Tag Archive for: technology

Steve Jobs did not let his kids have iPhones. Google built a woodworking lab for their employees. Why? They realized the consequences of overusing technology. While the digital age has opened so many doors, over indulgence has many serious repercussions on our health, relationships, psychological wellbeing and many other aspects of our lives.

The average adult looks at their smartphone 150 times a day and spends more than 2.5 hours responding to their share of the 269 billion emails sent every day.  We feel obligated to be connected at all times, urgently (albeit reluctantly) jumping at every notification. This is so common that the term “nomophobia” has been added to the lexicon to describe the fear or the stress of not being able to access your phone.

The human brain is designed to respond to stimuli. When we see something shiny, we must investigate. Each notification sparks that instinctive urge to look. The unknown of what is hiding behind that alert provides a shot of dopamine, feeding our addiction regardless of the true payoff or the underlying frustration at the distraction.

Those of us glued to our phone are prone to many side effects including lack of sleep, burnout, increased anxiety, poor mental health, cognitive loss, strained relationships, eye strain, hearing loss, back and neck pain, and even carpel tunnel or tendonitis (texting thumb and selfie wrist are now diagnosable conditions). In addition, many of us risk our safety and security when we overshare by wrongly assuming that it will only be seen by our trusted friends. “Checking in” or sharing things that might not seem like sensitive information on the surface has led to stalking, assault, kidnapping, burglaries, and many other serious situations.

A few years ago, my parents “checked in” on Facebook, saying they would be stuck at the hospital for several hours. They returned to find their house ransacked—doors ripped off the hinges, holes punched into walls, and their hidden safe found and emptied. We later realized they had posted a photo a few days prior without noticing their address and street sign were in the background. The police concluded that they were one of many families targeted because of similar posts. As many as 1 in 12 individuals are burglarized after sharing their location on social media.

With the many side effects of the digital age, it is vital to set clear boundaries and be mindful of your digital wellness. One study proved that limiting your digital indulgence can increase your happiness by 91% . It is not practical for most of us to cut ourselves off completely considering all of the benefits technology offers. However, moderating your screen time with a “digital diet” can significantly improve your quality of life.

Top 5 Digital Diet Tips:

  1. Set Priorities
    • Decide which emails can be left unread or require a response.
    • Prioritize interactions that make you feel connected and happy versus drained, stressed.
    • Change ringtones for specific contacts to distinguish them as urgent, allowing you to tune out others.
  2. Limit notifications
    • Use “do not disturb” to avoid notifications when you are spending time with loved ones or taking time for yourself. You can even customize this setting with automated time frames and allowing “favorite” contacts or emergency situations to override the block.
    • Turn off notifications to noisy apps that do not require urgent responses.
    • Change email settings to funnel marketing emails into a separate folder to be checked only on a schedule that you decide and unsubscribe from any bothersome lists.
  3. Create a routine
    • Set a schedule to check your email, allowing you to focus on priorities the rest of the day. The average person takes 25 minutes to regain their focus after being distracted by 1 email notification.
    • Set time limits for apps demanding too much of your time with tools like Google’s Digital Wellbeing app and Apple’s Screen Time.
  4. Create a “phone home” such as the dresser or a basket on the counter
    • Leaving your phone in eye sight or in your pocket creates a reactionary pull to check every notification while leaving it in its “home” will lessen that urge.
    • Make a conscious effort to only pick up your phone when you choose to interact with it, rather than letting it control you with every buzz.
  5. Change how you use social media
    • Declutter your news feed by unfollowing or snoozing connections that increase your stress level, or that you don’t interact with regularly.
    • Become an active participant rather than mindlessly scrolling–share your unique ideas or reach out directly to your connections to have natural conversations and remind yourself why you care about them, instead of battling in the comments of an opinionated meme.
    • Remove shortcuts from your home screen and delete saved passwords—adding steps to log in will increase your awareness of your habits and help you cut back.

Ultimately, the most important thing to realize is that unplugging isn’t a test or a challenge to endure for a certain amount of time, but a lifestyle shift back to what is valuable to you. Moderating your digital life gives you back the ability to indulge in what you truly care about, whatever that may be. Enjoy the present and turn off the buzz in the background.

“People are not machines. For machines, downtime is a bug; for humans, downtime is a feature. The science is clear…there’s simply no way you can make good decisions and achieve your world-changing ambitions while running on empty.” Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global

“40% of American adults will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime”—CDC study shows.

This horrendous statistic shows the rise of our relentless plague of modern diseases; diabetes, overweight, cardiovascular disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s (now thought to have a common cause—the latter being reclassified as diabetes type 3). As the authors of the study that produced this frightening statistic conclude, “These findings…emphasize the need for effective interventions to reduce incidence.”

The search for “effective interventions” has been a long one and with few real results; only band-aid solutions. Our western dietis killing us, even though studies show that Americans do their best to follow the ever–changing dietary guidelines, and yet the plague keeps progressing; claiming ever more victims. A recent profile in the Wall Street Journal outlined a new diet approach that shows promise:

“Until now, most diets have been based on the glycemic index, a half-century-old list that ranks foods based on how they affect blood sugar. While this index is widely used by doctors to provide dietary advice, it is based on an average response and has been found wanting because many people aren’t average.

Dietary Advice Based on the Bacteria in Your Gut, Charles Wallace, WSJ.com, Feb 25, 2018 10:05 p.m. ET

This new approach came out of research done by the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel (their results were published HEREin the scientific journal, Cell). Their study showed that many factors determine the glycemic response (how quickly food turns to sugar in the blood stream) but that the main factor is the variation in the composition and population of bacteria in the gut (the 100 trillion bacteria, viruses and fungi cells that inhabit the human digestive tract).

Through continuous monitoring of the Blood Glucose (BG) levels of some 800 test subjects, they discovered that the glycemic response was very different in a large number of individuals for the same foods. For example, some people had a large BG spike for rice, some had moderate spikes and some had no spike at all.

My wife and I set out to test the hypothesis with an informal experiment. We both consumed 100g of parboiled white rice with butter and pecorino cheese. Something approximate to this Glycemic Index entry:

The glycemic data above was the average from 15 test subjects over a period of 4 hours. According to the numbers, it should not have created a BG spike (GI) nor raised our BG for very long (GL). These were our results (testing every 30 minutes):

Just as a comment about the experience, I felt great the whole time, but on the backside of the curve, I started to get hungry (like many people do after carbohydrates). But, this was a “false” hunger, as I clearly had enough blood sugar. I started at 96 but at the end “crashed” at 88 where I was then, very hungry.

My wife on the other hand is not a typical consumer of carbohydrates (she strips the breading off of shrimp, for example). She felt like she was, “punched in the stomach” the whole time. As the graph shows, her system did not readily convert the starch in the rice to sugar. Her response was delayed and moderate, while I had a spike, followed by a long decline (where insulin is converting most of the sugar to fat).

According to the study, the difference in our reactions is due to the differences in our respective gut bacteria (microbiome). This difference, according to the authors Dr. Eran Segal and Dr. Eran Elinav, is why I am overweight and my wife is not. My microbiome is very efficient at converting the starch in rice to body fat, while hers is not. All because the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts are different.

Segal and Elinav developed a machine-learning algorithm that analyzed the microbiome DNA and blood test data of the subjects in a subsequent study to try and predict how a subject’s BG levels would respond to certain foods. That way their software could recommend a “good” diet or a “bad” diet (see chart B below). The results were confirmed and the system was able to provide diet choices that would or would not cause a glucose spike. They licensed the technology to a startup called, DayTwonow a leader in personalizednutrition (mentioned in the WSJ article quoted above).

Goodand Baddiet BG results from the study.(View the TED talk on YouTube)

This personalized model and its potential was not lost on SAP co-founder, Hasso Platner after the inception of HANA (an in-memory columnar database). Such innovations have enabled such agile solutions to be tailored to specific conditions (like a patient’s unique microbiome) and opened up new levels of patient care never before possible.

“Trends such as personalized medicine and new medical technologies will change the way diseases are diagnosed and treated. In this operating model, medical decisions, such as therapy approaches to be applied and drugs to be used, are tailored specifically to the individual conditions of the patient.

—“The In-Memory Revolution: How SAP HANA Enables Business of the Future,” Hasso Platner & Bernd Leukert, Springer Int. Pub., Switzerland 2015, page 158

Back in the early days of modern western medicine, the practice was highly personalized, doctors made house calls almost exclusively, and the patient dictated the course of treatment. After the Enlightenment that all changed and medicine became more “clinical” and impersonal. This digital transformation is making the transition back to personalized health, medical advice and treatment possible. The potential of this personalized approach to health and medicine is just being tapped. Perhaps we are looking at the begining of the end of our current plague and the start of a new era of customized and effective intervention.