truly changed my life. It is easy to do and therefore easy not to do. Simply sit with your back straight, hands in your lap, and count your breaths. Your mind will wander, and that is okay, just focus on your breathing again. Most people give up because their mind keeps wandering, but that is precisely why you are meditating. To get control of the mind, you must recognize when it is wandering, and that is what meditation trains us to do. I used to have a bad temper because I had not developed emotional control. I still can get frustrated, but my response is very different because I fully understand that the response is my choice. Meditation has been a game changer for me, and I hope it is for you! Meditate and make better choices for just ten minutes per day.
- Sleep – I know you are tired of hearing this, but you must get more and higher quality sleep. The media wants to suck you in for just one more show or one more click, but as you develop your prefrontal cortex, you will be able to avoid the temptation. Sleep is to mental function as food is to body function. The problem we face is that we don’t see our mind atrophy, but we do see our body expand or atrophy. We tend to want to do something about our waistline expansion but fail to realize that unless we are strengthening our impulse control system, we will lack the mental capacity to stick with a diet. If you want to lose weight, get more sleep. Here are some tips to help you maximize your sleep time:
- Set a bedtime alarm. It takes 30 seconds, so do it now.
- No social media within one hour of bedtime. It affects the production of melatonin and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Create a dark, cool sleeping environment.
- Invest in a bed you love sleeping on.
- Reflect on the blessings in your life.
- Journal – Journaling is another proven technique for developing greater emotional control and self-efficacy. It is a great tool for reconciling your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can also help us to manifest higher levels of gratitude in our lives. Take a few minutes each day to not the great things that happened that day. It can be seemingly insignificant but still trigger positive chemicals to flow through your veins.
- Be Positive – This is a choice and very difficult for people with under-developed prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is our fight or flight (negative) tripwire. It will easily overpower the under-developed prefrontal cortex. Negativity floods our system with adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are helpful when jumping out of the path of a speeding car, but are damaging when they are continually flowing through our system. On the other hand, when we maintain a positive attitude, it lowers our stress level, increases our lifespan, improves heart health, lowers chances of depression, and can even help fight the common cold! Negativity will kill you, so stop it! Oh yes, it is critical you avoid the negative media, doing so might save your life.
- Learn – I know you are a learner because you have made it this far in the article. Learning stimulates the brain and builds neural networks. Science has proven that humans never lose their ability to learn. The resources for learning today are nearly infinite, so there is no excuse for not continuing to grow your capacity. The more you exercise it, the greater the capacity.
The goal of this article is to provide you with some concepts and ideas to avoid mental laziness. The broader scope is to connect the dots between our ability to manage our attention and the media’s desire for your attention. Our natural tendency is for comfort and to be entertained. To be entertained and comfortable is not living; it is existing. We get one shot to live our lives and maximize our time on this spinning planet. Living to the fullest is not possible if we are continually obsessed with getting comfortable. Focus on what you can affect. For example, I know people that obsess over North Korea or Russia, but there is absolutely nothing they can do about those countries. They allow it to be a distraction in their lives and avoid making a positive difference in what the can affect. It is sad when you think about all the capacity to make a difference wasted on an issue they can do nothing about. Same for social media. We compare and despair so that advertisers can take advantage of our under-developed emotional and rational control systems. Politicians do the same by appealing to the limbic system and sensationalizing what they know will get us excited.
My hope for all of us is that we’ll develop the capacity to resist the efforts of the media, politicians, and businesses to trigger our emotions. The better we understand ourselves and limit our exposure, the better our lives will be. Happiness and contentment are found in two spots: within ourselves and in serving others. We all desire happiness, but many of us lack an understanding of how and why it appears to elude us. The reasons are:
- Under-developed emotional control
- Constant and continuous stimulation by media, government, and businesses
- Failure to remove ourselves from negative environments
- Over-commitment triggered by external expectations versus internal rationalization
- Not taking responsibility for our lives and well being
- Allowing negativity to be our dominant mode
If you get a grip on these items, you will take back your life. Don’t be a victim. Take control and make a difference. The choice is yours.