Mindfulness

Top 3 Ways to Create Healthy Digital Habits & Be More Mindful In a Tech-Obsessed World

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We all get that our phones keep us organized. And really that’s an understatement because they are *the* gateway to our appointments and reminders and photos and just about everything else.

It’s these same phones that allow us to keep in touch with those we love and block those we don’t. I mean, I don’t love robocalls. I block those all darn day.

It is, without a doubt, the one handheld machine that helps you seamlessly run your life. 

On the flip side, our phones beep and ding and are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to distraction. If not the biggest.

You know how it goes. You wake up in the morning and without thinking twice, you check your social feeds. Why? You take a break in the elevator to check the weather or see what emails have trickled in that needed a response five minutes ago. What if we didn’t have computers in our hands…? Those emails would have to wait until we got back to our desks!

When the day is done and you're winding down for bed, you may have found yourself brushing your pearly whites just before one last glance at the little device that syncs you with your outside world. 

Our phones and tablets literally manage our days. Unfortunately, they’re robbing us of our attention, attention spans and time for more important things like all the non-tech, personal stuff we could be accomplishing when we’re not using them.

I like mine just as much as the next person. But it might be time we rethink our behaviors and usage.

According to research conducted by Nielsen:

“US Adults spend nearly half a day interacting with media.”

Yep, you read that right - you and I are spending nearly half of our days interacting with media in some form.

Sometimes I sit back and think, how did we let these seemingly good devices creep into our worlds so much?

It’s a slippery and even sticky slope.

Fortunately we are all becoming a lot more aware of just how sticky media is and it’s allowing us to make room for change. 👍

So, there’s no need for guilt or worry or stress. Just know that there is a better, healthier way to find balance and if you’re committed like I was, you’ll get your time back.

SO… HOW EXACTLY DO WE CREATE HEALTHY DIGITAL HABITS AND BECOME MORE MINDFUL SO WE FEEL LESS OVERWHELMED AND MORE IN CONTROL OF OUR DAY-TO-DAY? 

Ima ‘bout to tell you.

Ready?

Here it is.

1. Measure your time.

In order to see any improvement and to define what success means for you, first you have to measure your current usage. This won’t involve any hard math. Just make sure you use an app like Moment (iOS), AppDetox (Android) or the latest iOS 12 Screen Time monitoring features to do the tracking for you. 

How exactly do you monitor? 

Track your usage for approximately one week and see what your average daily time is. More importantly, what apps or services are you using the most? Once you know your average time you can determine what your personal goal is for each day and once you know which apps or tools are consuming most of your time, you can limit them, too.

For example, you may find that your usage is slightly higher than you expected but most of the time is attributed to playing music during your commute or when your winding down for the night. Obviously, music can be totally relaxing and freeing! So make your own thoughtful conclusions about where it is that you can trim when it comes to screen time.

Alternatively, if majority of your screen time is devoted to a certain game or social media app, consider deleting the app (easier said than done but I promise you it’s doable) from your phone while you work to restore your own personal device balance.

2. Create balance with new healthier routines.

In order to make a change, you have to adjust some routines. For example, where do the phones in your household “sleep” at night? Are they on everyone all the time? Do they join you for dinner? Consider creating a central charging station (ours is in our kitchen). The charging station isn't just for charging either - it's a place where your phone should live when you're not using it.

Additionally, make dinner time device-free and have everyone in your household put their phones in the central charging station each night so as to limit the bright light and distraction that devices often bring into bedrooms or places of respite. Yes, this means you’ll need to invest in an alarm clock or dust off your old one and plug it in like we all did 15 years ago.

And if you’re still on the fence as to whether it really matters. Sleep.org shared the following insight:

“Smartphones—like laptops, tablets, and televisions—emit something called blue light, which is a type of light that the brain interprets as daylight. The blue light actually suppresses melatonin (a hormone that affects circadian rhythm and should increase when you are preparing for bedtime). The result: Your brain feels stimulated. This is fine if you’re looking at your smartphone’s screen at noon, but if you’re looking at the screen at midnight, your brain is going to get confused and think that the sun is out—making it even tougher to fall asleep.”

3. Give and receive digital respect.

The only way you can show those around you that you are providing your undivided attention is if your devices are out of sight. Make sure you are keeping them away when it comes to dinner time, walks and one-on-ones..

You may think that you can handle it but remember, our devices have trained many of us to keep them near and check them often.

According to Common Sense Media:

“Features such as app notifications, autoplay -- even "likes" and messages that self-destruct -- are scientifically proven to compel us to watch/check in/respond right now or feel that we’re missing something really important.”

Remember what I said about sticky? The FOMO effect plays into this stickiness as well.

And I can assure you, FOMO is real. So real in fact that Oxford Dictionaries defines it as:

“Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Often I find that our devices follow us into places where they just don't need to be.

Limit how often and when you're using them and others will feel your added attention and focus. Plus, you will, too. It’s really about respect for others and yourself.

In order to restore balance to your life and feel like you're back in control of your day-to-day, the key is to monitor and limit screen time.

If you’re interested in truly taking back your time and feeling restored balance, click here to join the waitlist for my free digital detox course. I go into the why, how and when to help you get back on track when it comes to simplifying the digital devices in your life.


3 Things Your Future Self Would Want You To Simplify This Year

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We're almost to the end of January and while you may have set some of your best resolutions about 30 days ago, you may feel that they're no longer top of mind.

Not because you don't want to keep them there, mostly just because life happens and even this far into January stuff starts to bombard our day-to-day. While a new year brings so much goodness along with it, pesky things like push notifications, unfinished tasks, house clutter, over-use of social media, and struggling to get your time back can distract you from achieving goals and increase feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. (And I don't know about you but I refuse to feel defeated 1/12th of the way into the year!)

To clarify, the things outlined in this post are not meant to replace any resolutions. They're more like the quiet background music that plays during your morning commute - they're included in this post to help you pace yourself. They can help you keep a steady drumbeat of sanity and serenity while you think about things like family, career, self-improvement and those 2018 resolutions.

So here's a list of three things your future self would want you to simplify this year.

Queue the drumroll.

1. Simplify Your Approach to Simplifying

Don't get bombarded by all the things you think you need to declutter or organize this year. Start small first. Work on one area that you feel you could benefit the most from and think about streamlining it. If you see that you can tackle one small thing, you'll notice that you can tackle more and eventually more. I know too many people who have started in on a major 8-hour decluttering project just to find that 4-hours in they aren't done. And they're burned out. And just like that, "simplifying" leaves a rather sour taste in their mouth. 

Take little steps toward simplifying. It's not going to happen overnight and that's ok! Take baby steps and you'll feel a lot less like this:

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Simple and intentional living blogger, Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely shared with me her view on simplifying things both physical and non-physical.

"I use the same decluttering system for everything, from my closet to my to-do list," she said. "Once you know your values and personal vision, you can ask yourself if the task/item/etc. is taking you further or closer to the life you want most. And of course, if it’s not, it’s time to let go!" 

She went on to say:

"Decluttering is really just learning a new way of decision making—but admittedly, it can take some time to learn. Personally, I found it easier to start with decluttering my physical stuff and as I got better at it, I naturally started to apply these skills to my schedule, relationships, and more."

If simplifying seems hard for you - know that you're not alone. It just takes a little guidance and some practice. If you'd like to meet other simple-seekers, come on over to my new Facebook group. The more the merrier!

2. Decrease Time Spent on Your Phone

YouTuber JP Sears shared a rather hilarious clip about being addicted to our phones. The "How To Be More Addicted to Your Phone" video is not only spot on, it illustrates how addicted we really are.

As JP (and research reports) point out, millennials check their phones nearly 150 times per day.

That's right. 150 TIMES PER DAY.

If you're a parent, then this topic may hit close to home.

I have a smartphone and I am also a mom. I use it to talk to my friends and family and in many ways it's been a wonderful tool to keep my out-of-state family close and in touch with my little guy.

On the flip side, I get slightly terrified when I consider how often I check my phone or how often it interrupts my day. At 15 months old, my son doesn't understand what those things mean. What he does understand is the attention I do or don't give to him. 

In a TIME Health article from last year, the topic of cell-phone distracted parenting was studied and researched:

"Few things require more hands-on attention than a young child. And there’s little that’s more distracting than the constant bleeping of our cells phones. When these two things compete for our attention, the results can be sobering."

The article went on to say that research shows children need reliable, quality attention from their parent. Specifically, the kind of attention that is free from endless distractions because distractions can impact our little ones on an emotional level.

It was at that point in the article that my ears really perked up. Yikes. I don't want to ruin my kid! Especially not because I'm interested in being the first to respond to a text-message ding or meaningless social-feed update.

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The study was eye opening and it has got me looking for ways to improve my own attention and focus.

If you're not a parent, I think it's safe to say that adults can very quickly get a sense for where our attention is or isn't if it's that obvious to a child.

So... let's all do our loved ones and friends a solid and vow to look up more!

3. Quiet the Noise

According to Reset.me:

"Few people would argue that modern life provides a nearly overwhelming amount of sensory bombardment in the form of noise, crowds, traffic, clutter, and the demands of ever-present electronic devices."

Is the TV always on? Try keeping it off for longer. Are you addicted to binge-watching your favorite shows (as so many of us are)? Challenge yourself to do new things during your downtime. Experiment with limiting your Netflix intake. I can tell you from personal experience that it is doable and it feels good to get personal time back.

Do you play a variety of uplifting music or dull replays of songs you've heard a million times that lack any significant mood-boosting ability?

When all is said and done, are the sounds in your life (that you can control) encouraging and uplifting? Calming or enlivening? Educational or melodic? Or is it all just noise.

TV and music aren't the only sources of noise. What's more of a challenge is noise pollution that's much harder to control and that surrounds so many of us who live in big cities.

According to an article in Harpers Bazaar, noise pollution is proven to be harmful to our health:

"A constant gush of stress hormones actually restructures the brain, contributing to tumor development, heart disease, respiratory disorders, and more. And of course, our hormonal endocrine systems haven’t had time to learn that car stereos aren’t out to get us..."

The article goes on to share that noise pollution can be worse for women, too:

"Women are more field-dependent, meaning they take in the whole picture, while men are more focused on what they’re doing, so they don’t notice what’s in the periphery...”

Noise does have an impact on us - even if we don't realize it. It's helpful to consider where and when we can lower the volume. The article shared ideas related to noise fasts (apparently it's a thing), choosing quieter appliances and using things like earplugs and white noise machines to muffle the sound.

Now, you might be thinking something like, "ok great. You've shared some interesting stats that have me thinking about these three things but where do I go from here? Where is the glimmer of hope? 

Jennifer of Simply + Fiercely shared the following sage advice for those starting in on their simplifying journey and I couldn't agree more:

"... start with self-reflection. What are your core values? What matters most to you? What are your priorities, hopes and dreams? Don’t assume you know the answers; instead, really invest time into exploring these questions. Then once you’re done, use your answers as a benchmark to help you evaluate what does (or doesn’t) belong in your life. And remember—the more you know what you want out of life, the easier it is to see what doesn’t belong."

Remember, your version of simple may not be my version of simple and that's the kind of thing that makes the world go round! 

Look for what matters most to YOU and go from there.

In the meantime, I encourage you to try pacing yourself when it comes to simplifying, try spending a little less time with the smartphone and try muffling the unnecessary noise this year.

I'll be working on these things, too. Please keep me posted on your progress and thoughts in the comments section!

Interested in the whole less is more idea? Subscribe to my free email list below and you'll be sent monthly tips and insights related to all things simple living including invites to future webinars.

4 Ways to Be More Present in a Tech-Driven World

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It's been a while since I last updated my readers but since we last spoke, I became a MOM. And it is WONDERFUL. Something that I'm reminding myself of daily is that living in the present moment is more important now than ever because each day my little bundle of joy keeps getting bigger and if I don't slow down, I'll miss moments that I don't want to miss. Moments that I can't redo.

For me, living in the present moment with him means turning my phone to silent and giving my little guy undivided attention. It's not always easy but I really believe it's vital. I think the most unfortunate thing would be for me to be glued to my phone just to wake up one day and realize that he's all grown up and I missed it because I was more concerned with something like social media feeds. 

Given that I'm a new mom, I'm no expert and I certainly don't claim to know everything but I have been studying simple living and ways to improve a little more each day. So whether you have kids or not, this list of four ways to be more present in a tech-driven world still apply. Take them or leave them but I hope they help you think about being present.

  1. Give yourself a social media schedule. Yeah, it might sound elementary but give yourself allotted time(s) in your day where you allow yourself to check your social feeds. If you're addicted (like a large majority of society) then this will help you limit how much your checking feeds and will provide a healthier cadence for perusing platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat. An example might be that you allow yourself 10 minutes during lunch or after your loved ones go to bed.
  2. Establish an expectation with others you're regularly in communication with. Half the battle of becoming more present is letting others (be it coworkers or friends and family) know that you're working on savoring each moment. Let others know in advance when you're going to be out-of-pocket and either unavailable or slow to respond. This way you won't blindside anyone who has an urgent message for you and on the flip side, you'll have less anxiety about getting back to your phone to respond to incoming beeps and dings.
  3. Silence is golden. When you're with your loved ones silence your phone. It's one step closer to out of sight and out of mind. Often things like work emails interrupt us (like every. single. minute. of our day) and it's important to delay their opening and remember to really BE in the moment. Silencing the phone and flipping the screen over so you can't see it helps force you to be in the moment.
  4. Out of sight, out of mind. If silence isn't enough to get you to keep your fingers off your phone then put it in a different room. If you're hanging out in the living room decompressing, keep your phone in the kitchen or laundry room. Consider a location where you won't hear it or have the urge to pick it up. Once your family time is over, then you can grab it and start back on vetting through your inbox.

Leave a comment and let me know how you're working on being present. I'd love to hear other ideas!

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