A disconnected world—and what to do about it
At first glance, you might think that people in today’s society are more connected than ever. After all, modern technology allows for near-instantaneous communication, letting us tune into our favourite radio stations or talk with a friend on the other side of the world with the click of a button. Yet, in a critical way, technology has also made us more disconnected than ever before; as our attention is diverted to the various emails, phone calls, and social media outlets that demand our attention, we are spread thin and have little left to spare for what truly matters—moments and memories with the ones we love most. Technology, I think, is one of the biggest factors contributing to the disconnect we’re seeing right now in society. After all, it can be hard for day-to-day conversation between siblings to compete with funny cat videos on the internet. And if you think it’s bad for the adults, this lack of social connection is known to be far more detrimental for our children.
You might have heard that humans are social creatures, but the implications of this become crucial in the context of childhood development. Our brains have evolved to adapt and respond to our environments, with the critical periods taking place during childhood and adolescence. Put simply, it’s a use it or lose it sort of phenomenon. Children with rich social environments can attain optimal cognitive development—positively influencing emotional and social well-being, as well as intellect—whereas the opposite can be seen of children raised in poor social environments. As children spend more and more time on their phones or watching TV, and less and less time bonding with their parents or playing with their friends, they are not only grow detached from their immediate relationships, but compromise important aspects of their well-being which will continue to affect them as they grow older.
This news might be troubling for you, especially if you’re a parent. With society becoming increasingly reliant on technology for our day-to-day living, how can we ensure that our children and ourselves do not fall into the trap of detachment from the present? How can we help our children flourish emotionally and socially without depriving them of the technology that drives our world forward? Actually, the answer comes down to the simple practice of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is shown to benefit one's health in so many ways. Pertinently, it draws us back to the here and now, helping us recognize and appreciate the things and the people in our lives. It promotes introspection and mindfulness, building a child’s confidence from all they have to be grateful of in the world and restoring connections with friends and family. This is exactly what motivated my mom and I to write “The Adventures of Lucy-Loo & Roo and the Magic of the Gratitude Stick,” which tells a story to illustrate the magic of gratitude, and gives parents an engaging tool to bring gratitude to their families. The Gratitude Stick is a fun way to introduce gratitude to children, especially those who are too young to journal. It can be as simple as passing the stick around the dinner table and sharing what everyone is grateful for to bring families closer together. Our story book and the Gratitude Stick are needed by families now more than ever in a world filled with so many things that demand our attention and often pull us apart.