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Published on September 24, 2019

How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life

How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life

I’ve noticed that when I catch up with a friend, family member, or colleague, the other person will at some point ask if I saw what someone posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. My permanent reply: “No, I didn’t see it.” This response sometimes leads to a curious look. Other times, people will just proceed to explain the latest social media buzz.

I’m sure some of you think I’m bragging about my lack of social media activity. There are certainly people who wear quitting social media as a rebellious badge of honor. The fact, however, is that I’ve recently realized that by limiting social media, I’m leading a much happier and more focused life.

The Upside of Life Without Social Media

I was recently reading an article about the cost of debt on happiness[1] and it reminded me of how certain things have a taxing effect on happiness. Similar to debt, there’s certain things that can be so distracting that it can influence your personal life and how you are at work in a negative way.

At work, I’d stop what I was doing any time I received a social media notification. While one way around this would be to turn off notifications, use an app that blocks sites, or completely turn off my phone, I’d still feel anxious about having to check my social feeds. FOMO is a very real thing. In fact, research conducted at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight found that even if you turn off notifications, you still feel anxious that you’re missing out.[2]

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These distractions may seem harmless, but they play a part in your productivity as well. Joanne Cantor, PhD, professor emerita of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the book Conquer CyberOverload said:[3]

“When we stop ourselves to check social media again and again, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and you do it in an inferior way.”

The American Psychological Association reports that multitasking, such as going back and forth between social media and a work-related task, can actually reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.

Outside of work, social media distracts you from enjoying the present. For example, let’s say you’re having dinner with your family. Instead of spending quality time with your loved ones, everyone’s faces are glued to their smartphones like mindless zombies. That’s definitely not going to strengthen the relationships you have with one another. Even if social media is valuable to your business for feedback, it’s good to take a break.

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Here’s another example. You go to a concert or a baseball game with a friend or business acquaintance. You’re not deeply involved in this activity or, worse, enjoying the company you’re with because you’re too busy posting social media updates — or checking in to see what everyone else is posting.

Besides these distractions, I’ve also noticed that I actually have more free time. I’ve been able to use this time to read, write, or learn new skills that make me a stronger person, both personally and professionally.

Without social media, I’ve been more productive and able to truly enjoy the company of the people I care about. Also, I have felt less stressed and am sleeping better. Research has found that social media is linked to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.[4] This shouldn’t be surprising. We lay in bed scrolling through our feeds, comparing ourselves to others. On top of that, blue light from our screens stimulating our brains, we get jealous and wish we were lying on a beach instead of preparing for work in the morning.

How to Realistically Limit Social Media

I’ll be the first to admit that limiting social media isn’t easy. The fear of missing out, of course, plays a role. Even if you aren’t addicted to social media, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you limit. That’s actually the first step in being able to successfully limit social media: realizing you’re going to miss out on certain things. Eventually, you’ll realize you aren’t as isolated as you believe. In fact, you may have even stronger relationships because your main communication methods are more intimate, like texts and phone calls.

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Besides, if someone didn’t invite you to a party because you aren’t on social media, is he or she really someone you consider a close personal friend? That person’s most likely an acquaintance who really isn’t all that important to you in the grand scheme of things.

After coming to this realization, you should uninstall all social media apps from your phone and log out of them on your computer. This is just a simple way to remove the temptation to view your social channels with one click or tap. Though it will be a rough start, you’ll eventually experience the benefits of not being tied to social media. The further you distance yourself from it, the less you’ll miss it.

However, if you’re still struggling, look for other ways to distract yourself. Pick up a new hobby, meditate, exercise, volunteer, or actually call to catch up with a friend. Not only do these activities give you something else to focus on, but they also allow you to strengthen your existing relationships and establish new, more meaningful ones.

Life Without Social Media

If you feel you need social media to stay in the loop, seek out alternatives like newsletters or RSS feeds that are relevant. If you have to establish a social media presence professionally, set boundaries, such as logging in once a week to check messages and schedule the following week’s content. You can also delegate or outsource your social media responsibilities so you can remain free of social media.

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You can live without social media. In fact, it’s probably for the best. But it is an adjustment; you’ll miss out on certain things. Some people may forget you. But you’re also going to be happier and more focused because you’ll be less distracted and stressed. You’ll also be more productive and fulfilled.

To ease your way into this, don’t go cold turkey. Deactivate your accounts for a week, then maybe two, then possibly permanently. As you’ll see, it’s not the end of the world.

More Related to Quitting Social Media

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

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Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

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