Friday, April 21, 2017

Health and Technology Lenten Experiment: The Results

Sorry for the gap in between posts. Finals week begins next week so I finished the last of my lecture videos between Tuesday and yesterday. I'm going to try to do both of my finals next week as opposed to next week and the week after that so that I can have a week-long break in between the Spring and Summer semester instead of just a weekend. I'll finish my flash cards later today. I wanted to blog (and clear my mind of the academic stress) for a little bit so here I am, writing a new one. :)

The last blog post -- on why I hate social media -- had interesting reactions, mostly positive. Apparently, I'm not alone in the "social media is wearing me down" boat and some are thinking about deleting their Twitter accounts as well. For those you contemplating it, I'd suggest doing it in baby steps, especially if you're very addicted to social media. Quitting cold turkey isn't easy for many people. And, actually, this serves as a nice little segway into today's post on a Lenten experiment that came as a result of eschewing social media.

In order to help me avoid social media, I had to limit my use of technology in the form of my laptop, my phone, and iPod touch. Yes, I use all three for different things. My laptop is used for things like schoolwork, writing, blogging, and other things that require a larger keyboard and/or use of a wireless mouse. My phone is used for texts, calls, Spotify (when I'm driving), and the occasional website search or app use when I'm not home or can't use my iPod touch (which relies on home WiFi); Google Maps FTW! I don't watch TV often and I rarely stream movies (I don't have Netflix and I rarely use Amazon Prime Video which is included with our Amazon Prime membership) so the Roku on the TV stays unplugged for most of the day and can even go days without being plugged in. I do read a lot, and I've been using my Kindle more often, but I disable the WiFi on it and only turn it on when my borrowed (library) eBooks need to be downloaded onto it.

I use the iPod touch much more than I do any other device. I use it for apps like the app for members and friends of the local FSSP church (or, I should say, the one we're hoping to establish soon; please donate if you can!), Rain Rain (which I use when I need light background noise to fall asleep or relax), Goodreads, iPieta, EWTN, Overdrive (for the audiobooks I borrow from the library), Kindara (great for you ladies), Wunderlist (where I keep my daily schedule/to-do list, though this will change since Microsoft is axing the app later this year), and Scrobbler (where I keep track of what music I listen to... and how much of it). I deleted the Instagram app before Lent began and I haven't used the Facebook nor Twitter apps since last Lent (2016).

As you can see, I'm pretty plugged in even if a majority of these apps are used once or twice a day (or less). I'm not even counting the FitBit app and other apps I deleted during the Lenten season (more on this in a moment) or else, well, you get the picture; I'm very dependent on technology. After reading Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter (which I briefly mentioned in the last post), I decided to challenge myself to limit my use of technology. It was probably one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.

I started off by doing my research paper the old-fashioned way: writing my paper using mostly books from the library and a notebook and pen. Yes, I did request the library books using the LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) website before I picked them up but I used the physical books as soon as I had them. Yes, I did have to use my school's database to look up peer-review articles and journals on my topic (stuttering in the pediatric population) but I downloaded the .pdf files so I wouldn't have to use WiFi and/or would be able to print them out so I wouldn't use the laptop often. Yes, I had to type up my paper on Word since my professor insisted on it being a .doc/.docx file but it was first written out on paper using a pen. Lots and lots of paper, ink, and hand cramps because I'm used to typing more than I am used to manually writing things out (letters to friends excluded from this statement). I was able to finish the paper in record time and had amazing concentration during it. 

I then deleted all the apps that I realized were designed to keep me plugged in (thanks for making me realize this, Mr. Alter). I deleted apps like FitBit, MyFitnessPal (to keep track of how much iron I consumed per day), Plant Nanny (which kept track of my water consumption and reminded me to drink more water every 2 hours), and a number of other apps that I didn't use often or used way too often that were not helpful/beneficial to me in any way. The results were also really great and I found myself feeling healthier and with more energy.

I actually stopped wearing my Fitbit Charge HR for two reasons. First, my eyes were opened to what the experts talked about in Irresistible; how I felt like a failure if I didn't get to my step goal (blame my slightly competitive nature) and how I pushed myself even when I felt too tired or my legs hurt. That led to number two: I was unintentionally causing more harm than I was helping. I didn't listen to my body when it sent "okay, you need to rest" signals and let my brain bully me with "but you can get to that number... you've done over 11k steps before; surely you can finish 5k measly steps per day." I found myself growing more and more fatigued and physically exhausted as the days passed but I pushed myself to meet the goals. Yes, my doctors advised that I walk more and exercise more but I was pushing myself beyond my limits, especially when the accidental dairy consumption physically weakened me more than anemia ever did. I'm not even going to touch on the sleeping and heart rate trackers which used to seriously stress me out. 

After I deleted the app and stopped wearing the tracker, I started picking up bodily cues. I walk when I feel the energy to walk. I actually try to get up and walk around as much as I can throughout the day; much more than I used to prior to the use of FitBit. If I was tired, I first drank water (since I'd been terrible at keeping myself hydrated prior to this experiment) to make sure I was just a bit dehydrated. If I was still tired, I took a break from whatever I was doing and rested. I even took naps if I felt like I really needed one and it wasn't too late in the day. I ate when I was hungry or drank more water if a mealtime was coming up and I knew I wouldn't be hungry for it if I snacked. I've also noticed that whatever foods I crave usually pinpoint to something my body needs. i.e.: when I was craving dairy (which I can't have) was when my calcium levels were low (I'm not sure where they are now). When I craved red meat was when my iron was lower. When I craved salty things was when my sodium was low (I found I had low sodium at the ER last month). When the thought of fried foods or certain dietary staples didn't appeal to me, I listened to what I was in the mood for and it helped get my stomach back on track. 

I've been able to maintain my weight at my normal range (123-125 lbs; what has been recommended for my 5'7" height and small frame by doctors) for an entire year without the help of MyFitnessPal which used to tell me how many more calories I needed to eat to gain weight when I was underweight. (For those of you who are new to the blog: being underweight was the unfortunate consequence of an academic stress breakdown I had three years ago and then a car accident I had a year and a half ago). Now that I've found a multivitamin that has more than 100% iron (which I need for my anemia), I don't need to keep track of that either. Buh-bye, app!

I also did something to help with the bouts of insomnia I've been battling with on-and-off for years. I'd heard a lot about the damage caused by the blue light found in artificial light and devices (laptops, tablets, cell phones, eReaders, TVs, etc) but I didn't do much about it until this Lent. In case you didn't know, the blue light messes up our sleeping patterns because it decreases our melatonin production (which helps us fall asleep) and throws off our biological clock. Not only that, it has been linked to a development of cancers, diabetes, heart disease and obesity

After being reminded of the damage it can make, I decided to cut down on the amount of time I use the screen per day, only using the laptop, cell phone, and iPod touch when I need to. I had installed f.lux on my laptop a couple of years ago but hadn't used it for a while so I reinstalled it so that it dims the blue light on my laptop when I use it later than I normally do. Since I don't use the laptop as much as I used to, I don't get to watch the color change on my laptop screen. Sometimes, especially in the days leading up to exams or due dates, I can be on my laptop nearly all afternoon into evening and night so this is when f.lux is helpful. 

At my annual optometry appointment, the optometrist advised me to add a blue-blocking filter/coat to my glasses after explaining the damage the blue light does to our eyes. I declined the coat for now (too expensive for my budget this year) but I did purchase an inexpensive (less than $8) pair of orange glasses that block blue light on Amazon. Since I mostly wear glasses at home -- especially at night -- I got myself a pair of Uvex S0360X glasses since they are large/wide enough that I could wear them over my normal glasses. I've worn them nightly (and I'll even fall asleep with them on if I'm reading in bed after particularly stressful days) for nearly a month now and I can tell you that I've had the best sleep I've had in years. I'm not trying to sell you anything (I didn't even link you to the glasses I got); I'm telling you the honest truth. 

I'm not sure if it's the glasses, my decision to completely unplug and keep the last 2-3 hours of my day to prayer and reading (mostly fiction) books in order to help relax my mind (part of my daily self-care routine which has been proven to help), or a combination of the two but whatever it is, it's working. I sleep better and feel less tired in the morning. I'm also waking up and falling asleep naturally at earlier hours. I don't know when the last time I went to sleep at 3-4 a.m. (or later) was.

Oh yes, I also keep my phone away from the main part of my bedroom. The iPod touch (which serves as a temporary alarm clock) is kept on a closet shelf. It's close enough to not do bodily harm if I get up in a sleepy fog but far enough that I have to physically get up to shut it off so I'm not tempted to hit the snooze button. Mom and I will most likely keep this as our alarm clock since I've chosen a soothing (yet loud enough) song to wake us up at different times. Since Mom gets up at 3 a.m., we don't want an annoyingly loud alarm blaring, making our neighbors wake up from their own slumber. It also works because it uses the battery from the iPod and isn't plugged in or using disposable batteries, saving money.

As you can see, I had great results from my health and technology Lenten experiment. I feel healthier and more rested. My stomach is resetting and getting better. My concentration is getting sharper. My mental fog is going away. I feel less stressed out and have more patience. Oh! We've also saved a lot on our electric bill. Mom and I were surprised at home little we paid last month (we get the bill every 2 months). Of course, it's too early to call it a complete success since we human beings tend to relapse at times but I think these habits have a good chance of sticking and becoming permanent. :)

Anyway, that's it for now. As I said at the beginning of this post, I finished my lecture videos (and notes) so I am going to turn off the laptop, keep the ringer on my phone on silent (I've had it this way since I watched the lecture videos), and work on doing the flash cards for my hearing/ear anatomy and basic audiology course since the flashcards for the other class are done. :) 

I hope y'all had a lovely week and that you have a great weekend. Divine Mercy Sunday is upon us! Praying that I can make it to Mass this weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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