Off the grid

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week -

WE’VE be­come a na­tion glued to our phones, with the av­er­age adult check­ing their screen ev­ery 12 min­utes of the wak­ing day. While it can be a great way of stay­ing con­nected with friends and fam­ily, ex­perts are warn­ing that too much time on apps can trig­ger feel­ings of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and low self-worth. Re­search has found that the more you binge on them, the worse the feel­ings be­come.

Here, Juliet Hodges, a be­hav­iour change ex­pert, out­lines her top tips on tak­ing a well­needed break from so­cial me­dia.

Set your­self an achiev­able goal

If the thought of delet­ing your In­sta­gram ac­count fills you with dread, start with a less daunt­ing timescale. “A lot of peo­ple set un­re­al­is­tic goals that are too big to stick to and achieve,” says Hodges. “The thought of never us­ing so­cial me­dia again may be daunt­ing, and you’re more likely to give up. But if the goal is achiev­able and you have a clear dead­line in mind, you’re more likely to suc­ceed, or even ex­ceed your ex­pec­ta­tions.”

She be­lieves Christ­mas is one of the best times to give up so­cial me­dia, be­cause you can com­mit to the log­ging off for just a short pe­riod of time, and you’ll have a week of fes­tiv­i­ties to dis­tract you from your news­feed.

Go pub­lic

The best way to make sure you stick to a ban? Tell peo­ple you’re go­ing off-grid for a while. “I know it sounds ironic, but tell peo­ple around you that you’re ‘log­ging off’, or if it suits you, share it on your so­cial me­dia ac­counts,” says Hodges. “We like to be seen to act con­sis­tently, par­tic­u­larly in front of oth­ers, so one way to make sure you don’t fall off the wagon is to tell the peo­ple around you what you’re plan­ning to do.”

Avoid temp­ta­tion

“Stud­ies show that peo­ple with the best willpower aren’t un­usu­ally strong in the face of temp­ta­tion — they just avoid putting them­selves in that po­si­tion. It may sound like a bold step, but con­sider delet­ing the so­cial me­dia apps from your phone.” Like the old say­ing goes, out of sight, out of mind.

Know your trig­gers

Re­search shows it’s much eas­ier to form new habits when we link them to ac­tiv­i­ties or trig­gers that al­ready oc­cur in our daily lives.

“Why not use your morn­ing cof­fee or af­ter­noon walk as times to be com­pletely de­vice-free?” Hodges sug­gests.

“Take a book with you in­stead, or use it as an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise mind­ful­ness.”

Don’t beat your­self up

Habits are in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to break, and most of us fall off the wagon at some point when we try to make changes, but what’s im­por­tant, says Hodges, is how you treat your­self in those mo­ments.

“Those who have self-com­pas­sion, treat­ing them­selves with kind­ness and un­der­stand­ing when they slip up, are much more likely to be suc­cess­ful in the long-term than those who beat them­selves up for ev­ery mis­take.

“It’s equally im­por­tant to cel­e­brate your suc­cesses. Set your­self short-term tar­gets (they could even be daily goals) and give your­self a pat on the back for your achieve­ments.”

AL­WAYS ON: Too much time on apps can trig­ger feel­ings of de­pres­sion and low self-worth.

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