STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE

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THE SOCIAL MEDIA MONKEY ON YOUR BACK

If the phone feels addictive, it is because it is. The “monkey on your back” saying initially talked about a monkey on the roof and had to do with debt and burden in the 1800’s. In the 1940’s it started to be applied to addictions. The idea of burden and addiction is applicable to our struggles to put down our phones today, research supports this. Many apps have an addictive component, the variable ratio schedule of likes, comments, sales closing, and notifications is attractive to our brain. Have you ever been scrolling on your phone, seemingly looking for something and you have no idea what it is? It might be dopamine, it is released when we hit those exciting and attractive variables that activate the pleasure center of our brain, and so we search for more of it. The self-regulatory part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex starts to nudge you with the idea that you should stop and put down the phone. The more we look for these little highs the more habit forming it can become and possibly addictive and new neural pathways are formed in our brain and these pleasure pathways aren’t giving the prefrontal cortex much say in the matter. Addictive behaviours look very similar on a brain scan with the same pathways lighting up for incessant smartphone use, cocaine addiction or an addiction to slot machines. I find this terrifying. Especially when you look at pictures of the addicted brain where the shape and definition look vastly different from a healthy one. Research is studying all this now and I worry about the long term results.

I think we would all agree, phones are a problem. Look around at restaurants on the streets, everyone is looking down. It is concerning. We can affect out brain’s functioning with constant phone use and we need to make changes to reset our brain health. Change might be too much for our self-control alone so it is important to set out some parameters.

Here are six practical ways to get that monkey off your back:

1. Be intentional: I can literally be checking in between everything and even during things. Half the time I don’t even know I am doing it, mindlessly picking the phone up and putting it down. Tonight, my daughter wants me to watch her entire ballet practice. What are the chances I can do it without glancing at my phone? Going in unintentional with my actions will make this impossible. The key is to be mindful. So often our phone checking is simply a habit and one we need to break.

 www.pixabay.com

www.pixabay.com

2. Schedule time to be on your phone: I utilize social media for work, and can’t ignore it all day, but I certainly don’t have to be a slave to it all day either and so it has a scheduled slot which makes the time I am on it more productive as it is no longer limitless.

3. Schedule in an end time too: It is all well and good to say you will check it at your break and lunch but give yourself a time limit. How often do we check to see if that message went through, plan to quickly check something else, and fall down a black hole of baby pictures, memes, amusing pet pictures, blatant advertising, and a million shots of what you are behind on and not living up to. If you were asked you if you had an hour for social media in your busy schedule today you would have likely given me a hard no, and an hour might be a good day for you, see point 4. We are mindlessly getting hours in of this unproductive stuff.

4. Watch and record your productivity: My friend Kelly alerted me to the ability to track how much I am using my phone and for what. It is upsetting. Life is really busy for me right now and time is super important to me, so to see the time I am putting into the scroll is quite upsetting. Become aware but don’t stop there. Try recording how much you are on social media, what is productive, what isn’t and write down numbers each day. I do this because I want to decrease my use, use my time more wisely, and get in and get out so I can do that IRL living stuff.

5. Do not take it to bed: My phone has a new hang out, it is downstairs in the living room. There isn’t a fancy docking station, but this would be a great thing to implement. Keeping it downstairs keeps it from being priority number one…  not the first thing I look at when I wake or the last thing I look at when I go to sleep.

6. Turn off Notifications: I might be in a conversation or in the middle of work and be interrupted with an alert that makes me think about whatever it is telling me and completely lose track of what I am doing. I don’t find it helpful. Now that I am scheduling in time I can check my social media in a measured way and don’t need the notifications on every little single like, sale or email.

 

Kimberly Haydn said that “Every single time you say “yes” to something, you are inadvertently saying “no” to something else. Choose wisely”. What are you saying no to when you are distracted by your phone? As we experience the benefits of choosing when we want to use our phone, and not simply ending up on it by default, we are living a more present life.

 

HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY RISE AND SHINE

 Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

PUTTING THE GOOD IN GOOD MORNING

How often does your morning reflect an assembly line of tasks and routine? You hit the snooze, check the phone, shower, dress, grab a quick bite, and run out the door. The morning rituals occur with little thought or presence, like you are barely there. In fact, calling it a ritual might suggest a bit more mindfulness than there is. Where is the calm and intention? Believe me, I get it. I can go for days without being in the moment and I am sure you can too.

Life offers so much more than we enjoy. Having a good morning and a good start to your day could be something you are missing out on. If you desire this, there are some great solutions that involve a little bit of planning but can be incorporated into many of the things you do already. Let’s start at the very beginning, (clearly) a very good place to start,… what comes first, second and third? As nice as it would be to wake and look reflectively out the window at the sunrise while recounting blessings, it is no doubt more like, hammering at the snooze button before you drag your phone with you under the covers, scroll for a bit mindlessly and then rush through the rest. It’s like I was watching you isn’t it?! I am suggesting this, because my morning often looks like that. But sometimes, cue the birds singing, I can make a brighter, fresher and more mindful start happen. Here are my tricks…

 Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

The Alarm Clock:

I bought one. It might not be the perfect solution as the literally alarming BRRRRIIIINNNGGG in the morning can’t truly compete with the light piano rift gently nudging me awake from my husbands’ cell phone; he remains unconvinced. However, I will find that happy medium. I have lived in the Caribbean so I know the rooster is a bust as he goes off at all hours. Perhaps the clock radio?, I know, I know, power outages, but I will hunt for something more soothing and less time sucking. You see, the reason I/you should consider switching to another form of wake up is that the problem lies in the current solution… the smart phone. It doesn’t simply serve as an alarm clock, no matter what we tell ourselves. With its prime position bedside, it is too easy to check emails from the warmth of our beds and get pulled into a never-ending news cycle or infinite social media posts. This is not how I want to end or start my day. I want to start and end calmly without the blue light messing with my circadian rhythm. I want to start with something more mindful.

The Docking Station:

Okay, if you become armed and alarmed with another method of waking up, one still needs to stop the phone from now becoming step two from step one in the waking up process. Enter the docking station. A place to charge and stand while getting the updates we need. There is no problem with checking your phone and having a place to do that makes sense. Getting up and stepping away from the bed and heading to this designated place will encourage a quick check for those actually important and time sensitive work related or school bus specific texts and emails.

 Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Morning Pages:

A new step to try after the alarm is morning pages. I have written about them before and even mentioned them in my Tedx Talk, they are worth repeating as they are awesome for all kinds of reasons. I am often recommending it to my clients for processing purposes but also for “the drop”. From the day and night before we have stuff, sub conscious and conscious, so this is a great way to get some of it out and clear our heads for the day. It comes from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and was used for the creative types to get out ideas, but therapists have found it to be excellent as a healthy daily practice. You simply write three pages when you wake, no more or no less. There is no wrong way to write, just write what comes up until you hit page three and then stop. I usually end up with a helpful to do list going on the side. A tip to make this work is to have the journal and pen handy and don’t pick the supersize journal, rather something more manageable for three pages.

The Seated Breakfast:

I can’t remember the last time that I sat for a leisurely breakfast that didn’t involve a holiday or a restaurant. It is hard to squeeze in the time to eat mindfully but it is important as studies show eating mindfully helps you eat less, calm down, can help you refrain from eating emotionally, and helps you eat when you are actually hungry.  A lot of societies operate with this as a priority, so why are we so quick to throw a breakfast bar in our bag and run off?

Get Up Earlier:

And to do this last suggestion, another modification is needed as you now need to get up earlier. Ugh. I know. For me I can get ready quite quickly and I bank on this for a speedy departure when I pick my wake-up call time to start the mad dash. So closely related to the success of getting to bed earlier, incidentally, is adding a bit of good to good night, which might mean cutting out certain unhealthy patterns involved in those bedtime rituals, like binge watching Netflix, working into the wee hours, scrolling our phones, etc. But the benefits of an early morning are awesome. If you are a parent, this could mean some peaceful time before the morning rush to get some time on your own, if you live alone, it could be time to be intentional and focus on what you want for the day, it is also great for relationships, a time to really connect before the day takes over.

 Photo from Pexels

Photo from Pexels

A Bit of Inspiration:

A motivational book, a great speaker, a podcast, a daily affirmation can all be great ways to kick start your day. This could be added to your commute or have a time dedicated for it all on its own since you are up earlier. Again, make sure it is handy for your best chance at adding it to your day. Also start with manageable goals, if you can give yourself five minutes to listen, or three pages to read, that might be more doable than planning a chapter, not making it happen and then throwing the whole plan out. Baby steps can help with success which will motivate a repeat.

 

All of these techniques can be richly added to with choosing a healthy breakfast, stretching, exercise, meditations, prayer, skin brushing, you name it. When you create the time by removing the unhealthy habits and getting up a little earlier, you can rise and truly shine.

PARENTING: FROM TIGHTLY WOUND TO COME UNDONE

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT TENSION

Stress appears to be the norm for most of us, and for many of us it is chronic. Most parents I know are operating at some level of stress at all times. We try and pull it all together, the work demands, the school forms, tidy rooms, a meal schedule and the list goes on. We feel it in our necks and stomachs, it is visual by the complex schedules listed on the calender, and we hear it with the constant alerts on the phone. The stress can manifest in our moods and how we parent and we fluctuate from smiling and patient to the angry and losing it.

My friend had one such she's come undone day in the car highlighted then by a ditty her daughter started to spontaneously sing about how she has two mothers, one nice and one mean. She felt ill at the lyrics, a virtual tale of two Mommies, but felt she couldn't entirely disagree. We don't want Jeckyll and Hyde parenting but so often we are running on empty and the energy to feel healthy and well enough to keep an even and balanced disposition. My life coach friend Shauna once painted a great picture of balance stating that for a tight rope walker, tension is needed and too much slack would be bad. This is the same with stress and anxiety. A little bit helps us, with motivation, resilience and the protection of ourselves and our family. It is when the tension is always high, we have an issue. This chronic stress can hinder our self regulation and cause a 0-100 reaction in seconds or a slow boil throughout the day. Sometimes you know you are actively worrying and other times your subconscious is doing it all for you (hello teeth grinding!). If you are looking to keep that balance despite what your kids have done to their bedroom, regardless of how late you were at school pick up, and independent of work stress, help is needed.

IN THE MOMENT HACKS:

BREATHE:

An easy step is to take a deep breath and unwind! It sounds trite, but it works. It fills your body with a big burst of oxygen and give you that two second break from a hair trigger reaction. Breathing also sends a message to brain that tells your body to calm down and relax which can help you gain perspective.

ASSESS:

This sets you up nicely for step two. Before blowing up, take a quick assessment of what is actually bothering you. Think about it, your kids could be up to antics in the back of the car, fighting, teasing, singing an annoying song, and some days you can roll with it. Now add in feeling ill, not getting enough sleep or the distracted stress of thinking about a mistake you made at work and quite understandably, you are more likely to lose your cool. The real things eating away at you have nothing to do with what is going on in the back of the car. If you could tease out what is going on before you erupt or emote, you will no doubt be less reactive.

BE PROACTIVE:

Are you taking care of yourself? Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities in your schedule. A good nutrition and exercise routine can be powerful. Exercise releases endorphins, and as Elle in Legally Blonde says ,“happy people don't shoot their husbands” or more to the point snap, so readily at their kids. I recently had a client share that her self care was making sure her child had everything ready for school. Although that might have made everyone's day calmer and in turn run smoother, this was certainly not self care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do for yourself, make a list of things you once enjoyed or modify things you once did that could still work for you now and be creative.

Our moods can flux, we are human, but taking time to breathe, assess and be proactive about our reactions and moods can be beneficial, not just for our relationships but also for how we feel and view of ourselves. Think about how you can create a more balanced tension in your life.