For anyone who follows me on social media, you’ll know I recently decided to do a 10 day stint of ‘no phone’. No Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, no work emails (no emails of any kind in fact). No WhatsApp, no FaceTime and no texting. I wanted to do an experiment to monitor just how much it affects my mental health in general. The decision came after a few months of therapy for depression. While I know social media is not the root cause of what I’m dealing with, I do believe it has some element of toxicity. Especially when used incorrectly. I mean, how can it not? I’m a blogger and the online world is a big part of my life. I’m consuming it more than and in a different way to the average person. I bet if you truly admit how addicted you are too, you’ll surprise yourself.
My therapy includes weekly Psychologist visits, reading, lots of soul searching and the right medication. As part of my healing I wanted to see what taking a digital break could be like. As Einstein put it, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results”. Makes sense doesn’t it? Before I get going I wanted to say a big thank you to those who’ve sent me messages of support. It’s incredible how people I’ve never even met will send well wishes. It seems the internet can be a nice place! I’ve said before that I’m not the first to go through this and I’m definitely not the last so if this post touches just one of you and encourages you to make positive changes, then I’ve achieved my goal.
I was so reluctant to address mental health on the blog because it’s such a sensitive topic with so much stigma unfortunately still attached to it. It’s not my intention to discuss depression to shock, gain sympathy or to treat it as ‘click bait’ to get more followers (to be honest I’m half expecting to lose some). Also I know some people post things to get ‘likes’ and then never mention it again. Instead I’d rather share my experience and what I’ve learned to hopefully inspire others. If like me you do suffer with depression then you’ll understand how debilitating it can be. It affects everything. From making plans with friends, to how you feel in your clothes. It can really feel like your trapped inside your own head. Some days I used to feel so down that I considered myself the worst parent in the world and other times I’d surprise myself that I’d had 5 minutes straight of not feeling down. Then the anxiety would get triggered and everything would resurface. Cue a vicious cycle with no clarity and no hope of jumping off the merry-go-round.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
– ALBERT EINSTEIN
In the last few months I’ve really had to rethink my life. It fills me with such pride to confidently say I’m on the right path and thankfully I’m almost completely rid of the ‘low mood’ that used to cloud over me. It’s been a long road but I’m reaching the end. Sadly many people aren’t fortunate to be in the same position. With people experiencing varying degrees of depression, for some it can be a huge struggle. Many of us know someone who has taken their own life which is why it’s so important (especially in the age of social media) to discuss it. It doesn’t have to be taboo.
So that brings us to the last 10 days.
the digital detox.
When I talk about incorrect use of social media, I mean using it to create psychological distress. It’s a tricky one to understand because sometimes we do it without realising. So having awareness of the duration you spend online is key, as it what you’re looking at. Consider this… our brain is adept at creating ‘habits’, the things we do without realising. Like reversing off your drive, stopping at traffic lights, looking left and right when crossing a road. But the brain is also powerful enough to create habits out of things we’ve forced ourselves to do, things that aren’t necessarily great for the mind… like checking your phone every 5 seconds. I’ve read so many interesting books on neuroscience and could talk all day about this! Anyway, the brain is wired and the great news is that it’s possible to just as easily rewire it. It’s why I gave myself 10 days… 10 days to form the new habit (not checking phone) and really get to see a difference. No more fear of missing out, no more unbalanced views, no more synthetic filters, no more feeding my brain unrealistic images under the pretence that it’s casual and so normal.
what I wanted to achieve.
Rid myself of the addiction/habit of constantly checking my phone
Get a better night’s sleep
See if I could take time off work
what I got.
The results were so great that half way through the detox I knew it was something I’m going to do more often. The second I logged back on to Instagram 10 days later, within seconds I could see there were some accounts I could unfollow and not miss. Next, stepping outside phone-less felt so liberating. I never had that over-active mind experienced when you’re aimlessly flicking through. It felt great to just take everything in!
I had so much more time to do things. If you have the new iPhone software, go check your settings and click on screen time to see how much time in a week you spend on social media. It’s shocking. I actually felt a bit embarrassed when I saw mine. I used my time to declutter, organise, clean, socialise, go for walks, read, go out more, visit more places and all in all get everything done so much quicker. It’s amazing how little time mundane chores take to get done when you’re not on your phone the whole time.
Reality & Purpose
I got a sense of life and purpose again. It really did feel old school to not be glued to a phone. Of course there was the odd occasion where I couldn’t not take a call (my family live in Wales and it was often impossible to make plans without being in touch) but it was such an incredible feeling knowing that I could be my own person again without that guilty feeling of not responding to messages or worrying if my texts could be misinterpreted etc.
All in all I believe social media can be great when used in moderation and the right way. Evidence shows that we should only be spending around 30 minutes a day maximum online so it’s definitely food for thought. It’s something I’ll be doing much more often and something that I’ll definitely be more conscious of in the future. The internet is terrific for communication and connecting people together but it’s important to bear in mind responsible usage and never underestimate the importance of real life emotional relationships. It’s what us humans are designed for – not to be lazy and consume the entire time.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, you can find more information, help & support at mind.org.uk.
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