Dr. Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA school of medicine, has studied and written extensively about interpersonal neurobiology; or the correlation between healthy brain development and positive human relationships.
Recent studies by Siegel have shown that much of our online experiences stimulate our left brain hemisphere. With the average screen time exceeding 5 hours a day, an imbalance is occuring, where the right hemisphere is receiving relatively little stimulation compared to the left. Siegel worries that “compassion, stress modulation, and bodily wisdom to be tuned into your bodily sensory self will be lessened” (Siegel, 2011).
In order to counteract this, Dr. Siegel suggests seven daily essential mental activities to ‘balance the brain.’ I believe that, in tandem with creating a contract and expectations with your child of their social media and internet activity, these 7 steps will help to create the focus of a well rounded home routine.
Focus Time: When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
- Starting with easily achievable goals (cleaning every day for 15 mins)
- Set self-interest goals that can be monitored by parent
Play Time: When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.
- Brain teasers, charades, arts and crafts, free play in the park
Connecting Time: When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry.
- Family time: boardgames, drawing, going outdoors, etc.
Physical Time: When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.
- Walking to and from school, extra-curricular sports, free play in the backyard or park.
Time In: When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.
- Diary or reflection journal, free form art
Down Time: When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.
- Meditation, yoga, meditative walking
Sleep Time: When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
Reading through this list, it becomes apparent that many of us do some of these things on a daily basis, yet we aren’t focused specifically on ensuring these tasks are fulfilled, as we are more likely torn away by work or school, or have given in to the distractions of television or unfocused use of the internet.
Using these 7 essential mental activities as a framework of how you and your family use your time at home will be a valuable way to ensure you are putting health and positive relationships at the forefront. Many of these activities also overlap, so the pressure to find the time to have seven independent activities is redundant.
Here are some examples of how simple it can be to adopt these 7 steps into your after work routine:
- Going to the local playground or park (physical time, down time, connecting time):
- Cooking Supper(Focus Time, connecting time): Deciding on a menu, prepping, cooking, and cleaning are all tasks that rely on family interdependence, as well as working in a goal-oriented way to prepare supper.
- Eating as a family (connecting time, time in): Interacting with one another, as well as recalling personal stories of the day, and other relevant news or trivia fulfills two of Sigel’s Mental activities.
- Board game or other activity after dinner (play time, connecting time)
- Reading, math, or homework time (focus time, connecting time)
- Journaling / Diary / Blogging (time in): To reflect on our emotions, thoughts, and reactions
- Meditating/yoga in the living room (down time, connecting time)
Follow this link to get a handout that you can use to easily brainstorm your own routine at home.