When it comes to information overload, we’re like frogs in boiling water

When it comes to information overload, we’re like frogs in boiling water

To consider how being constantly connected through computers and mobile devices has encroached on our working lives, consider the experiment about the frog in a pan of boiling water.

A frog in a pan of cold water that is gently heated will not realise it’s boiling to death if the change is sufficiently gradual. In the same way, the web has affected our attention span and so our productivity – slowly but surely the heat of distraction has increased as decades of internet evolution has added email, websites, instant messaging, forums, social media and video.

Striving to manage technology better or wean ourselves off from distractions such as social media updates or emails can be very hard, if not virtually impossible for some. It requires serious willpower.

Lock-down

What’s the answer for today’s organisations – lock-down and block, and risk restricting access to genuinely useful content and services? Blocking and locking-off parts of the web can only hinder progress and innovation, or by reacting to slow to change and innovation as seen in the NHS can have a negative impact on technology uptake, especially now the internet is now made up of things.

If we are to advance knowledge, it’s essential to have access to the full gamut of content online. Whether that’s to study the effects of pornography on society or for a student’s private consumption, we have to be mature about this, there is some content on the Web that will always be demanded. In fact the government’s efforts to deal with online pornography has led to the over-zealous use of internet filters. Dumb filters performing keyword filtering inevitably led to legitimate sex education websites being blocked.

Procrastination is not new and there will always find new and inventive ways of putting-off work. But there are means to help tackle that distraction, if only for some rather than all of the time.

And yet, despite the volume, it doesn’t slake your thirst.
SparkCBC, CC BY-SA

Eat that frog

The problem with digital distraction is often starts from the first moment we sit down at our desks, or even before we’ve got there. Once we open our email we are drawn into conversations, questions and broadcasts. The more emails appear, the more we feel compelled to deal with them.

A useful solution involves that frog again: we all have tasks we ignore and delay, nagging away at the back of our minds. We have to complete these tasks, so why not start your day by doing just that and eating that frog: instead of checking frivolous updates and emails, tackle an important task that’s hanging around first thing in the morning.

The Pomodoro Technique

The popular Pomodoro Technique, which suggests using 30 minute time slots for a single task, followed by a break, can be helpful in dedicating time to specific projects. Another way to reign in distraction is to create lists or use time management apps like 30:30 or Wunderlist. These help set up a structured pattern to the working day, which is especially useful if you need to use social media professionally but also need to carve out time to get other things done.

Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness has gained much attention in the last couple of years, such as Andy Puddicombe’s popular Headspace imprint. In a busy office this offers a sensible solution to problem of losing focus. Just five minutes meditation could help quiet the mind and return focus to completing the current task. Various studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on a digital worker’s productivity, and general happiness too.

Create an alternative productivity calendar

Paper diaries are still often used, if less so with the modern proliferation of electronic alternatives. These often dictate the modern worker’s routine, so much so that they fill in the spaces with fractured and incomplete tasks. Another solution is to create a personal online calendar to overlay a work calendar. By scheduling everything, from checking social media and emails to family time and free periods, it’s possible to make better use of the time you have.

One of many in the armoury.
lemasney, CC BY-SA

Self-management starts with you

There comes a time to cut back on things that aren’t good for you, whether that’s food, drink, or social media. We realise that seeking distraction from our daily tasks is not healthy, especially if we can minimise it.

Professor Steve Peters has helped many high-profile sports stars control this impulsive, emotional part of the brain – something he calls the “chimp brain”. The easiest way to do so is not to feed it, for example, by not opening email. But finding a happy medium between restriction and necessary use is not easy.

Some have tried to constrain email and its effects on the workforce by turning it off for set periods. In Germany there have been calls to prevent companies from contacting employees out of hours. While this is fine for those working the nine-to-five, this no longer applies to many for a variety of reasons, some personal, some due to the nature of the work.

Self-management tools are a better option. For Google users there is an app called Inbox Pause which does just that, preventing new email distraction. There’s also restrictions for email on mobile devices that only updates when connected to known work or home networks – which means less chance of compulsively checking while out and about or on holiday.

But all of these require commitment, and like any lifestyle modification there has to be a willingness to change. Technology will continue to embed itself within our lives at home and at work, especially the use of smartphones. So if we feel the need to reign-in the distractions, whatever app or technique we choose to help us, it hinges on our own self-discipline.

Andy Tattersall is Information Specialist at University of Sheffield.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Neuroscience Reveals the Secret Behind How Happy Brains Respond to Negative Things

Neuroscience Reveals the Secret Behind How Happy Brains Respond to Negative Things

Bad things happen to everyone. But how we react to the bad things in life reveals a lot about our brains. It might be obvious, but people who are happier are better able to regulate their emotions when dealing with unpleasant events.

How? There are a few theories.

One is that happier people are able to focus on positive things and filter out the negative. Another reason is that happier people could be better at savouring good moments and emotions to help them deal with negative events.

But why does this matter? Because this has implications for your perspective on life. Is it better to ignore the negatives, or strengthen your ability to focus on the good while acknowledging the bad?

Activity in the amygdala

The answer may lie in the amygdala—the primitive “fear centre” of the brain, which is always on the lookout for potential threats. In some people, increased amygdala activity has been linked to depression and anxiety.

That’s what psychologists William Cunningham at the University of Toronto and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University are exploring with their colleagues.

However it’s not just the “fear center” that they’re interested in. They’ve discovered a whole new amygdala—one they believe holds the key to human connection, compassion, and happiness. According to their research, the happiest people don’t ignore threats. They just might be better at seeing the good.

Happy people take the good with the bad

Cunningham and Kirkland recorded the amygdala activity of 42 participants as they viewed series of positive, negative, and neutral pictures. Participants also filled out surveys to determine their subjective happiness levels.

When compared with less-happy people, the researchers found that happier people had greater amygdala activation in response to positive photographs. But they did not have a decreased response to negative images, as would be predicted by the “rose-colored glasses” view of happiness.

According to the paper, this suggests that “happier people are not necessarily naïve or blind to negativity, but rather may respond adaptively to the world, recognizing both good and bad things in life.”

This is interesting because it suggests that being able to sense and respond to negative information may actually be an important component of happiness. The authors’ conclusion from this study: “Happy people are joyful, yet balanced.”

Continue the conversation

Our parent site, Ideapod, is a social network for idea sharing. It’s a place for you to explore ideas, share your own and come up with new perspectives, meeting like minded idea sharers in the process.

Here are some conversations happening on happiness on Ideapod.

Give Your Brain To Science, Especially If You Are Depressed

Give Your Brain To Science, Especially If You Are Depressed

Scientists, who lack the samples to carry out their research in the fight against mental illnesses, are calling for gifts of nature to mark the spirits.

After your death, your brain can still serve science. Problem: Too few people still accept to give their supreme organ to researchers, who increasingly need them for their research.

This is why scientists have called for brain donations, especially for people with mental disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder, the BBC reports.

Parkinson Care, Alzheimer’s

More than 3,000 brains are stored at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Centre at the McLean Hospital in Boston, USA. It is one of the largest “brain banks” in the world.

While most of the samples are from people with mental or neurological disorders, they are missing. Because samples are frequently asked by scientists, who are trying to find new treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or a lot of psychiatric disorders. The McLean Hospital, like other brain banks around the world, can no longer meet these growing needs.

According to Dr. Kerry Ressler, the head of the scientific department of the McLean Hospital, interviewed by the BBC, medical advances are largely curbed by the lack of brains available. “We have the tools and the skills to make great discoveries on the human brain, but we lack the tissues of those with the diseases we are trying to understand,” he regrets.

The brain of a depressive evolves

The shortage particularly affects the brains of people whose disorders are wrongly identified as psychological, while they are neurological, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If people think that there is no change in the brain of people who suffer from severe depression, then there is no reason they give their brains to science because they will think that ‘There is nothing to find there,’ said Professor Sabina Berretta, head of the scientific department of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Centre, also interviewed by the BBC, which is radically false.

The Neuroscience of Mindfulness (Without Any BS)

The Neuroscience of Mindfulness (Without Any BS)

Neuroscience has found that mindfulness literally changes the structure of your brain.

But while it’s been found that meditation causes changes in the frontal cortex, the left hippocampus and the temporoparietal junction, there is one particular finding that stands above the rest.

Neuroscience has also found that we have two networks in the brain and that mindfulness enables these two networks to become more balanced (unbalance usually results in depression or anxiety disorders).

But before we get into the neuroscience of how that works, let’s discuss what mindfulness actually is.

What is mindfulness?

When we think of mindfulness, we tend to think of an idea that has been around for thousands of years thanks to Buddhism and eastern philosophy. Many Buddhist researchers are doing great things showing how mindfulness can impact the human experience.

However, I have a problem with linking mindfulness to any religion. Not because I am against Buddhism or any religion, it’s just that it’s harder getting across the benefits of mindfulness when it’s attached to a religion.

Being mindful is simply a different state of mind. It’s more a psychological approach than having anything to do with religion. Mindfulness can simply be thought as the opposite of mindlessness – a state of mind that can cause a tremendous amount of suffering.

Here is the definition of mindfulness, according to Greater Good:

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

When we speak about mindfulness, people might be more receptive to the idea if we mention the neuroscience of how mindfulness actually affects the brain. This way, many skeptics will be able to do explore the idea to see how it actually benefits their life.

So here it is:

The neuroscience of mindfulness

A 2007 study called “Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference” by Norman Farb at the University of Toronto, broke new ground in our understanding of mindfulness from a neuroscience perspective.

They found that people have two different sets of networks in their brain for dealing with the world. One network for experiencing your experience is what’s called “the default network”. This network is activated when not much is happening and you begin thinking about yourself.

The default network

It’s the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating. It tends to hold together some sort of narrative.

When the default network is active, you are thinking about your history and future and all the people you know, and how this giant web of information weaves together.

The default network is active for many of your waking moments and doesn’t take much effort to operate. There’s nothing wrong with this network, the point here is you don’t want to limit yourself to only experiencing the world through this network.

Direct experience network

When the direct experience network is active, it becomes a whole other way of experiencing experience. When this network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or future, other people, or even yourself. Rather, you are experiencing information coming into your senses.

For example, if you are in the shower, this network is activated when you notice the warmth of the water hitting your body.

The interesting thing is that both these networks are inversely correlated. If you have an upcoming meeting while washing dishes, you are less likely to notice a cut on your hand, because the network involved in direct experience is less active. You don’t feel your senses as much.

Fortunately, this works both ways. When you intentionally focus your attention on incoming sensory data, such as the feeling of the water on your hands while you wash, it reduces activation of the narrative circuitry.

This is why meditation breathing exercises can work when you’re stressed, because you focus your attention on the sensory experience of your breathe. Your senses become more alive at that moment.

Why mindfulness is important

The researcher in this study sums it up best:”Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort… it’s a skill that can be learned. It’s accessing something we already have. Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.”

I love this last statement. Mindfulness isn’t difficult: the hard part is remembering to do it.

You don’t need to meditate to do it. The ultimate key to mindfulness is just to practice focusing your attention onto a direct sense, and to do it often. You can practice mindfulness while you’re eating, walking, talking, doing just about anything. It doesn’t mean you have to sit still for 15 minutes a day and focus on your breathe. Instead, every now and then, even for 10 seconds, just focus on a sensory experience and you will activate your direct experience network.

Originally published at The Power of Ideas.

Does Online Casino Apps Have The Same Security Level As The PC Versions?

Does Online Casino Apps Have The Same Security Level As The PC Versions?

Does online casino apps have the same security level as the PC versions? This is a complicated question to answer. For one thing, people are going to have varying security levels depending on the devices that they use for downloading these apps and the different types of technology that they use. When evaluating the individual apps and comparing them with the PC versions, the picture is not always going to become more straightforward.

 

For one thing, PC devices tend to have better antivirus software compared with smartphones. However, viruses are going to be much more numerous with regards to PC devices compared with smartphones. It is possible to get viruses through smartphones just like it is possible to get smartphone devices that have solid antivirus software. However, for the most part, PC devices are going to be better when it comes to antivirus software. They are going to have better defenses, but they are also going to have more of their own risks.

 

As such, in practice, a lot of the PC versions that people are going to use are going to be a lot riskier in practice than the online casino apps that people are going to use. The apps that people are going to download to their mobile devices are going to come with all of the risks that mobile devices will come with, at least in practice. People are going to be using their mobile devices in order to access them, and all of the associated risks and rewards are going to transfer.

 

A lot of modern apps are going to use systems that involve more authentication than others. This is going to lead to a heightened level of security that is ultimately going to work out much better for everyone involved. The steps for the authentication are going to be slightly more numerous than the steps that people would take otherwise with some of the other versions of the apps that people would use. Having even one additional step in the authentication process can make a huge difference, however, and this can help people who are trying to understand the cost and benefit analysis associated with the different apps that they are going to choose.

 

It is going to be a different experience using the app for the Euro Palace casino online. Euro Palace Online Casino apps are going to be safe and easy to use for the most part. People are still going to need to make sure that their devices are safe enough, or all of the rest of the security that the apps come with will not really make a huge difference in practice.

 

However, it is still important for people to be able to really keep in mind all of the characteristics associated with the new apps. Some of them are becoming more and more secure all the time. Others are showing people different means of security. Sometimes, the newer non-PC versions are going to be better when it comes to security just because they are newer.