Month: March 2016

Tech Addiction: Oh Those Sweet Dopamine Eliciting Toys!

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Oh, please do not get me wrong at all! I LOVE, #heart, technology. Clearly! The whole  point to my blog post today is the possibility that too much of a good thing may be at detrimental. Society is changing with the advancement of technology; and, so are the expectations placed upon us to be hyper-connected, relentlessly, all of the time.

Do you ever wonder if you are you addicted to technology? 

dopamine-heart-1024x873.jpgWell, it is easy to to find ourselves feeling that we could NEVER unplug, experiencing pure panic if we were expected to give up our little Dopamine tech boost. Wait what?!?! Give up tech? or Dopamine?

Yes, Dopamine that famous neurotransmitter (chemical messenger in your brain), that holds a prized position in the annals of popular science as the “reward” drug. Much of what we do online releases dopamine into the brain’s pleasure centers, resulting in obsessive pleasure-seeking behaviour. Just one more text, one more email, one more level in the game, one more internet search, and so on…


Yes, I’m going to get all PsychNerdy on y’all!Brain Nerd

There are consequences to this tech obsession… 

Here is what some smart people are saying about the downside of technology overuse:

“For a lot of people it’s the lack of offline time which causes hyper-arousal of the brain. People walk about in a state of distractibility.” Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan.

Author and psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair also thinks multi-tasking, or multi-screening, is a dangerous game. “We see a decrease in memory, a decline in student grades, they’re not developing the part of their brain that needs to be developed for maintaining a singular focus,” she told the BBC.


Still not sold? well…

There was some pretty cool research conducted by the International Center for Media at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., which led “The World Unplugged” project.

What they found was a clear majority of almost 1,000 university students in 10 countries, including China, Chile, the U.K. and Uganda, were unable to voluntarily stay away from computers, televisions, cellphones and MP3 players for 24 hours. Many students also reported mental and physical symptoms of distress and “employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression,” when reporting their experiences of trying to go unplugged for a full day.

YES! Just one Day!

Please take a moment to click here to open up a full pdf poster of what students around the world had to say about how they felt during their 24 hours without media. As a counsellor working with post-secondary students, I was shocked and saddened for the level of distress felt by these students.

Fortunately, students left this study with some insight. Many students said that they learned that relying on devices such as cellphones “actually inhibited their ability to manage their lives as fully as they hoped,” the authors reported.

How social media makes us unsocial | Allison Graham | TEDxSMU 12:46min


I am going to be very transparent about my approach to mental health distress. I take a developmental approach rather than a “disease model” approach to mental health and wellness. I don’t believe that people are broken, but rather we develop very strong habits that may have helped us at one time in our lives but become a problem (maladaptive) for us later or in different settings. There is a great CBC podcast, “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease“, that explains this positive, hope instilled, approach to mental distress.

“We learn what we live”

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There is a very famous poem written by Dr. Dorothy Law Nolte, Children Learn What They Live. I highly encourage you to check it out. It really illustrates the impact of learning on our habits and behaviours. Perhaps another line can be added to this insightful and true poem…

If children learn that we communicate only through technology, they learn to avoid face-to-face interactions in favour of a text or to engage with people not in the room with them now.

We are so quick to call something a disorder, to describe people as broken and incapable in the realm of learning to be different. Habits are learned and unlearned and often, good or bad, they have a developmental function and purpose in our lives.

Let’s Unlearn Some Unhelpful Tech Habits!!

Some simple strategies to reduce the electronic overload and regain a healthy balance of life, work, school and technology.Media_Overload_by_itsyouforme

  1. Make Tech Inaccessible: Experiment with short periods of inaccessibility. No, your life won’t implode, as with any addiction/well ingrained habit, there is a period of feeling like you are in a state of “withdrawal” and anxiety. Ride it out for the benefits.
    • Have “electronic sundowns” – pull back from technology in the hour before you go to bed.  Institute a “tech curfew:” no recreational use of tech after 9:00pm.
    • Unplug: Spend one hour per day, one day per week, and four days per month completely “unplugged” from all forms of technology.
    • Structure your “tech” day: set specific times for emailing, Facebook, chat rooms, eBay, research, etc. Set a “not-to-do list. For example, don’t check email/texts/FB before 8 a.m.
    • Be in the Room: Do not have conversations or meals with any tech devise in hand (eyes “up” and focused on your conversation partner).
  2. Remove the Unhelpful Distractors: If you find yourself unable to resist some tools such as RSS feeds, Twitter, etc. eliminate that service, at least from easy access on your smart phone.
  3. Buddy up. Don’t go it alone on the road to recovery, because you’re likely to revert to your old habits. Ask a friend or family member to join you.
  4. Replace Tech-Time with Healthy Options:  take low-tech “field trips” at least once per week (parks, museum, movies, reading paper books, cafes, etc.). Exercise with friends: biking, hiking, swimming, treadmill, intramural sports, bowling, etc.)
  5. Empowerment Through Rephrasing: take a moment to listen to yourself, how do you describe your experience? Does it sound anything like the following?
    • “My smartphone runs my life”. rephrase: “I am letting my smartphone run my life”
    • “It is harder for me, than others, to disconnect”. rephrase: “I am not ready to deal with feeling disconnected from FB, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.”


If you take responsibility, you can develop a strong strategy because it is coming from you (intrinsic); rather than relying on an outside source of motivation (extrinsic).

Technology should improve your life,

not become your life. 


Believe me, I can see how ironic it is that I am writing today about the perils of technology using WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube…I know, I know 😉


What I really do know is that there is so much to be said for the value of MODERATION. Technology is awesome, until it is not awesome; so, lets moderate this goodness.

It is not simply going without; it is about filling your time in a different way. It is about using technology as intended; as a tool to improve your life not a replacement or a way to avoid difficult/unpleasant things (i.e. real time social interaction).

What electronic toy can you just not live without? Try separating yourself, in small increments …just to see if you can do it 🙂

The whole process of psychotherapy is helping people develop strategies for emotional distress. Learning to experience emotional discomfort and know that it will pass. Build your skills, sit with emotion, sit with temptation and replace with healthier habits.

“Hi Tech, we’re breaking up, just for a moment, to see if I can live without you…for a moment”

FYI, I went tech-free this past Friday; hence, no eSuccess-Coaching Blog 🙂

Dr. Heather Drummond, EdD

eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success




Procrastinating? Since You are Already Down That Rabbit Hole

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Check This Out Now!

Before something else grabs your attention 😉

I am going to get straight to the point today, because I really want you to watch this amazing TedTalk about distraction. The less words I use, the better the chance that you won’t fall into a YouTube binge or a Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Check out Tim Urban as he shares his personal understanding of procrastination. It is seriously funny!



Check out his blog: Wait but Why?


He writes posts every Tuesday every Wednesday about his psychological shortcomings. Super funny and very helpful in making you feel human 🙂



Now go get something done so that you can have some guilt free fun!

Dr. Heather Drummond
, EdD

eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success


Emotions: The Mystery Explained Well by Pixar

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Oh yes, that confusing built in language that we have, where sometimes trying to understand the message can even seem overwhelming!

Flying from Toronto to Calgary this week, I was able to watch a film as I was held captive gloriously without access to the constant expectations that connected technology can bring. Yes, even I need a break from social media to allow creativity and inspiration to manifest 😉 I was able to have the time to sit and enjoy a inflight film; a film that I am really impressed with. So today I wanted to write about the Pixar film, Inside Out, because it is a wonderful depiction of the emotional experience of human beings.

What I prescribe to you, today, is the following:

…carve out some time, put on something comfy, grab a bevy of your choosing and hunker down and watch this film. It is an experience wrapped up in an education distilled down to a level that removes part of the mystery of emotions.


So, I haven’t sold you yet??!

Check out the trailer…

Aside from the awesome dialogue, this film is filled with fantastic explanations as to why new learning, counselling, human connection and understanding the language of emotions is so empowering.

“All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success!” — Fear

Here are some of my highlights:

  • Feeling better may involve allowing “Joy” to drag you around your long term memory (positive experience recall).
  • “When Riley doesn’t care about a memory it fades”. The importance of fostering and taking care of our positive experience and not succumbing to the negative filter (CBT Blog Post).
  • “Sadness” having a purpose and function; bringing friends and family closer for support in a difficult time.
  • “Anger” has a function: opening the glass to the control centre to let joy back in. Sometimes we need to be angry as a protection until we are ready to deal with more difficult emotional experiences or face change/challenge.
  • You have to see the puberty clips at the end of this film! Hilarious! “what are we mad about?”, “Do you think they can see through us?”, “I feel like a fraud”.
  • “Islands” as facets of identity: Honesty Island, Family Island, Boyband Island, Imagination Land (Imaginary Boyfriend is from Canada!), etc.


Seriously, watch it! At least it is 90 minutes of entertainment, self-care and stress management 🙂


Brain Nerd

I wasn’t going to get all PsychNerdy on you today, but I have a serious addiction to sharing all the cool psychology stuff that can help enhance your life 😉

This will be quick. Did you know that depressive symptoms have an evolutionary function, intended to help you? Sounds weird, I know, but researchers, Keller and Nesse (2006), wrote a pretty great article about this topic.


The Evolutionary Significance of Depressive Symptoms: Different Adverse Situations Lead to Different Depressive Symptom Patterns (Click Here for full article you wonderful PsychNerds!)


  • Rumination, or the obsessive replaying of negative events, feelings, and implications of those feelings, is a common experience with depression. The researchers, hypothesize that rumination aids in understanding the causes and consequences of the adverse situations to avoid such situations in the future and to reconsider strategies and goals themselves.
  • Anxiety is a painful state of uneasiness or nervousness about possible future losses. Anxiety promotes wariness and hyper-vigilance, particularly toward potential threats, and so should be adaptive in threatening situations.
  • Crying, like many emotional signals, is expressed via configurations of facial musculature and vocal behaviors, and it elicits specific reactions in others, in this case, empathy and comforting behaviors. It seems likely therefore that crying requests and secures aid. Crying appears to strengthen social bonds.

Inside Out


Your emotions are communicating to you, learn the language, figure out their functions and you just may find that you are able to manage your own stress levels much better. It is okay to be sad, the work is in not letting it derail your whole life. Joy

Dr. Heather Drummond
, EdD

eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success





M3: Mental Strength, Mindset & Motivation

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New Mindset

Mindset, Emotion Regulation and Living Your Best Life

Another instalment in the Emotion Regulation = Academic Success Series.

Ok, I am going to be a bit of a butt kicker today. Probably because I have spent my entire week repetitively kicking my own but; trying to keep the motivation alive and moving. Sometimes we just need to clear out the mental clutter and create a mindset that works for us. Really, who doesn’t feel awesome when they are effective and taking control of their lives? We have to seize the moment that passion meets motivation and get going. Today, I would like to talk a little more about a strategy that can give your mindset a little nudge in the right direction.

Here are the ground rules, for today, to get you in the best state of mind:

Shift to Warm Fuzzies


I know! Totally not what counsellors generally say, but today we are honing in on our ideal mindset for getting stuff done. Have you ever noticed when you choose to describe a situation in only positive terms that it makes you feel better about the event or, even sometimes, the person that you are talking about? Let’s do it, let’s learn how to create a beneficial mindset today 🙂

Let’s start with a Video Snack to set the stage.

This one’s for you Kelsey C! …because you said you love the TedTalks 🙂

The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong | Amy Morin

Amy’s article, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” introduced the world to the bad habits that can keep us from being mentally strong. Her article was reprinted and shared millions of times as it became a viral sensation. Within a few days, her list was republished on, where it became one of their most read articles of all time with 10 million views. Check out her TEDx Talk…simply fantastic!

Nerdy, Nerdy PsychNerdy Time!

Brain Nerd

Sometimes it is hard to get out of thinking traps and focus on the things that make us mentally stronger. Yes, building a new habit is hard, but really, are you not tired of feeling crappy about yourself and your life at times? I know that I have to work hard to get out of those traps sometimes, so I challenge you to find a new approach, develop a new mindset and create a life that even you are envious of 🙂

Here is a place to start…

Researchers, Burton & King (2004), ran an experiment that was looking at enhancing positive mood and health. Check out their journal article, The health benefits of writing about positive experiences: the role of broadened cognition, for more information. The theory that informed this experiment’s design was The Broaden and Build Theory of Positive emotions (for the really PsychNerdy ones, see below for a link).

What they did:

  • They took 90 post-secondary students and split them into 2 groups: experimental (intervention) and control (no intervention)
  • For 3 days, both groups were asked to come to the lab and write for 20 minutes. They took a survey about their mood before and after writing.
  • The control group was asked to write, in detail, about their plans for the day, their shoes and a description of their bedroom.
  • The experimental group was asked to write about Intensely Positive Experiences (IPEs). See the directions below.

What they found:

Three months later…

  • Writing about IPEs was associated with enhanced positive mood.
  • Writing about IPEs was also associated with significantly fewer health center visits for illness, compared to those in the control group.
  • Writing about your day, your shoes or your bedroom has no significant effect on enhancing your health and positive outlook (you probably guessed that!).



Do you want to write about your shoes or would you like to change your Mindset?

I thought you might say that 🙂


Start Today!

Writing About Intensely Positive Experiences

Here are the directions from the researchers, Burton & King (2009), to get you started:

“Think of the most wonderful experience or experiences in your life, happiest moments, ecstatic Positivemoments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music, or suddenly ‘‘being hit’’ by a book or painting or from some great creative moment. Choose one such experience or moment. Try to imagine yourself at that moment, including all the feelings and emotions associated with the experience. Now write about the experience in as much detail as possible trying to include the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that were present at the time. Please try your best to re-experience the emotions involved”.



Feelin’Super PscyhNerdy?

Check this out:

Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions by Barbara L. Fredrickson or even check out Wikipedia for a better idea of this theory.  Pretty cool stuff!



Everyday is a conscious effort

I am thrilled and  grateful for all the wonderful comments that I have been receiving from readers. Thank you so much for your feedback and support!

Dr. Heather Drummond, EdD

eSuccess-Coach * Passionate Advocate for Student Success


Book: 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin: Click Here

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