Life is looking up

Engaged but disengaged. Connected but disconnected; time spent in virtual reality is in the uptick. 

The downward gaze is normal, but it comes with a cost. Looking up has proven benefits. 

Humanity has long lived in the virtual reality created by our minds, ‘lost in thought,’ but our relationship with what’s really happening in the present moment is further challenged by the virtual reality of our devices. Much of life can pass us by, and we fail to truly live. 

As I look out into the world, I see groups of people sitting together, yet so far apart, as they sit hunched over a screen; an interesting testament to our times. I’m not writing this from a critical perspective, but from one of curiosity and concern, as I wonder how far we’re going to go down the rabbit-hole of virtual isolation.

Recently, I felt a pit in my belly watching a mother interact with her wee child, phone in hand, distracted by her device as she endeavoured to entertain the child with a game of hide-and-seek. The child knew and escalated their behaviour in an attempt to become the true focus of attention.

I watch people sharing the virtual reality of their screen with others as they gather in groups. Devices are passed around a circle, inviting friends into one another’s virtual reality. It’s a normal feature of everyday life, but I have to ask myself, what is the cost?

We’re often present in body but seem to be anywhere else but here, in the present moment. The virtual world is enticing, but what happens to our lives?

At times, when I put my phone down, I feel as though I am waking up and returning to life, and in many ways this is true. We miss much of what’s really going on around us, as we spend much of our time anywhere but in the present moment.

We miss out on the many benefits of casting our gaze upward and making real connections with life and the people around us.

Humans are hard-wired to connect, yet so much of our connection is virtual and we’re missing out on the benefits of looking up and making real human connections.

As we look up and engage with those around us, making real eye-to-eye contact, the feel-good chemical dopamine is released. This is the same chemical secretion we experience when we eat an excellent meal, exercise, or have sex. Dopamine gives us a feeling of reward and motivates our behaviour.

Looking upward, taking in distant vistas helps us to build a new brain. Looking upward:

  • increases our awareness
  • allows us to access insight
  • builds a sense of empathy, hope and belonging
  • builds trust
  • increases our ability to think in the long term
  • improves our ability to solve complex problems

While many of us use break-time to scroll though our devices, it’s more restful on our brains to look up. Doing so builds our ability to focus and think more clearly. We find more ‘ah-ha’ moments as we access our creativity, and are filled with inspiration.

The builders of spectacular buildings and cathedrals of old knew this, and created structures that drew our gaze upward. There’s a current move among architects, challenging them to build structures to invite our gaze upward, to counter-act the effect of society’s downward gaze.

As the beauty of summer surrounds us, I’m being sure to take time to look up, to take in and appreciate the clouds and the beauty of nature. When I do this, I feel better, and now know the benefits are not just in my head. 

Life is looking up. 


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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