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  • Orla Beaton

Interrupting Pathways to Happiness?



In mid-November I decided to take a break from social media for 3 weeks. I had been quite actively engaged on there during COP26, both following inspiring pages and also sharing posts of my own. However, by the end of the conference my brain was overloaded with information and my heart felt heavy. Taking a break has been refreshing and inspiring in many ways and has given me the chance to reassess my relationship with the digital world.


One of the most interesting insights during this break coincided with me teaching a practice called "Ten Breaths to Happiness" on my short mindfulness course. Stepping away from social media has allowed me to spend more time outdoors, taking in the beauty of the quiet winter season. This has been so nourishing and necessary. In the Ten Breaths Practice we allow ourselves to stop when we see something beautiful, like a view or a leaf, and notice the feeling of joy in our bodies while we count 10 conscious breaths. Why 10 breaths? Neuroscientists say that it takes a minimum of 30 seconds to create a new neural pathway in the brain, the length of time it takes on average to breathe in and out 10 times. So by pausing and breathing for 30 seconds we strengthen the pathways towards happiness, balancing the negativity bias of our brains. At first I realised how difficult this was for me to do! And then I realised why. Up until then I had been in the habit of taking out my phone and taking a photo of the beautiful moment. Not always, but often enough to make that action a habit and more importantly I saw that this action interrupted the pathway to happiness in my nervous system. I realised that it had become more important for my brain to capture the scene and then it would quite quickly begin to anticipate sharing it with others and what their response would be. This insight was quite shocking!


Big-tech companies specifically design their platforms to keep us there and without us knowing we are hooked into interrupting our lives, on a daily basis... our real lives. Yes, there can be a joy in sharing a photo with others, but I began to question what my intention was in doing so? Wasn't I simply buying into the multi-million dollar market for our attention? And what impact did this have on my happiness and those around me?


Winter is such a wonderful time to reflect on our deepest aspirations in life. To let insights and observations percolate so that they can blossom in to action when they are ready. This new awareness on the impact of social media on my health and happiness as well as my mindfulness has been so insightful and encourages me to find a more healthy relationship with the digital field in 2022. I am particularly interested in nourishing more conscious ways of communication, interrupting the relentless flow of digital information, with more healing interactions.


Om shanti, Orla x




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