Holiday from social media

In the end of June I noticed a post on my friend’s instagram, where she announced, that she was taking a break from social media for the month of July. Immediately I got inspired, but also little horrified. I’ve never taken a longer break from social media, while staying home in Helsinki. On vacations I have taken brakes and this has always had a calming effect on me. My opinion is that I spend too much time on social media. In instagram I follow the accounts of people and things that interest me. I flick through interior design accounts and shop sometimes. I advertise my blog posts there and get all the information of the events related to my dance hobby. Through social media I know at least little bit of what is going on in the life of my friends, the ones that are not in my close circle. The ones that I don’t see weekly of monthly and the ones that don’t live in Finland. I like social media. To me it acts as a source of inspiration and makes the world somehow smaller and easier to grasp. It brings the things that are far little bit closer.

After seeing my friends post about the social media holiday, I started to imagine what it would be like to take a total break form this world that has become surprisingly big part of my daily life. I usually open my phone after I have brushed my teeth and meditated. I find it important that the first thing that affects me after I wake up is my own inner world instead of something that comes out side of me. Exception being my partner of course. I also don’t browse my phone in my bed before going to sleep. My phone sleeps alone in the other room on airplane mode. I haven’t kept note on how often I pick up my phone and visit social media during one day, but I know it ends up being quite a few times. Usually when I stop, wait or sit by myself. Sometimes also when I do stuff, like while I’m watching a series. I do pick up my phone a lot. Even though I’m very aware that it would be far better for me to just to be with myself and not with my phone when I stop or have a break.

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Pic by my partner Jussu, taken at the summer cottage

This summer has been stressful time, especially regarding to the global black lives matter movement. I’ve posted a lot about the matter and this movement has been very visible in the social media. By the end of June I thought I’d need a break from the whole conversation. I decided to ask my partner if he would take a break form social media with me, as it would for sure be easier, if he’d join. We talked and he was immediately in. He had not taken a break before. We were thinking how long would we go for, a month or two? And decided that a month would be a good start. I could take an exception and visit social media, when I would post my blogs writings.

The first day of the break I sat to have breakfast at home. Normally at that point I’ll open my computer and kind of have my breakfast with Facebook and Instagram. Now I just sat there without anything. I felt weird and somehow amused. “So what am I supposed to do, just sit here…?” I kept observing my reaction and my confusion. It felt really weird to sit there having my morning coffee without doing anything – without my focus being attached to something. I thought of my partner, who was used to reading the morning paper at breakfast. How was he doing?, was this easier for him as his routines were not changing so much? We had decided, that we can read online newspapers of course. But I don’t read newspapers and I don’t listen to the radio. There is also no music playing in my house at the background. So I just sat there with myself and my coffee in silence. I felt a bit uncomfortable. I thought that was purely because I was changing a habit. The next day the same situation was already easier and couple days after that momentarily even pleasurable. There’s no hurt in just being.

All in all the change felt surprisingly big. Much bigger than I had predicted. I felt noticeably different. During the first week my hand kept automatically grabbing my phone several times a day and started opening it. My partner said that he had to remove the Instagram and Facebook apps form his phone, as his brain took him to open the apps automatically without a conscious choice. I myself was able to put down the phone without opening the apps, except for one occasion.

Anyway, it was baffling to see how strongly my brain kept pushing me towards this activity, even though I had made a conscious and clear decision to not do it. Now I noticed how my thoughts kept racing uncontrollably from one place to another. In my mind I wanted something and nothing. I felt confused and restless. While being focused on reading a book, watching a movie or writing something, suddenly without warning I felt the need to check my phone without any real reason. Interesting isn’t it?

Eventually, these distracting routine like interruptions, thoughts and actions towards my phone slowly stopped happening and my mind started to feel more relaxed. I begun to land into myself and actually felt relieved. I definitely felt more grounded and concentrated. At this point I really started to realise how strongly this going back and forth with my phone affects my brain. How it programs the brain to fire and wire in a way that enhances lack of concentration, nervous behaviour and creates a stress like state, that makes it harder for me to be in my center and in the present moment. Thank god for the brain’s plasticity and its ability to re-vire. It only took only few weeks and my brain learned to wire in a new and more harmonious way. I did miss the Instagram stories of some my dearest friends a bit, but the newfound peace in my head felt more welcome.

With my partner we noticed how often we had had these routine like moments where we would silently disappear to our phones and away from each other. Now that we didn’t do that, and instead stayed open to one another, our connection deepened, just as the connection to our selves grew stronger. We noticed that we were having lots of wonderful conversations. Life showed us beautiful little moments, that we would have missed, if we had been emerged in our phones. For example, this one day at the summer cottage we had just finished breakfast and were just sitting at the table. I was very aware that usually at this moment we would both start scrolling our phones. I started to feel boredom, like something should happen now or I wouldn’t be satisfied. Without doing anything I just kept observing my experience. I looked outside from the window and suddenly I saw this big fox jumping in the near field. We rushed to watch and got the most beautiful nature documentary right then and there, that brought so much joy. If we had been scrolling our phones we would had missed it.

One day I was running errands in the Helsinki center. I had about an hour to kill before I had to be in the next place. So I decided to go and have a cup of tea at this place called Relove. Sun was shining and I desided to sit in the terrace. Straight away I became aware that normally in a situation like this where I was alone in a cafe, I would dive straight into my phone. I was looking around and all the people that were alone we’re doing exactly that. I felt a bit weird and maybe little vulnerable. I sat and watched people walking on the street and focused on enjoying the beautiful summer day. Then I focused on feeling what was going on in my body and suddenly I experienced this enourmous feeling of happiness and good vibes pouring from my heart and belly centres. I felt amazing for no reason what so ever. It was like this good vibe was me. I felt so grateful that I had decided to take this holiday from my phone. As this obviously gave me space to connect with myself and with the present moment. Now I had time to sense that peace, happiness and tranquility, that resides within everyone of us. This was a moment of realisation. For a while now I’ve been thinking what and how much and to what end, am I able to be consciously aware of my actions, feelings, and thoughts and what happens outside of my awareness as a pure habitual automatic program? What am I actually able to choose and what not? This compulsive scrolling of my phone had gone so far, that it had nothing to do with a conscious choice, It was purely an automatic habitual behaviour that my brain kept performing. I had no clear understanding or awareness of what I was doing to myself with this function.

The most important thing that I got out this social media brake was the understanding of how strong of an effect this phone scrolling has on me. How this seemingly innocent everyday thing that almost everyone does, creates incoherence in my brain witch again creates stress and makes it harder for me to concentrate and be present.

In the end of July I thought what now? It was clear that I wasn’t going to go back to how things had been before. My brain was clearly in a more coherent state and this of course felt great in my body. But I also didn’t want to completely leave the social media scene. I was pondering was there a suitable middle ground. Now I am feeling out this one. I visit social media twice a day every second day. I make my visits with awareness avoiding uncontrollable long lasting scrolling where I kind of avoid myself. No more killing time with my phone. I rather spend time with me. In honesty I feel so much better than my phone. This new experiment has been going on for few weeks now and so far it feels good. The days I don’t visit social media I haven’t missed it. And the days I have, it’s been sweet. When I make my visits shortly and with awareness, I notice that my brain still stayes in a calm mode. I definitely feel more balanced and more in harmony. Of course, because now I am spending much more time in myself. Like this my energy stays with me and Its not scattered around. I am more whole.

If you desire inner peace and you notice that you have difficulties staying present, I truly recommend you to try this experiment and take a brake form social media and of scrolling your phone. Dr. Joe Dispenza, who amongst other things is a brilliant teacher in neuroscience says something like this: “What’s the point? – if you want to have a healthy diet and every morning you make yourself this beautiful organic breakfast and the rest of the day you pick on junk food? Or you want to be this loving person and you send love and peace to everyone in your meditations, but then gossip and judge the rest of the day?” I notice that I have been acting just like this. I’ve been doing daily meditation practice for several years now. My wish has been, that I could get rid of restlessness and chronic stress. I have yearned for peace of mind, balance and self confidence. Science has proven that meditation brings calm and balances the functions of the brains right and left hemispheres. It enhances and strengthens the functions of the frontal lobes, witch amongst other things are in charge of regulating the emotional reaction and action in relation to what is happening in our surroundings. I have been helping myself by doing my meditation practice. But then the rest of the day I’ve been doing something, that in the brain level creates just what I’ve been trying to get rid of. We humans are contradictory in the most interesting ways.

Have a beautiful autumn!
With ❤️ Amira

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