The Bloom Inspiration Summit Expert Panel: A Conversation With Psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang

The Bloom Inspiration Summit Expert Panel: A Conversation With Psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang

In this exclusive interview series, we connect with Bloom’s experts to give you a taste of what’s to come at this exciting event

On Saturday, September 24th at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver, Simply Beautiful and Evalina Beauty will be presenting the Bloom Inspiration Summit. Bloom features an extraordinary lineup of brilliant women speakers—including an intimate conversation with award-winning Canadian entertainer and bestselling author Jann Arden—who will inspire you to live your best, brightest and fullest life.

Topics will include everything from grief to joy, sleep to intimacy, home organization and how to reach your potential, plus much more. Bloom will light a fire inside you, leave you dreaming big, and show you how to spark more joy in your everyday life.

To give you a preview of what you can expect at Bloom, we caught up with the distinguished speakers to find out what they'll be discussing in their presentations.

Introducing Dr. Shimi Kang

Award-winning Harvard-trained physician and bestselling author, Dr. Kang is an expert on the neuroscience of innovation, leadership and motivation. Providing science-based solutions for health, happiness and achievement, Dr. Kang provides practical tools to help us maintain our health and connection during life's stressful moments.

We recently chatted with Dr. Kang about how to build and practice essential life skills and how to improve your personal life through resilience, innovation and connection...

RJ: How can we stay focused on everyday life when the digital world feels all-consumingand how are our devices affecting our potential growth?
SK: I'm an addiction psychiatrist, and my research is in addiction and dopamine, so I would say we need to be very aware that technology and devices are purposely and intentionally designed to capture our attention. Technology uses what's called persuasive design to intentionally manipulate our brain pathways and hook us on our devices. And nobody is immune to this. We all have the potential to overuse technology and use it compulsively. An Internet Addiction Disorder is now a medical diagnosis. Which is really important in the context of the fact that devices are everywhere, and we need technology to survive in this modern world.

So in terms of staying focused and not letting technology disrupt your day-to-day, you need to plan and strategize when using devices. Introduce some house/workplace rules, like shutting off your WiFi two hours before you want to go to bed, not looking at screens at nighttime, shutting off notifications (if you can), putting your chargers in one specific charging station, taking a digital day off, and having screen-free zones. In my home, screen-free zones are the kitchen, the bathrooms, our car, and at the dinner table.

I tell people to take a piece of paper and write 24 hours on it, then block off seven to nine hours for sleep, block off at least an hour for exercise, block off your hygiene, block off your family dinner, and your work. These are the essentials of life. And then you have leftover time to look at your devices. But you need to remember to avoid the toxicitythe distressing news, the mindless scrolling of Instagram—there's no kind of actual nutrition there. And there are lots of ways that we can use our devices in healthy ways like FaceTiming family members and friends, or using tech to learn. 

Technology and the digital world are like sugar, it’s everywhere. But we have to plan and be aware of it, and remember to limit our consumption. 

RJ: After two long pandemic years, how can people start to rebuild connections?
SK: Stress was identified as the number one health epidemic of the 21st century, I was in Geneva, Switzerland, when that research came out in 1996, and now the prediction for the next major health epidemic is loneliness. Those are real paradoxes. And we can’t just assume that connection will happen. In fact, all of the data and research is showing the opposite. And in the pandemic, we were forced, or many chose to be, more disconnected. It was easier to stay at home and text or email versus call someone. And so again, devices have really lead to a further disconnection.

But the good news is that we are social beings by nature. And it doesn't matter whether you're an introvert or an extrovertall humans are socialwe all need social connection. Loneliness isn't a natural human drive. And when we do get human connection, we can override those barriers.

Social anxiety went up in the pandemic and people are having a harder time looking at each other, seeing each other's faces and talking in person. So, when I say you have to override that anxiety, or that apathy or the feeling of, "It's easier to watch Netflix than to go and see my friends," Treat it like a new habit. You have to schedule it in.

For example, every Friday you could plan to go and see friends, and make it fun at first so you don't have those difficult, stressful conversations—keep it light. Get outside and go for a walk, work from an office if you’re able. Not just for your own personal well-being and socialization, but also for the feeling of belonging and connection. Instead of texting and emailing, call someone—it's so much better than reading a text. Or when you're in a coffee lineup, look up and say hi to the person in front of you. These micro everyday moments like asking someone how their day is add to a feeling of greater connection and well-being.

I have a personal rule. When I’m on an airplane, instead of being on my laptop or phone the whole time, I will make sure to try and strike up a conversation with the person beside me. And they may or may not be interested, but that's kind of my internal rule. I’ll literally just see the people in my environment. Because we need to see those faces. There's a lot of benefits to reconnecting socially, and it’s really about overriding any kind of anxiety and making the intention and putting steps in place

RJ: How can we support our loved ones while also leaving time for ourselves? Are there any tricks and tips to finding that balance?
SK: So on the note that we are social beings, we also need compassion right now, because there's so much going on in the world. And we have to start with self-compassion first. A lot of people I know, especially women, want to help, but we have to remember to say, "I need to go for my walk, or I need to get to the gym, I need to sleep in." We're role modelling self-care. And there's no point being compassionate to others when you're not compassionate to yourself. We have to build that first primary relationship, which is ourselves, and it's not easy. 

I'm a psychiatrist and in the pandemic, I would get phone calls and emails constantly. And I wanted to help my community and my colleagues, but I followed the concept of dharma, which is the idea that you start with yourself, what your needs are for your health and well-being, then your immediate family, then your friends and community, and lastly your workplace. It's like a hierarchy. I found that really, really helpful because I could be answering emails and talking to people about their child's mental health crisis, but not even know what my own family is going through. We need to have the systems in place, and have some kind of structure on how we manage our time.

RJ: How is sleep connected to reaching our potential, and what are your top tips for getting quality rest?
SK: Sleep is 100 percent the centrepiece of our physical and mental health. When we sleep, our body undergoes repair and recovery. Our brain wires and rewires processes, our body heals, and we have what's called a full lymphatic drainage of our nervous systems. And the reason why sleep is so important is because it's actually stigmatized in our society. We've made sleep deprivation a symbol of ambition, and being busy a symbol of importance. And I'm hoping science can help us realize that this is not a task that we can forego. 

So how do we make sleep a priority? Ideally, you start with a routine regular sleep, meaning a sleep routine where you generally going to bed around the same time and wake up at the same time everyday. We know devices and screens are really disrupting our sleep and melatonin level, so you want to try and avoid screens or at least use blue light glasses, if you can. I can't give medical advice, but part of your sleep routine could be a warm bath, herbal tea or even melatonin, which is a non-prescription supplement. 

Remember the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Power naps are really effective also. Just 10 to 20 minutesyou don't generally want to nap more than an hour during the day, and you don't want to do it after 3:00 in the afternoon. And when you think about a 10- to 15-minute nap, that's the same amount of time it would take you to walk and make a coffee when you're tired, or scroll through social media when we're feeling kind of tired and zone out, which is actually more distressing, because we’re seeing dozens of images which our brains have to process which leads to more fatigue. 

When your body is telling you it’s tired, you want to listen. Wellness is actually simple. But let's not be fooled into thinking simple is easy. Sleep is a simple thing, but it’s not always easy.

RJ: Who or what inspires you ​every day?
SK: I think it would be my relationship with myself. And what I mean by that is that I've had to spend a lot of time on who I am and what my purpose is. I got really, really sick about 10 years ago. I couldn't work and actually had to go on disability, and I realized what got me up in the morning was my connection to the things that I really truly care about, which were my kids and my work. And I think having a passionwhether it's in the form of your work, volunteer work, hobbies, etc.we all need that. So for me, I would say what inspires me the most is this sense of contribution. Wanting to really just contribute and contribute to the world, but in a way that is uniquely me. And for me that that's neuroscience and my work. I believe our drive has to be internal and come from within intrinsic drive, versus any kind of external reward.

RJ: Describe your passion/what you promote/live by in three words.
SK: Play, others and downtime—these are the three critical human activities we need to do every day, but we're not. I use the acronym POD as part of the dolphin metaphor, because all mammals do this, but we humans forget. 

Everyday we're meant to play with meaning, we're meant to explore and learn something, be curious, and try new things (that’s actually a really important release of serotonin that keeps us happy and healthy), we’re meant to connect with others, and we need downtime. We need the basics of rest and a self care routine that includes regular sleep, exercise, water, healthy diet etc. So those three activities are simple. They're not easy, they're essential. And that is what I promote in all my books, blogs, my programmes for kids. They're based on these three pillars.

RJ: What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail?
SK: I would probably not think of it as a risk if I knew I couldn't fail. I think there's some delight in overcoming something that might be challenging. 

I would say I'm a bit of a risk-taker. I started a business after having three kids, I’ve done a TEDx talk... I'm trying to think what risk I would take further... probably flying to space knowing that I wouldn't die. That would be great.

RJ: What lights your fire?
SK: I would really say the concept of play. It's a word that we don't understand, but play is an essential human activity and is absolutely sacred. That's why children love to do it. It's natural. It's about exploring, about learning new things about having fun. It's about curiosity. And it actually develops what we call the prefrontal cortex or that front part of our brain that makes us uniquely human and innovative and adaptable. I feel that we need to highlight how important it is to play.

And the opposite of play is perfectionism. And perfectionism is on the rise, particularly with girls and women, and we're seeing more and more of it with links to social media and links to anxiety, depression and actually lower life achievement. So I feel a spotlight on play is really important, and it certainly lights my fire.

Back to blog

Leave a comment