What's Your Daily Media Diet?

Recently, I came across an interesting article that studied the use of media amongst young people in the U. S. I’d like to share some of the findings of the study done by Common Sense Media, a non-profit dedicated to helping kids, parents, and teachers thrive in the complex world of technology and media.

The study showed, among other fascinating statistics, that tweens (8 – 12 years old) spend an average of nearly 6 hours and teens (13 – 18 years old) an average of nearly 9 hours a day engaging in media. This is excluding time spent using media for school or for homework.

 I was initially stunned by those numbers. And then, after a little self-reflection and calculation I came to the realization that often my daily media use isn’t terribly different. Between email, news, work, social media, and the occasional Netflix vortex it very quickly adds up.

This isn’t about what’s right or wrong in terms of media use. This isn’t about shaming or what we should do differently. The point here is that this is about raising our level of awareness.  Bringing awareness to where our time is spent each day is a critical first step.  By raising our awareness around how frequently we engage with technology and what type of technology we engage in we can begin cultivating a healthier relationship with it. Instead of unconsciously surfing the web or scrolling through social media we now have a choice.

Take a moment to reflect on where you are spending your time each day in terms of media use. From there we can ask ourselves how does that help, or hinder us from achieving our goals and moving forward with purpose.

Reclaiming Playtime

by Sonya Mohamed

I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the time I spent playing competitive soccer. It played a critical part in my development and helped cultivate many of the qualities I value in myself. It built character, discipline, and provided me with a helpful structure (which kept me healthy and - more or less - out of trouble). The group of girls that I played with became a second family and my coach, a role model for how to be gracious and fiercely competitive.

Though each year I played, and the older I got, the experience kept transforming into something more than just playing soccer. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Other external factors began to cloud the purpose of what I was doing. Before I knew it, I wasn’t playing for the joy of playing anymore. By the time I was in college, it was this rigid, soulless, future-oriented thing I was doing that had me questioning whether I even enjoyed it anymore. I had made it to where I wanted to go, playing on a Division I soccer team, and quickly realized it wasn't somewhere I wanted to be. 

I’m not saying that’s everyone experience playing competitive sports, but I don’t think that was an uncommon experience either. What I came to realize this past year, and it seems to correlate with growing up, is that the playfulness that made soccer and other games so fun started to slip away. Not all at once, but slowly and consistently. Being an adult and playing around felt like they were at odds with each other. So much so that to be playful carried with it a connotation of immaturity. Now how did that happen? Why had they become mutually exclusive? Play is vitally important to our happiness, our health and wellness, our creativity and we've all but outlawed it from our adulthood. 

Now's the time to bring it back, and it's certainly never too late. Here is something to aspire to:

What IS Nature Unplugged?

by Sonya Mohamed & Sebastian Slovin

What is Nature Unplugged? Well, it’s a lot like it sounds. (We hope).

Originally envisioned by Sebastian as a way to encourage mindfulness through movement, Nature Unplugged began by offering group and private surfing, yoga, stand up paddle and hiking sessions in San Diego, CA. His primary focus was helping folks gain awareness of their bodies and connect with the diverse and beautiful nature around them.

The Nature Unplugged we bring to you today does not deviate in its attention to nature, movement and mindfulness - those concepts live on and are essential to our work (and our health and happiness). What’s new is our interest in moving from larger abstract ideas to practical and accessible activities. Many, many conversations – often frustratingly circular and lacking progress – kept us pondering what it was exactly that moved us personally from thought to action. Patience? Time? Motivation? To echo an earlier blog, believing in something is easy, but embodying and living that belief can be challenging.  

Our personal experiences have taught us that patience, time and motivation are all important – but without the right tools, support, and guidance, it can feel impossible to take the first step. So, our goals are to (1) guide you through exercises and activities to get you started, (2) provide you with helpful tools to make positive and thoughtful changes in your life, and (3) offer our individual support and connect you to a growing community working toward a similar goal.

Currently, we’re in the process of creating and testing a 10-week interactive program that aids in unlearning harmful habits and beliefs and relearning with intention. The values that we're working to cultivate in others (the same ones that have brought us our current happiness, health and success) are mindfulness, movement, and mindset. Inspiring and nurturing these values will be done by simultaneously increasing your time outdoors and raising your awareness of the devices and technology in your daily life.

As we put this 10-week program together, we want (and need) your feedback! Please, tell us what you think. Does this resonate? What obstacles do you face in your day-to-day life that keep you tethered to tech or from spending time outside?

Nature as Teacher

by Sebastian Slovin

My father died when I was six years old and his death had a profound impact on me in many ways. Perhaps the biggest impact was how it changed my relationship with nature. My father loved to swim and loved the ocean. Many of my memories of him are in and around the sea. After his death, my father was cremated and we spread his ashes into the ocean.

From that moment on I viewed the ocean as my father, as part of my family. He was there in the waves and in the sand, in all the different plant and animal life that thrives in and around the sea. When I was out surfing and a sea lion popped up to swim beside me, I saw the sea lion as a part of my family.  I began to develop more of a relationship and bond with nature than I ever had before. Over time this grew to encompass not just the ocean but all of nature. I started to see him in everything and in that sense, I was never alone again. 

Growing up I spent much of my spare time at the beach or in the ocean or at local parks. I began to observe nature closely and listen intently. Each time I go for a walk or a swim is like spending time with a great master.  I came to realize that nature could teach me everything that I needed to learn. How to be still. How to move. How to listen. How to feel. How to love. How to accept. How to forgive. It’s all out there in nature.  Nature is the greatest teacher I could have asked for, gently reminding me of past lessons and sharing new wisdom with me daily.  

What's Stopping You?


by Sonya Mohamed

It’s not subtle, but it’s such a consistent message it’s easily missed. Its pervasiveness and frequency make it almost invisible to us. It’s like the freeway noise that eventually fades into the background once we become used to it, but is always there. "It" is the idea that the time has come and gone for us to learn new things. We're taught that learning new things when we're young is easy, but we’re old now. Now it's difficult, maybe even impossible, and definitely a waste of time.

When we’re young, we’re encouraged to dream big and pushed to learn new things. Then curiously, and quickly, the pendulum swings to the opposite side. We receive positive reinforcement to cultivate the skills we’re showing promise in and discouraged from everything else. That messaging usually intensifies as we grow up, eventually becoming a pillar of our belief system. On a very deep level, we start to believe we simply can’t learn new things or improve at the things we didn’t immediately excel at. Then the problem becomes compounded. The belief that we can’t learn new things creates a fear of trying new things. All of a sudden, we're terrified of failure. 

Have you seen this before? What does it look like in your life? For me it was resisting my partner's encouragement to get on the road bike that’s been in our garage, unridden for almost two years. I’ve known how to ride a bike since single-digits but I couldn’t get myself (and my delicate ego) to try this slight variation. I said that I was afraid of getting hit by a car, or falling, or whatever sounded convincing at the time. That wasn’t it though. I was afraid of not being good at it. I like being good at things, I’ve been praised for my athleticism my whole life and I didn’t want to jeopardize that identity. I was afraid of failing, especially publicly. 

The fear of failure creates a world that shrinks around us instead of a world blossoming with opportunities and possibilities. Carol Dweck, world-renowned psychologist and author of Mindset, refers to these as fixed- and growth-mindsets. She explains that a fixed-mindset comes with the belief that our intelligence, talents and abilities are all fixed. They’re static. What we’re born with is what we’ve got and success comes effortlessly to those who are blessed with natural gifts. Can you see the danger inherent in that mindset? It’s not hard to understand how it creates fear and embarrassment around failure. It kept me off that bike for two years.

Eventually, I saw what I was doing and the self-limiting net I was tangled in. So a couple of weeks ago, I finally stopped resisting Sebastian's invitation to try out the road bike. I did what almost everyone does their first time clipped-in on a road bike. I fell over. Stopped at a stop sign, I leaned right, didn’t get my foot unclipped and fell into a big scary spikey succulent plant. A nearby motorist even drove by, stuck his head out his window and said loudly, “I saw that!”- It was perfect. It was learning. It was no big deal, really. I wasn’t hurt, got right back up, and didn't fall again (although I'm sure I will again at some point). I actually find it hard not to smile and giggle when I think of what I must have looked like slow-motion toppling into that succulent bush.  

The lesson is, without failure, there's no learning and there's definitely not space for innovation. We can’t learn to be resilient without failure. Even if we live our lives carefully, documenting our successes and avoiding failure wherever and whenever possible, failure will find us. And if we don’t learn how to fail, brush it off and keep moving forward, it will paralyze us. That’s where the growth-mindset comes in. It’s Dweck’s bread and butter and what she adamantly advocates for in all levels of education. Encouraging a growth-mindset means praising practice and hard-work instead of natural ability. Natural ability is just the starting point. Success is realized through practice and dedication, not natural ability.

The fear of failure begins to dissolve and a love for learning emerges from the growth-minset. To love learning is to be comfortable with not knowing everything. For some reason we all hate admitting that, but once we do everything becomes an opportunity rather than a source of anxiety. The reality is, it's you stopping you. So, get out of your own way - because you're going places.

I Just Can't Wait Until It's Over!

by Sebastian Slovin

I recently finished up with my first year of graduate school. During finals week, I had an experience that's really stuck with me. It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon and I was walking uphill to  campus on my way to class. I was about to deliver a presentation that was going to be a big part of my final grade and I was very much in my head reviewing and repeating my part of the presentation.  Actually, I'd been thinking incessantly about it over the last few days. It was my last class for the semester and I was anxious to be done with it.  My mind kept oscillating between mentally rehearsing the presentation and thinking, I just can’t wait until this is over. Once I’m done with this presentation, I’ll finally be able to relax, enjoy myself, and have fun.

I wasn’t quite aware of my internal dialogue, just a feeling of tension and tightness, until I overheard a conversation between a couple of students walking by. “Oh, my god.” One woman said to the other, “I seriously cannot wait until this final is over.” I looked over at the woman speaking, who looked tense and exhausted. As they passed and the details of their conversation faded into the background, I became aware of my own resonance with her sentiment. Yes, that is exactly how I feel. I cannot wait until this is over!  I thought to myself.  And then a few other students walked by; this time I was intently listening in on their conversation. It was a group of young men. I overhead a part of their conversation and to my surprise it was more of the same: “Ah, why can’t it be Friday already! I need this semester to be over!” I know exactly how you feel, I thought to myself. 

Then, I started to smile.  It occurred to me that's a crazy way to live. I thought about how often I felt that way… I just can’t wait until (fill in the blank) is over because then I’ll finally be able to (fill in the blank). The underlying assumption is that as soon as this event is over we'll finally be free. But how long does that freedom last? How much of our energy is wasted on worrying about the next thing?

What if I got hit by a car on the way to class or struck by lightning? I know that's dramatic, but the point is, I'd just spent the past few days waiting for some future event to be finished in order to start actually living my life. Please do adequately prepare for meetings, exams, presentations, or whatever it happens to be. Realize though, that the only place to truly be alive is in the here and now. Don't wait until (fill in the blank) is over in order to start living. There will always be another (fill in the blank) to worry about. I promise you that. So, the next time you catch yourself saying some version of “I just can’t wait until it’s over”, smile and remember how precious it is to be alive right here, right now.