What’s the antithesis of placebo?

swimming pool in Palm Springs
Palm Springs pool where I thought I needed a fitbit to keep track of my laps. Reality check — I can count higher than the number of laps I can swim.

My fitbit died a sudden death in Sept. 2021. From tracking my every step and swim stroke it went dark. My first instinct was to order another one online and strap it back into my life ASAP. Then an idea hit me. I decided to try an experiment. I’d go one week without it.

I wrote about the first week HERE.

My daughter sent me an article this morning called “Beware That Nocebo Strapped to Your Wrist” by Tim Culpan from Bloomberg.com. It’s premise is this: “Fitness gadgets are supposed to improve your health, but often end up making you feel worse.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Most people are familiar with the concept of a placebo, where merely providing positive information can improve perception of well-being. Yet the opposite also occurs, with negative data making people feel worse about their own health.

That’s a nocebo — Latin for “I shall harm” as opposed to “I shall please” for placebo. And there’s a good chance you have a nocebo strapped to your wrist.

A wave of health-tech gadgets — from fitness trackers to Apple Inc.’s Watch — means hundreds of millions of people are hooked up to real-time feedback devices. They’re designed to measure your steps, encourage you to exercise more, and give daily updates on your mental and physical health. Apple wants you to “close your rings” — the three colorful circles the Watch uses to monitor your progress — and Garmin Ltd. helpfully tells you when your health is “excellent.”

They make for popular gifts and are bound to be stocking-stuffers this year. Various models of the Apple Watch occupied four of the top 10 most popular items in November’s Black Friday sales, according to Business Insider.

But there’s also good reason to think twice about whether you, or a loved one, will truly benefit from 24-7 monitoring, arbitrary goals served up by an algorithm, and regular notifications telling you that you’re stressed, tired, fit, or simply “unproductive.” 

In fact, research on the nocebo effect — first conceptualized in 1961 — has shown that perceptions of pain can increase with shifts in information and detail. Patients with suspected concussions have shown poorer neurocognitive performance when their history of traumatic injury is called to attention. Concentration falters when unpleasant data is provided. Sometimes, even a change in the color of a specific signal associated with health can trigger discomfort.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-12-15/wrist-size-fitness-gadgets-make-for-great-gifts-but-beware-of-the-nocebo-effect

It’s been a little less than four months since the nocebo left my wrist. I no longer wake up to immediately check my fitbit. I’d check to see if I had a good night’s sleep or not. If it told me I had a bad night’s sleep, it changed my outlook for the entire day. I felt tired, cranky, and I didn’t know how I’d get through the day. Say good-bye to getting into my creative space. I was becoming a slave to the nocebo.

I haven’t replaced it. I don’t need it. I know if I’ve gotten enough steps from years of walking 10,000 steps or more each day. I know if I had a good night’s sleep or not. AND as for swimming laps, I count higher than the number of laps I can swim. It’s not too much to keep track of laps in my head. Maybe even good for the old brain power.

What type of device do use to keep track of your health, steps and sleep? Or do you use one at all? I hear people say the Apple Watch has all sorts of other benefits, but I can’t figure out if I need another device to alert me about calls, texts, and emails with a laptop and cellphone at my side? What are your thoughts? What are the benefits that you like the most?

Have you heard of “text neck?”

Arizona back hard with pool and pool bar.
My favorite place to read is in a zero gravity chair with this view. I’m looking up, not down.

I hadn’t heard of it. But I’ve felt it. It’s a pain in the neck. I ran across this term last week and since the back of my neck hurts, I wanted to find out more about it.

Text neck is caused by looking down at our phones. I find I look down not only at my phone, but when I’m on my laptop and reading a book, too. I spend too much time doing all three of those. I wonder if I have text neck or if I’ve been sleeping wrong? The other culprit may be the crunches that I’ve added to my exercise routine. Crunches strain my neck.

Here’s an excerpt of an article from NBC that talks about text neck and offers four exercises to help with it called 4 exercises to combat ‘text neck’ by Brianna Steinhilber.

“Looking down promotes a forward head posture. For every inch forward you hold your head, the weight carried down through the spine increases by 10 pounds” says Dr. Karena Wu, physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in NYC and Mumbai. “Looking down puts pressure on the front of the neck and gaps the back. This is especially troublesome as it can cause intervertebral discs to migrate backward, thereby increasing the chances for disc bulges. It also strains the back of the neck as the muscles on the backside are in a constant state of contraction, trying to pull and support the head (which weighs 8-10 pounds) in this too far forward position. That leads to muscle strain and pain on the back of the neck.” And it doesn’t end there. Wu goes on to say that text neck also “creates tightening on the front of the neck and chest which then leads to discomfort or dysfunction into the shoulders and middle of the back.”

“Because people are so reliant on their phones, they mentally are so lost in their work that they lose track of their posture. If you spend a long time in the ‘text neck’ position, you have to spend at least the same amount, if not more in the opposite position in order for the neck to stay in balance,” says Dr. Wu. “These exercises increase flexibility in the tight muscles (chest), restore postural alignment and increase firing of muscle stabilizers. Wu says we lose 10 percent of our height due to spinal compression and “this one exercise helps to unload our own joints and increase the space between the vertebrae (spinal bones).”

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/4-neck-exercises-will-counteract-effects-texting-ncna840291

If you click on the link, you can find out about the exercises to combat this pain that is in the back of the next, shoulders and back. I’m wondering if I should find a better place to be on my laptop than the tiny kitchen table in the casita. Maybe I need to raise up the laptop or get a lower seat so I’m not looking down.

Have you heard of text neck? Have you experienced it? What have you done about it? When you’re on your computer or laptop, are your eyes level with your screen? Any other suggestions to combat text neck?

Is it time for a digital detox?

early ipod
I remember when my kids’ only high tech device was this ipod to listen to music and the computer below that was not hooked up to the internet. They used disks with children’s activities for the Mac.
Bondi Blue Mac from 1998.

I was interviewed by a journalist last week for a survey about the state of American families. She reads my blog and interviewed me for a story a few years ago about parents hiring coaches to improve their parenting. You can read her article called Why some parents — including Prince Harry and his wife — are hiring parenting coaches HERE.

Last week, she asked me about major problems facing families today. I mentioned the rising costs to raise a family and also worries about the digital world, screen time and depression. I’ve read so many articles about how social media and screen time is causing depression and anxiety in our kids. The numbers are skyrocketing. Add that to the pandemic and kids literally had a year of isolation and not being with their peers.

Immediately after the interview, I ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal called: Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine. The article gives a scientific explanation for what is happening to our brains. I found it fascinating and thought I’d share it with you, too.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in wealthy countries like the U.S. may be a result of our brains getting hooked on the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure

By Anna Lembke, Wall Street Journal

—Dr. Lembke is a psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University. This essay is adapted from her new book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” which will be published on Aug. 24 by Dutton.

A patient of mine, a bright and thoughtful young man in his early 20s, came to see me for debilitating anxiety and depression. He had dropped out of college and was living with his parents. He was vaguely contemplating suicide. He was also playing videogames most of every day and late into every night.

Twenty years ago the first thing I would have done for a patient like this was prescribe an antidepressant. Today I recommended something altogether different: a dopamine fast. I suggested that he abstain from all screens, including videogames, for one month.

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

The article helped me understand the physical issues with screens that are affecting us — as much as the emotional problems with feeling left out, bullied, comparing yourself to the make-believe social media world. Although these issues with mental health affect mostly young people, I’m sure it’s not limited to their generation entirely.

To answer my own question, “Is it time for a digital detox?” I say yes. I’m trying to find little ways each day to put down the phone or other media and do something healthy. Whether it’s sitting outside listening and watching birds, or taking time to stretch, there are ways to make it a better day and improve mental health.

Here’s another excerpt:

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

red cardinal on bird feeder
I like to sit outside and enjoy listening to and watching birds.

What do you view as the major issues facing families today?

What are your thoughts about the physical and chemical changes in the brain causing an addiction to social media, screens, video games, etc.? Have you heard about this before or is it a new concept to you?

How much time do you spend on social media like facebook, pinterest or other news sites?

How to not overwork from home

robahh 1
Back when I was working from home as a stay-at-home mom with my first-born child.

Little did I know when I posted this last January, that a bunch of people would be working from home in a few short weeks! My husband’s office is shut to most employees and clients. He’s been working from home for close to a year. He’s pretty good at keeping strict business hours. In our new home, he has his own office and that’s a big upgrade from him working in our master bedroom! Here’s what I wrote unknowing what the COVID year ahead would be like:

Working from home is something I’ve done for years. At first, I had what is now our guest room dedicated as my office for my sole proprietor public relations and marketing biz. That’s why the kids called it the “computer room” when they were little.  I had a desktop Apple IIc something computer and heavy-weight laser printer. Back then, I also had a fax machine and a separate phone line for my work.

images-11
This looks like the very first Mac in my home office.

My downfall with that venture was not knowing when to stop. Even though I had a separate work space, I couldn’t stop working. I had a client who loved to call me after 6 p.m. and give me work that had to be done by morning — and they were my main client! Also, this was pre-email days and internet. I had to transfer files to the people who changed my files to film over a modem. Then the film had to be picked up from these mom and pop shops and I drove them to the printer. I’m talking newsletters, flyers, brochures and veloxes for newspapers. Can you imagine that?

I’d wake up throughout the night and to make sure the files transferred from my modem to the film person’s modem. Sometimes a newsletter or ad file would take six or seven hours to transfer.

How things have changed from the early 1990s! Prior to that it, was a Selectric IBM typewriter I used and hand delivered copy to a print shop who then had to retype it all into columns, lay it out with my photos or artwork, give me a rough copy and finally a blueline to proof before going to print. Things are so much easier these days.

I’m still working from home and everything is so much quicker and convenient with emails and the internet. But the question still remains, how do I guard my time and not work all the time?

What’s a blueline you might ask if you weren’t alive back in the olden days? Here’s the definition I got from googling it from Dictionary.com:

blueline:

a print made on light-sensitive paper and used as a proof for checking the position of stripped-up negatives or positives and copy prior to platemaking.

images-5

What are your solutions for separating a life from working hours when you work from home?

How do you not “overwork” from home?

robahh 1

Back when I was working from home as a stay-at-home mom with my first-born child.

Working from home is something I’ve done for years. At first, I had what is now our guest room dedicated as my office for my sole proprietor public relations and marketing biz. That’s why the kids called it the “computer room” when they were little.  I had a desktop Apple IIc something computer and heavy-weight laser printer. Back then, I also had a fax machine and a separate phone line for my work.

images-11

This looks like the very first Mac in my home office.

My downfall with that venture was not knowing when to stop. Even though I had a separate work space, I couldn’t stop working. I had a client who loved to call me after 6 p.m. and give me work that had to be done by morning — and they were my main client! Also, this was pre-email days and internet. I had to transfer files to the people who changed my files to film over a modem. Then the film had to be picked up from these mom and pop shops and I drove them to the printer. I’m talking newsletters, flyers, brochures and veloxes for newspapers. Can you imagine that?

I’d wake up throughout the night and to make sure the files transferred from my modem to the film person’s modem. Sometimes a newsletter or ad file would take six or seven hours to transfer.

How things have changed from the early 1990s! Prior to that it, was a Selectric IBM typewriter I used and hand delivered copy to a print shop who then had to retype it all into columns, lay it out with my photos or artwork, give me a rough copy and finally a blueline to proof before going to print. Things are so much easier these days.

I’m still working from home and everything is so much quicker and convenient with emails and the internet. But the question still remains, how do I guard my time and not work all the time?

What’s a blueline you might ask if you weren’t alive back in the olden days? Here’s the definition I got from googling it from Dictionary.com:

blueline

bloo-lahyn ]SHOW IPA

nounPrinting.

a print made on light-sensitive paper and used as a proof for checking the position of stripped-up negatives or positives and copy prior to platemaking.
images-5
What are your solutions for separating a life from working hours when you work from home?

 

The Computer Room and Our Early Tech

download

My current computer.

When we moved into our house in the fall of 1992, I was running a public relations and advertising business from home. My workhorse was the Macintosh IIci computer and the Apple LaserWriter IIf—my first of many Apple computers. There was a fairly new invention called desktop publishing that I thought was so exciting.

I used a modem to send files to a business that turned my computer files into film that would go to a local printer for newsletters, brochures and print ads. My home office was in what is now our guest room. Back then we called it “the computer room,” because unlike today, where I work mostly on a laptop wherever I feel like it — all my work had to be done in that room on the computer.

When I was ready to send a file, I called the business and let them know I was ready to send it. Then we’d both start up our dial-up modems. The file transfer would tie up my computer and could take up to eight hours! So, I’d make the call in the evening when I was done with work and the file transfer would happen overnight.

What seemed so high tech at the time, is ancient by today’s standards. The dial-up modem was pre-internet. I remember visiting a friend who was the first person I knew who used the internet. He was working on creating a website for people to locate and get information about his business. I thought to myself, who on earth is going to their computer to look up a business? What a waste of time! After all, we had phone books and yellow pages for that.

Years later, after there was no computer in the guest room, we still called it the “computer room.” It turned into a TV room and our kids and their friends would hang out there watching a big bulky TV and VCR. Eventually, when the kids got older and I saw my daughter’s friends a little too cozy and flirtatious with my son’s friends, we bought a big screen TV and put it smack in the center of the living room. My kids told me this week that they thought they were responsible for us getting the big flat screen TV. One of them had unplugged the cable from the TV and told us it wouldn’t work anymore!

450px-Macintosh_IIci

My first computer and printer.

188px-Apple_Laserwriter_II

What do you remember about your first technology? How did we work without the internet? 

With all the hubbub about internet privacy, what about internet security?

 

imgres-1

Sometimes I miss the days when I wrote on this–which was considered high tech.

 

I had a weird experience yesterday with Google that gave me the creeps. It started with helping my daughter with a mailing list. She asked if I would sign onto Google docs and we could work on a list together. I said I’d email it to her and she explained how much easier Google docs is to use. Instead of emailing one document back and forth, we could work on it together—at the same time.

She was asking for addresses of family and friends to mail her graduation announcements. I was amazed at how the document open in my Google window would fill in with names and addresses, without me doing a thing. My daughter explained that this is how all group projects are done for school in this day and age. That was truly amazing to me. We finished the list easily around 9 a.m. with only one document between the two of us. FYI, this is NOT what gave me the creeps.

google-docs-icons-590d5dfe3df78c928309366bIt was the text I received from Google at 3:15 p.m. that was weird. It stated that someone had tried to log into my Google account with my password but Google had declined it. They asked me to go online and check if it was me or someone I knew.

I asked my daughter if she had tried to access my account and she said, “Nope, it wasn’t me.” I didn’t think about it again until this morning and realized that I had forgotten to check on my computer to see if someone had tried to access my Google account. This morning, I went back to Google docs, and there was a red banner across the top of the window asking if I had tried to log in yesterday at 3:15 p.m. I clicked no, and it took me to another page to show me a map of where the person was that entered my password. HO CHI MINH CITY! That’s right, someone from Vietnam has my password and tried to hack into my account. Is that creepy or what?

I watched Facebook’s Zuckerberg on TV the past two days being questioned by the Senate and House about privacy, tracking, advertising and censorship. I know all those things are important, but seriously, isn’t someone across the world using my password and log-in info worth some investigation, too? It makes me believe that we’re all much more vulnerable than what we think. I think it’s time to think about internet security and what we can do to protect ourselves. Needless to say, I spent time this morning changing passwords for online accounts.

images-10

One of our earlier Macs. We had one in Strawberry, too.

Has someone tried to log into one of your online accounts before and what did you do about it?