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10 Ways to Break Your Screen Addiction

August 19, 202311 min read

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If I'm being honest...I'm struggling right now. I have a terrible addiction to screens and keeping my mind preoccupied. At the slightest hint of boredom I'm grabbing my phone or computer and trying to find a way to fill the space.

I feel like I need to always be DOING something whether it's productive or not. There is a huge discomfort in boredom that I try to avoid at all costs.

This tendancy is taking over my life. I am constantly distracted by an endless sea of information I feel I need to constantly be taking advantage of. I am a natural self improvement junkie which has it's advantages and disadvantages. That means that I am always seeking new ways to learn things and get better at life. Unfortunately, at the moment, it's not working according to plan. It's causing more stress in my life than it is helping.

I learned some time ago, that you can't collect knowledge without implementation of that knowledge and expect to see results in your life. Well, that's my downfall. I know a lot of things that can benefit my life, and a lot of them I do, but there are also a lot that i don't do that I know would help me achieve some of the goals. But, my biggest hinderance is my phone.

I have done all the research on how screens change our brains, shorten our attention spans, and how there are people being paid to steal our attention, and how that stolen attention keeps us from taking action on our real goals, etc. Yet, I still find myself perched in front of my phone for a good 8 hours a day.

The time I spend on my phone throughout my day isn't unproductive (some of it is). My problem is checking my text messages, emails, and facebook group 1000 times a day. Like, why is that necessary?!?! SMH...Because I have an addiction to the dopamine hit my brain receives if there is a new message, like, etc. there. And the worst part is, I know exactly what's going on and yet I still fall in the trap day-after-day.

My efforts to reduce my screen consumption has included...

  • ·         putting my phone in the other room,

  • ·         silencing notifications,

  • ·         turning on screen time (just to hit ignore when the mood strikes me),

  • ·         turning my phone screen to grayscale to make icons less appealing,

  • ·         removed all apps from my homescreen,

  • ·         deleted or taken years long breaks from my social media accounts a good 10 times (exaggeration) just to start them up or get back on again.

    Nothing has caused that internal shift I need to stick with a healthy screen usage habit.

Dopamine...

Dopamine is known as the "feel good hormone" and is also our brain's reward system. Back when our ancestors were out here just trying to survive, the brain would produce a pleasurable feeling/dopamine release when they did things that would assist in their survival, like finding and eating a high calorie food or noticing the likes of a potential mate, etc. Dopamine was the chemical cocktail that enticed us to take on doing what was necessary to survive.

Fast forward to present. We still have the same brain and reward system as our ancestors, but have many more things at our disposal to trigger that burst of Dopamine that feels so good. This becomes an issue when there's no 'thrill of the chase' and dopamine hits are at our fingertips for whenever we want. This constant dopamine exposure means tolerance is steadily increasing. Making the things that used to give us pleasure, not as appealing. This creates a loop where we're constantly aiming to hit a moving dopamine target .

Dope Today

Are you like me, and notice how good it feels to receive a share, comment, like, subscribe, inbox, etc?

Like I eluded to earlier...it's by design.

There are scientists whose job is to figure out how to get you hooked on screens? And they use your dopamine reward system to do it. They know how powerful the stuff is. All the little stars, hearts, tokens, etc. on social media and video games are designed to give you that little hit you crave.

When texting, we haven't always been able to see those little dots to let you know someone is in the process of texting you back. So, what's the purpose? Because that little bit of anticipation and excitement you get from seeing that, holds your attention right where they want it. Everything they do with these screens has a purpose.

Ever notice how the 'infinite scrolling' feature resymbols a slot machine? Exactlyyyyyyyy....

and believe it doesn't stop there.

They want to keep you distracted and entertained so you're CONSUMING, but not PRODUCING and living up to your potential.

They are using what they learn about people like you and me to better design their Attention Stealing Machine.

By Stealing and Directing our Attention They Learn...

  • What kind of videos does this person typically watch?

  • What videos do they click more often after watching a video like that?

  • How long do they watch these videos?

  • What purchases do they make after seeing this post or learning this information?

...and the list goes on.

Giving them your attention comes at a cost. They are finding out how to influence you to... buy, think, feel, etc.

The hardest part for me is finding the balance between education and entertainment and consuming and implementing.This makes me feel like crap because I know!!!

Parenting through Addiction...

Having this information has turned me into a less than ideal parent when it comes to screen allowances because on one hand i want to allow my children the opportunity to figure out how to navigate screens because they will be a part of their lives. But then, I hardly allow that to happen because I know how too much screen usage can negatively affect their brain connections and development, so I restrict it. I have read that if I were to allow them to have as much time on screens as they would like, they would naturally not want it as much and would regulate themselves. I honestly, have never allowed that to happen long enough to find out...BUT, if there are scientists that are paid to keep people addicted, how do I expect my children to not fall in the same trap I as an adult find myself in?

I have been in this conundrum for the majority of my parenting years, and I still haven't figured out a sweet spot for myself OR my children.

I have talked about this with my Life Coach and realize that I have many negative stories around screens and I easily overlook the benefits screens provide being so consumed by the problems. I am actively working to change many of those stories, but happen overnight and that doesn't change what science shows to be true..

The Illusion of Autonomy

We think we are in control when we choose the videos or information we consume. Not realizing that we are choosing from the small pool of information they allowed us to see. And they're probably keeping track of what they are allowing to be seen and by what percentage of people. They let a little truth out to a few people, but most of us remain too distracted to do anything with the information so there's no real threat to them.

Admittedly, I have lived almost a third of my life distracted, and.

  • lacking control of my screen usage,

  • splitting my attention, which causes a shorter attention span

  • comparing myself to others, instead of appreciating what I have

  • gaining knowledge, but doing little to nothing with it. So...

I'm Putting Myself in Rehab...

Here are the 10 Ways I'm going Monk Mode and Giving Myself a Dopamine Detox...

  1. Resist 25 impulses a day.

    This takes a certain level of presence to be aware of when I am being pulled by impulse, and to consciously reframe from engaging that impulse. One of the big ways I will do this is to not fill "the gaps" with stimulation. If I'm waiting at a red light, I won't grab my phone. If I'm waiting in a grocery line, I won't grab my phone. If I'm at dinner with friends, I won't grab my phone, etc.

  2. No screen 2hrs before bed

    Something inside me feels like this one will be really challenging for me, but my plan is to eat dinner without a screen (which is usually within 2 hours of going to bed)...don't judge> After that, I will read, stretch, meditate, and journal instead of being entertained by my phone. I will set an alarm to turn off my phone at 9p without question every night.

  3. No screen 1 hr. after waking

    I usually get caught up on my screen after waking because I meditate and do my breathwork practices with apps on my phone, which turns into scrolling immediately after. So, I am going to have to make a conscious decision to put a stop to that habit and put the phone away after my practices.

  4. Phone notification checks every 3 hours throughout the day

    I usually check my phone incessantly throughout the day. My plan is to set a timer to be more intentional about this and cut way back on my checks.

  5. 2 social media checks per day

    I will set alarms for these times and 15 minute timers while for each session.

  6. No multi-tasking

    I will resist everything else, and write notes for what comes up that needs to be done AFTER.

  7. Have blocks for my screen time sessions + set a timer

    My screen sessions include study time, entertainment + social media, and business. Knowing when these times are, what my focus is, and the timeframe, will be very helpful with keeping my on task and less distracted.

  8. Take boring breaks throughout my day

    Boring breaks are a time to let my dopamine levels plummet so that I may enjoy the mundane tasks that are necessary more fully. These breaks may look like meditating, stretching, journaling, going for a walk, doing nothing, etc.

  9. Put my phone out of sight

    Have you ever noticed when you have been away from your phone and come in a room and see it that there's almost an instinctual pull to tap the screen and check for notifications? Well, this happens to me, but if I put the phone away (in a drawer, for example) having to open the drawer provides just enough time for me to consciously think about checking the phone...or not. So, I'll be putting the phone in a drawer or small safe to put a little resistance between myself and my habitual checks.

  10. One screen free day per month.

    This is going to take some planning, but I'm going to set an intention to not bombard the day with activities to keep myself distracted. I will allow the day to flow and embrace boredom.

Bringing our dopamine back to a lower base level benefits our mental health in the following ways...

  • a reduction in brain fog

  • better memory

  • better sleep

  • better concentration

  • more pleasure from normal life activities

  • less impulsivity

  • less chances of depression and anxiety

  • improved self-esteem

  • less quick tempered

Cheap Dopamine vs. Natural Dopamine

We've covered a lot of activities that produce cheap dopamine like gaming, food cravings, and social media. But we could also add television, drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling, and others to this list. But, I think you get the picture. Cheap Dopamine is basically when you get a reward without the work, which is unnatural and damaging to our mental health.

Natural Dopamine is produced by activities that give tangible rewards like walking, working out, reading a book, working on a project, being in nature, meditation, massage, quality sleep, etc.

We live in a world built on instant gratification/cheap dopamine. In order to for us to be good stewards of our mental health, it's important to do a rest periodically.

If you're paying attention, you've noticed that the majority of are living a life of distraction. Now is the time to make a change and build new habits. I'll be right there with you.

If you are up for the challenge, get support building new habits and becoming a better you by joining my Facebook Group.

I know, it seems like a contradiction to suggest getting on a social to help break your addiction to social. Technology isn't going anywhere. We have to learn how to use it to our benefit and not our detriment, and practice discipline.

Let's Get Better Together.

Until the next one...

Peace,

Shonnea

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