The “Non-Hack” That Will Completely Change Your Social Media Habits

 

I can always tell the days that I have spent too much time on social media (ahem.. *Facebook*)…

My brain is foggy.

It’s harder to concentrate.

I’m unmotivated.

I’m often grumpy and irritable.

And yet my thumb still reaches for that tiny blue square.

Why?

Is it because I’m lazy? Or I just want to ignore my kids? Maybe I need better screen time limits for myself?

Could it be because I’m *addicted*?

It seems everywhere you go online right now, you’re being told to get offline. The harm of being connected 24/7 and overusing screens is well known.

So why is it so hard to put the phone down.. and leave it there?

No, you’re not addicted to your phone

The dictionary definition of “addicted” is physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.

So, I don’t know, maybe you are addicted. However, for most of us, I think “addicted” has become a catch all term that both undermines serious addiction and is entirely unhelpful when it comes to the phone problem.

The real problem

So then what? Why does my hand grab my phone and without even seemingly thinking, press that icon and start scrolling?

Habit.

Here’s the thing, our brains love habit. Forget the path less traveled, our brains love the path well worn. Habit is the reason you can drive home while your mind is on a completely different topic and the reason you do a million other little things without even thinking about it.

Our brains love the well trodden path of the familiar. And, lets be honest, they are naturally a little lazy. If you have a brain that automatically would choose reading a heavy book over zoning out on Facebook – I want to know your secret!

Then, once you add in the fact that our brains love rewards, you’ve cemented that habit firmly in place. Cute cat video? Awww.. *burst of dopamine in the brain* Answer a question from a friend? I feel helpful! *burst of dopamine in the brain*

While scrolling social media, our brains *think* they are doing something, but in reality they aren’t. The well worn path is combined with positive feedback. We are stuck treading the same path without giving it much of a thought at all.

And when we do try and forge off path, it feels strange and unfamiliar. Our brains just want to get back on the normal track.

The solution

So what’s the solution then? How do we get off that path and forge a new one?

Well, this is where I have some bad news for you. There is no list of “5 easy hacks” to forming new habits. Forming habits is work. Often hard work.

A “hack” tells you to put a blocker on your phone or put it somewhere out of sight. A “hack” tells you to set limits for yourself. And while these hacks can sometimes be helpful, the problems is they do little to change the way our brains interact with our phones. 

We notice this when the time limit is up, the blocker is removed, and the phone is back in our hands. We fall right back into old habits.

But the thing about recognizing the power of your habits is that change is doable. The word habit doesn’t have the kind of negativity attached to it that “addiction” does, so you are already one step ahead in the mental battle.

You can build new habits.

You have a choice. 

Imagine you are at a fork in the road.

To the right is your current habit. The path is clear of obstructions. The road is level, the footing sure. It is easy to start down that path.

To the left, however, is new terrain. The path is so overgrown you can hardly see it is there. You can set down this path, but it’s going to take some ground work. However, the good news is, once that path is clear, you’ll have a new habit and a new easy path to tread.

5 “Non-Hacks” to build a new habit

So, I don’t have a hack for you, but I do have some ideas to get you started. We’ll call them “non-hacks.”

#1 A well worn path is well traveled

There is a reason they say that it takes 30 days to build a new habit. In order for your new path to be worn, you have to break it in. The more you walk that path, the more you clear it, the easier it will be to walk the next time.

Keep going. Or in this case, keep stopping. Stop posting, stop clicking, and stop scrolling. Go another way.

And when you inevitably turn down the old path, turn around and jump back on the new. Over and over and over.

#2 Replace old with new

If you wanted to improve your diet, you wouldn’t just get rid of the junk food. If you want to succeed with your new eating habits, you would also replace the junk food with new good food.

The same concept applies.

If you are going to change your phone habits, you need a replacer.

Now, there are a ton of things you can be doing instead of using your phone, but for the purpose of habit building you are going to want to pick something that is two things: 1) Simple and 2) Enjoyable.

Back to the diet example. If you are replacing your ice cream with something that is complicated to make and you don’t even like, what are the odds that you are going to stop eating ice cream? Not likely.

Pick a replacer that is easy to bounce your mind to. Instead of continuing to scroll, it might look like…

  • Reading a page or two from an enjoyable book
  • Telling a joke to your kids
  • Refilling your drink cup with something yummy
  • Turning on some uplifting music

The important thing is to keep it simple and just start with one, easy to remember replacer. Think of it like redirecting your toddler: “No, no, we can’t throw the blocks, but here is a ball you can throw.” The replacer gives just enough distraction to redirect your focus. The more you do the replacer instead, the less the other habit will have a hold on your brain.

#3 Find your triggers

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain triggers that cause me to more easily go to zoning out on Facebook. Things like being tired, bored, or overwhelmed. When you can recognize certain things that drive you towards zoning out on a screen, it is easier to fix the root cause.

Are you tired? Take a break that will refresh you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down because I’m tired and zoned out on Facebook, leaving me more tired. Closing my eyes for ten minutes could have actually solved the real problem.

Are you overwhelmed? Face the feeling head on.

When I’m overwhelmed I often like to hide. If I can’t choose what to tackle first on the mile long to do list, I’ll just avoid everything. No matter how many times this backfires, it is still somehow a temptation! Resist it. Pray and then get after that to do list.

These are just a couple of my personal triggers. We all have different ones, but the point remains the same. The more you recognize them, the easier it gets to deal with them. 

#4 Focus on the real FOMO

Speaking of triggers, once I started realizing mine I found one that seems kinda silly. But that’s the thing about triggers, even if they’re silly, they still do their thing.

Maybe you can relate though?

I found out I struggle with a serious case of social media FOMO.

Fear of missing out.

I would find myself wondering…

What’s going on on Facebook?

I wonder if anyone commented on my Instagram post?

I’m just going to check this group real quick to see if anyone needs anything…

As silly as it seems, the online world never seems to sleep and I was always wondering if there was something going on that I needed to know about.

Thankfully, once I realized this was a problem for me, I found a pretty easy solution.

Redirect the FOMO. Look at what is right in front of you.

I asked myself…

Do I want to miss out on a Facebook comment, or my baby’s sweet giggles?

Do I want to miss out on an interesting article, or my son’s cool Lego creation?

Do I want to miss out on what so and so is up to on Instagram, or miss out on a conversation with my husband over dinner?

Now, that’s some real FOMO.

#5 Find new rewards

I was reading a book completely unrelated to screen time, and it had one little snippet that wasn’t even the focus of that section of the book (It was The Law’s Guide to Nature Journaling and Drawing btw – great book!). But that one little snippet totally caught my attention.

It said that the sense of wonder we get when we discover something new about the world gives us a release of dopamine in our brains. 

That got me thinking.. if that gives us a dopamine punch, what else does?!

And if we can choose other activities that release dopamine, can we retrain our screen time loving brains to go after those things instead?

Why not?!

Here’s a list of some things that can give you a dopamine kick:

  • Doing something creative
  • Discovering something new
  • Exercising
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Listening to music (combine with exercise for a dance party – my favorite!)
  • Have some *special time* with your husband 😉
  • Check something off your to do list
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Go outside in nature

Pick some of those to focus on and retrain your brain to find pleasure in these good habits!

You got this!

Alright, it’s time to start putting this stuff into action. This might not be easy, but it is so so worth it. Since I have started figuring out these things and putting them to practice, I haven’t gotten perfect (I’m still building these habits myself!) but it has gotten so much better. And the benefits of spending less time in front of a screen are endless.

Before you know it, you’ll be looking back and realizing you just went hours or even the whole day without the urge to pop onto your phone “real quick.”

Two more resources that have immensely helped me navigate this are have been the book Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and this article by Hands Free Mama. Highly recommend both!

I’d love to know how you are doing in building these new habits, so leave a comment, shoot me an email, or come hang out on the Steadfast Family Facebook page (hey, the nice thing about building these habits is you have control over spending some time on social media, cause it isn’t all bad!)

One last thing for you, I made this fun flow chart to help you start thinking through how you are spending your time on social media and the triggers that drive you there. I hope it helps to give you some ideas!

(Click on the image below to open a PDF)

Happy habit building!

Two Simple Things That Have Made A Big Difference In Our Family

2 Simple Things That Made a Big Difference For Our Family

When the new year rolled around, like millions of others, my husband and I sat down to discuss what areas we felt needed improvement. Being the imperfect creatures we are, the list ended up being quite long!

We started January with high hopes to make some changes – both personally and for our family. We made a plan to focus on the things we felt were the most important and we set out to put our plan in action. And it worked… until it didn’t. Since then we’ve fallen on and off the New Years resolutions bandwagon more than once.

However, there have been two simple things that we’ve been able to keep up with that have made a huge impact in our family.

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#1 Nightly Walks

This goal was originally made for the purpose of starting a healthy habit – and getting this pregnant lady moving each day! However, I never would have guessed what it would do for our family.

Almost every night when my husband gets home from work we head out for a walk around our neighborhood. It takes us about 45 minutes and we usually get back just in time to eat dinner. While this does give us some good exercise, the biggest benefit is a side product of the walk – conversation.

We push the stroller, walk briskly, and talk. We talk about our days, we talk about our plans, we talk through our problems. We brainstorm together, dream together, laugh together, and yes, sometimes have an argument as well.

Conversely, on the nights that we stay home (for whatever reason) we tend to go about the business of the evening and never get into the same depth of conversation.

In order for these nightly walks to happen, we have had to make sure it is a priority. We encourage each other to keep up the habit and I’ve had to make sure K and I are ready to head out when dad gets home. Although sometimes we’ve gone for our walk after dinner, we definitely prefer to go before we eat. Because of this, I have to make sure as much of dinner as is possible is prepared in advance so we can eat as soon as we get home.

The work is worth it though. We’ve grown closer as a couple and even K looks forward to our nightly stroll!

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#2 No TV until 8pm

Now, those of you who don’t even have a TV to begin with are way ahead of us in this area, but this has been a big thing for us. It used to be that my husband liked to come home from work and decompress by watching TV. However, the TV would end up staying on all night. It sucked us in and didn’t let go.

So, for Lent this year I suggested changing our TV habits. After some discussion we settled on no TV until 8pm, K’s bedtime.

Now, in the evening we go for our walk and then eat dinner together around the table (or as of late, the picnic table!). Daddy and K have time to hang out for a while before K’s bedtime and I have nothing distracting me from either cleaning up the kitchen or joining in the playtime. If we have anything that needs to be discussed further or any to-do’s that need to get done, they are much more likely to happen with the TV off.

This has been so nice for our family. We interact. We make memories. And I have a better chance of waking up to a clean kitchen. 🙂

Then, K gets put to bed and the final stage of the evening can happen – relaxing together while we watch our favorite shows. A time that we both thoroughly enjoy even more without having had the TV on all night already.

Lent may be over, but this is one habit that we will be keeping up.

Well, those are the two simple things that have made a big difference for us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with that long list of things you need to improve on. However, you can’t forget about the little things you have accomplished that make a difference in your life.

Do you have any little changes you’ve made that have made a difference in your family? I’d love to hear them!