Lunchtime Topic ft. Dr. Davana Pilczuk: How smartphones, cable news, and peppermint lattes have kidnapped our brains

Dr. Pilczuk is a multi-award winning kinesiologist who specializes in human performance. She is a columnist for the Savannah Morning News and has authored numerous journal and magazine articles. She’s a highly sought after international speaker and consultant for Fortune 500 companies and has been featured in the Smithsonian magazine and on several TV and radio morning shows. She’ll be teaching us how to identify and change unhealthy habits and patterns of behavior to improve work performance and overall quality of life.

Learn more about Dr. Davana Pilczuk

How smartphones, cable news, and peppermint lattes have kidnaped our brains

Two Theories on the Brains Response to Threat

The Brain responds to these three things and in this order:

  • Threat
  • Pleasure
  • Novelty

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Our most basic needs to survive have been under threat in the last year. Our physiological and safety needs.

If you feel like you’re not producing like you used to, it’s because your basic needs are not being met. It’s harder to achieve success when we feel threatened. 

What happens when we feel threatened?

Our brain seeks out pleasure and novelty. 

Phones and Dopamine

Phones are a source of pleasure and novelty. Whenever we get a text or a tweet, dopamine hits our brains.

Dopamine is the drug of novelty, and the more we get used to certain levels of dopamine, the more it takes to get us to a level of pleasure.

The News

If you find yourself consuming negative news, it’s because our brains are drawn to threat and figuring how to get out of it.

News stations know this and know how to keep our attention.

How Can We Change these responses?

We have to build resiliency by using a different part of the brain – our prefrontal cortex.

  1. Tap into happy chemicals.

Too much of the wrong kind of dopamine, which keeps us alert, can hurt us. We also need oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins to help us stay happy.

Oxytocin comes from bonding with others and is the feel-good drug. It’s a longer-lasting chemical that helps societies come together and be more willing to help each other. 

Serotonin is linked to mood and sleep. It’s the feeling of self-worth and self-confidence that make you feel good about who you are. Journaling what you are grateful can help with this. Prayer and meditation can help with this as well. 

Endorphins are released as a response to accute pain. They act like morphine for your body.  When you exercise or do anything physical, your body produces endorphins giving you a pleasurable feeling.

2. Avoid the bad dopamine hits

  • Shut. It. (your phone) Off. 

Set rules to reduce the threat from your phone. No cell phone in the bed, no emails past 8p and put on a do not disturb from 8p-8a. 

Sometimes I miss a call or two, but in the grand scheme of things having those dings and pings doesn’t help. Breakaway from that. 

  • Who you listen to will affect how you feel.

When it comes to news, mix it up. Hop around to different stations and consider looking at more streamlined news stations.

3. Kindness 

One of the ways to get over the stress you feel is to look out in the community for ways you can help. Join a club that gives back or volunteer. Find something outside of our world to go do and help with. 

Acts of kindness will reduce your cortisol levels, anxiety levels, and even physical pain levels.

In summary…

  • Resiliency moves you from the reactive brain to the logical part of your thinking.
  • Reduce external stressors from your phone to the news to unhealthy eating habits, which trick you into consuming more and fuel your stress
  • Practice more acts of kindness.