This is a Stanford University publication
Cecile Andrews & Jane Rothsein
Texting, Tweeting and technology sending you toward a system crash?
Is modern-day multitasking and materialism maxing out your bandwidth? Cecile Andrews, author of Less is More, and Jane Rothstein, LCSW, coordinator of environmental behavior change in the Health Improvement Program explain how the “less is more” approach can help us regain our lives, find joy and feel more deeply.
BW: What makes modern life so stressful?
JR: We are all trying to do too many things in too little time. And, we think we should be able to do it all. Part of the reason we feel this way is because technology allows us to do things so quickly. So, we have developed the notion that we should be available and productive 24/7.
CA: We’re going too fast, we’re doing too much and we’re spending too much. Depression and anxiety have spiked. As a result of our behaviors, we’re destroying the planet, undermining our health and undermining the common good.
BW: Let's talk about pace. Should we learn to control the speed of our lives?
JR: The soul needs slowness. Being connected to nature every day can help slow the pace because it is soothing and has slower rhythms. Also, we should take the time to do things the old-fashioned way sometimes, like walking instead of driving or picking up the phone instead of e-mailing.
CA: Each one of us can learn to rush less. We can reduce our multitasking. We can learn to hang out and move in a leisurely fashion. We can take our time, enjoying the moment. Americans mistakenly believe that if they’re rich they’ll be happy. But after a certain level, more income does not bring more happiness. In fact, the pursuit of money can interfere with the most important ingredient of happiness: ties to other people.
BW: And now, content. Are we accumulating too much stuff?
CA: Our obsession with possessions undermines our lives in many ways. First, we go into debt. Until the arrival of the recent recession, the average American’s savings rate had plunged to zero. Next, in order to pay for our stuff, we’re forced to accept long work hours. Finally, buying and managing stuff takes time!
Over the last several years our homes have doubled in size, giving us that much more space to fill, clean and supervise. All of this takes us away from more important things, such as connection and creativity.
BW: What role is technology playing in some of these concerns?
JR: It has sanitized the transmission of information by eliminating aspects of human warmth such as voices, expressions and emotions. Technology has also changed the pace of our interaction: We are getting too much information and not enough time to metabolize it. As a result of being able to click on links which immediately take us on to another webpage, and then another, our ability to concentrate has sometimes suffered erosion.
BW: What practical advice can you offer those of us who feel stressed on a regular basis?
CA: There are no simple answers to feeling stressed! Yes, we can learn to slow down, meditate, eat well, exercise and get more sleep. But, we need systemic change. Working to create a culture in which we care about the common good is the best stress reducer there is. We need more laughter and conversation—more picnics, dances, parties and gatherings in the park. We need to walk in our neighborhoods and stop and chat; we need more potlucks and book clubs and gardening clubs. At the heart of all change must be the experience of the joyful community
JR: Set realistic limits on what you can do. Learn to say “no” to some things. Schedule time to be outside and defend that time on your calendar. Use e-mail filters to prioritize your inbox. Ask that people call you instead of e-mail. And, when possible, find a time to unplug completely.