The common pitfall in relationships--when a couple experiences a hiccup, miscommunication or are at odds about something--is to act at war with one another, and fixate on the problem. The problem really isn't the problem, itself. It's the length of time that they focus on the problem. The longer they talk, dwell or hash out the details of `who did what', the greater risk for blame negativity, anger, frustration, and criticism to take place. When you become solution oriented--that is, you're focused on working on the solution instead of being focused on the problem--you can quickly reinstate your desire for the person you're with, and communicate respect and love instead. Parents don't need to believe tech is evil to help kids manage distraction. Learning to become indistractable is a skill that will serve our children no matter what life path they pursue or what forms distraction takes. If we are going to help our kids take responsibility for their choices, we need to stop making convenient excuses for them--and for ourselves. In this section, we're going to understand the deeper psychology driving some kids to overuse their devices and learn smart ways to help them overcome distraction. Just as the human body requires three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) to run properly, Ryan and Deci proposed the human psyche needs three things to flourish: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When the body is starved, it elicits hunger pangs; when the psyche is undernourished, it produces anxiety, restlessness, and other symptoms that something is missing. When kids aren't getting the psychological nutrients they need, self-determination theory explains why they might overdo unhealthy behaviors, such as spending too much time in front of screens. Ryan believes the cause has less to do with the devices and more to do with why certain kids are susceptible to distraction in the first place. Without sufficient amounts of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, kids turn to distractions for psychological nourishment. Most formal schooling in America and similar industrialized countries, on the other hand, is the antithesis of a place where kids have the autonomy to make their own choices. According to Rogoff, "It may be the case that children give up control of their attention when it's always managed by an adult." In other words, kids can become conditioned to lose control of their attention and become highly distractible as a result. While such a restrictive environment isn't every American student's experience, it's clear why so many struggle to stay motivated in the classroom: their need for autonomy to explore their interests is unfulfilled. "We're doing a lot of controlling them in their school environments and it's no surprise that they should then want to turn to an environment where they can feel a lot of agency and a lot of autonomy in what they're doing," Ryan says. "We think of [tech use] as kind of an evil in the world, but it's an evil we have created a gravitational pull around by the alternatives we've set up." Unlike their offline lives, kids have a tremendous amount of freedom online; they have the autonomy to call the shots and experiment with creative strategies to solve problems. "In internet spaces, there tends to be myriad choices and opportunities, and a lot less adult control and surveillance," says Ryan.

"One can thus feel freedom, competence, and connection online, especially when the teenager's contrasting environments are overly controlling, restrictive, or understimulating." Ironically, when parents grow concerned with how much time their kids spend online, they often impose even more rules--a tactic that tends to backfire. Instead of more ways to limit your kids' autonomy, Ryan advises seeking to understand the underlying needs and associated internal triggers driving them to digital distraction. "What we've found is that parents who address internet use or screen time with kids in an autonomy-supported way have kids who are more self-regulated with respect to it, so less likely to use screen time for excessive hours," he says. Our desires also affect how we judge ourselves and others. One of the most documented findings in psychology is that we want to think flattering thoughts about ourselves. A great majority of us think we are more intelligent, more fair-minded, and less prejudiced than the average person (and a better driver, too).23 A survey of one million high school seniors found that 70 percent thought they were above average in leadership ability, while only 2 percent thought they were below average. All students thought they were above average in their ability to get along with others; in fact, 25 percent believed they were in the top 1 percent. The same goes for teachers. A study of college professors found that 94 percent thought they were better at their jobs than the average professor. Furthermore, most of us think that more favorable things will happen to us than to others. We think we're more likely to own a home and earn a large salary, and less likely to get divorced or become afflicted with cancer, as compared to others.24 Of course, these beliefs can't all be true, but our desires lead us to those biased beliefs. Consider the following study. Psychologist Peter Glick examined two groups of students--one that believed that horoscopes accurately describe a person's personality and another that did not. Each group read one of two versions of a horoscope. In one version, the horoscope was generally positive, saying that the person was dependable, sympathetic, and sociable. In the other group, the horoscope gave negative traits, indicating that the person was overly sensitive and undependable. When asked how accurate the horoscopes were, the believers said they were very accurate, whether flattering or not. On the other hand, those who didn't believe thought the flattering version was accurate, while the unflattering version was not. Also, the people who initially didn't believe in astrology indicated a significantly greater belief after they received the flattering version of the horoscopes.25 We see what we want to see. If we have a firm belief in astrology, we'll see the predictions as accurate.

If we initially don't believe, we'll be more inclined to believe if the horoscope tells us something we want to hear. Do you remember the movie A Beautiful Mind that won the Academy Award in 2002? It was based upon the life of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who won the Nobel Prize for economics. Amazingly, Nash was also schizophrenic. He would have constant visions, seeing aliens and people that didn't actually exist. When asked why he believed in them, Nash said that his hallucinations came to him in the same way that his best mathematical ideas did. They were very real to him, as they are to other individuals with schizophrenia. If you pursue your meditation practice with this attitude, you will succeed. You'll find yourself observing things objectively, exactly as they are--flowing and changing from moment to moment. Life then takes on an unbelievable richness that cannot be described. It has to be experienced. The Pali term for insight meditation is vipassana bhavana. Bhavana comes from the root bhu, which means to grow or to become. Therefore bhavana means to cultivate, and the word is always used in reference to the mind; bhavana means mental cultivation. Vipassana is derived from two roots. Passana means seeing or perceiving. Vi is a prefix with a complex set of connotations that can be roughly translated as "in a special way," and also into and through "a special way." The whole meaning of the word vipassana is looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct, and piercing all the way through to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing. This process leads to insight into the basic reality of whatever is being examined. Put these words together and vipassana bhavana means the cultivation of the mind toward the aim of seeing in the special way that leads to insight and full understanding. In vipassana meditation we cultivate this special way of seeing life.

We train ourselves to see reality exactly as it is, and we call this special mode of perception mindfulness. This process of mindfulness is really quite different from what we usually do. We usually do not look into what is actually there in front of us. We see life through a screen of thoughts and concepts, and we mistake those mental objects for reality. We get so caught up in this endless thought-stream that reality flows by unnoticed. We spend our time engrossed in activity, caught up in an eternal pursuit of pleasure and gratification and eternal flight from pain and unpleasantness. We spend all of our energies trying to make ourselves feel better, trying to bury our fears, endlessly seeking security. Meanwhile, the world of real experience flows by untouched and untasted. In vipassana meditation we train ourselves to ignore the constant impulses to be more comfortable, and we dive into reality instead. The irony of it is that real peace comes only when you stop chasing it--another Catch-22. When you relax your driving desire for comfort, real fulfillment arises. When you drop your hectic pursuit of gratification, the real beauty of life comes out. When you seek to know reality without illusion, complete with all its pain and danger, real freedom and security will be yours. This is not a doctrine we are trying to drill into you; it is an observable reality, something you can and should see for yourself. Buddhism is 2,500 years old, and any thought system of such vintage has time to develop layers and layers of doctrine and ritual. Nevertheless, the fundamental attitude of Buddhism is intensely empirical and antiauthoritarian. Gotama the Buddha was a highly unorthodox individual and a real antitraditionalist. He did not offer his teaching as a set of dogmas, but rather as a set of propositions for each individual to investigate for him- or herself. His invitation to one and all was, "Come and see." One of the things he said to his followers was, "Place no head above your own." By this he meant, don't just accept somebody else's word. See for yourself.

Watch what you eat close to bedtime. It's no secret that heavy, rich, or spicy foods can keep you awake at night. Even citrus fruits and carbonated drinks can trigger indigestion, and too much alcohol close to bedtime can disrupt sleep as the body processes the alcohol. In other words, when it comes to eating and drinking before bed, go easy on anything you consume. Avoid stimulants close to bedtime. Coffee is an obvious stimulant, but many people forget that soda and tea can contain caffeine as well. Nicotine and exercise are other stimulants that can keep us from falling quickly into sleep. I also put emotionally upsetting conversations and activities in this category of things to avoid, as well as exposure to electronics. As discussed earlier in this chapter, even something as innocuous as texting right before bed provides light and stimulation that will undermine the quality of your sleep. Follow a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Maintaining a consistent nightly routine helps the body recognize when it's time to sleep. Your process might include taking a warm shower or bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Your routine should also include going to bed and waking up around the same time. Ideally, you should go to bed and wake up within the same thirty-minute window every day. Something else to consider adding to your bedtime routine is the simple act of making a to-do list. Psychologists at Baylor University wanted to find out if writing down future-oriented thoughts would help people sleep better. After recruiting fifty-seven adults for the study, the researchers asked half the group to spend five minutes before bed writing down things they had accomplished in the past few days. The other half of the group was asked to spend five minutes before bed writing down things they needed to remember to do in the coming few days. People who wrote the to-do lists fell asleep, on average, nine minutes faster than people who wrote about things they had already accomplished. Baylor University assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience Michael Scullin says, "We think that when people offload everything in their mind that might be hard to remember otherwise, it gives them some relief from that rumination." The giving box mentality is all about exactly what you may have guessed--a focus on giving to others instead of taking.