In the lost time before mobile phones…
Whenever I felt bored, stuck, apprehensive or meh, I somehow always found myself going into the kitchen and looking in the fridge.
As if my fridge would somehow contain the answer to my problem.
I didn’t want anything to eat and I wouldn’t always be fully aware I was even doing it until I was peering into the cold depths behind the old jam at the back (because that’s where all the wisdom lives).
What I was actually doing was just distracting myself and sure enough I would realise that the fridge did not hold the magical panacea I was looking for. So I’d go back to my school homework on Encarta or call my friend for a chat on the landline on the stairs or whatever we did before mobile phones!
Nowadays, I distract myself by looking at social media on my phone, like a normal person.
Unlike my fridge though, social media does sometimes have something interesting or helpful on there, which is very reinforcing for continuing with the same behaviour.
More often for me though, it was a way of zoning out without really engaging with anything in particular or becoming frustrated or troubled by some of the posts I was seeing.
At least I did do this a lot until I realised how unhelpful it can be, as I’m sure many of you also have.
Let me just say – I like my phone.
It is an incredibly useful little thing and I have not ditched my phone altogether and I am not going to preach abstinence or tell you that social media is bad.
Instead, I am just going to share a few tips that may help you to change the way you use your phone and to put it to better use, rather than using it to distract yourself from your emotions, your boredom or just meh.
Tip 1: Get a watch.
I am absolutely serious!
If you haven’t got one and you rely on your phone to tell you the time, get a watch that makes you feel happy when you look at it.
After a number of years thinking I didn’t really need a watch anymore because I could just look at my phone, I got a watch and my phone use immediately reduced.
Not only that, my social media use reduced.
The problem is that it can be so automatic once you have looked at your phone to tap in your pin and tap onto your social media app, in just the same way I just found myself peering into the fridge as a teenager.
Tip 2: Delay the urge.
This is a technique I use for many things with clients in my work as a psychotherapist.
What people usually do when faced with an urge, is either to give in to the urge or to try to resist the urge.
Of course, it makes complete sense to try to resist an urge if you are trying to stop doing something.
The problem with this is that it is very difficult to do – the more you try not to do it, the more you think about doing it.
Just imagine if I put your favourite cake in front of you (or something delicious to you if you don’t like cake – weirdo). Now imagine I tell you that you can’t have it because I’m ever so mean.
What are you going to be thinking about?
Chances are, it will be how much you want the cake and also how mean I am for telling you not to eat it.
Now imagine I am not so mean but I say, you can eat the cake in about 30 minutes after we have done a task.
This makes it easier to ride out the initial urge and reduces the likelihood that you are
going to think more and more about the cake.
When the 30 minutes is up, you can then make a more informed decision about whether you really want the cake or not.
Maybe it is a treat day and you do want to eat it or maybe you are on some kind of low carb thing and you choose not to eat it – either way you are making a rational choice using your pre-frontal cortex rather than acting on an urge.
We can apply the same thing when we feel the urge to look on social media.
If you truly want to, you can. But if you are using it in a less helpful way it gives your thinking brain time to make a decision rather than acting on auto-pilot and without the same amount of effort as simply resisting.
Tip 3: Use your phone for things you really value.
If you really value health and fitness, put your fitness app in prime position on your phone and actually get into a routine to use it!
If you value your wellbeing, get your meditation app and put it onto the first page of your screen!
If you love music, make that your go-to thing if you are feeling bored, lonely, fearful, down or meh.
If you love to learn, make podcasts or Ted Talks part of your routine…
Then put your phone away when you have finished.
Tip 4: Use it to get organised
I’m sure there are many and varied apps that help you to organise your schedule.
I started off just using reminders but I have since found Trello which you can use to make a board for each project you have on the go. I like this app because it helps me to compartmentalise things in a way my brain generally doesn’t.
It helps me see things easily at a glance and is one place I can get ideas down that I might otherwise scribble on some paper then lose, or add to my notes app then never look at again.
My partner uses a nifty shopping list app.
I’m sure there are countless apps out there to suit your personal preference and help you to get organised.
Mine is where all my ideas for this blog go!
Tip 5: Keep a positive diary
Having a positive diary, a gratitude log or any variation of this, can be a really enjoyable thing to do and can give you an alternative thing to look at if you are feeling anxious, fed up or bored.
Social media may sometimes offer you something that you value but at other times it may add to your anxiety or fed up-ness with stories of kids choking on grapes, or people being attacked or general tales of woe.
It may also just increase your feeling of boredom if nothing particularly interesting is on there.
A positive diary, on the other hand, can help you to remember some of those little kindnesses of others, achievements or fun times.
It is personal to you and it might actually hold more answers than social media… or my old fridge!
Lemon Suqeezy makes wellbeing easy!