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When Ed, Shelia, Jim and I wrote the book, Joy Starts Here,[1] we wanted to inspire families and communities to create what we call the Transformation Zone, the “sweet spot” where people come together for joyful character change. We also highlighted how critical relational skills are falling out of society. Joy Starts Here is a clarion call for people to embrace joy and become gentle protectors who reflect God’s heart and values.

One of the reasons relational skills are fading is because of advances in technology with the increasing prevalence of “plugging in” to phones, tablets, computers and, devices. We are more connected than ever, yet many of us remain isolated and disconnected.

Research shows that when we have our smartphones close to us, even when we are not using the phone, our cognitive capacity is diminished.[2] Yes, that’s right. Even if your phone is turned off or face down on silent, your brain is still thinking about checking your phone. Your phone may be turned off while you focus on a task, but your phone is still pulling precious bandwidth from your brain. The greater your dependence is on your phone, the greater your cognitive decreases will show up, especially if the phone is within reach while you are trying to focus on another task.[3]

One professor, Larry Rosen PhD, commented on the above study and mentioned that students who study with their phones by their side will study for, “only 10 out of the 15 minutes, which is their maximum ability to pay attention and not feel compelled to check their phones.”

Dependency on our devices hijacks our brain and steals our attention. The researchers encourage people to do one simple step to solve this device dilemma: put your phone away and have regular periods of protected separation from your phone.

We can win our brain back by protecting ourselves from our phones and by spending time with people practicing a few key relational skills, namely building joy (Skill 1), resting (Skill 2) and sharing appreciation stories (Skill 4 and 7). Inserting these skills into your interactions and meetings allow you to better control your attention and focus on what matters most to you.



[1] Joy Starts Here: The Transformation Zone, 2013.

[2] Adrian Ward PhD, and a team of investigators from McCombs School of Business, University of Texas.

[3] Adrian Ward PhD, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas.

Posted in Skill Thoughts

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  1. Annette Geroy

    We often have couples come to Mount Horeb House Ministries who “talk “to each other almost exclusively through texts. Getting them to stop texting and talk face -to-face is a real challenge. Thanks for the statistics.

  2. Gerry p

    I have led groups and requested all cel phones must be off and not silenced. I almost had to call the paramedics for treatment of shock. Lots of benefits…especially phones did not distract Immanual or quiet practice.

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