marriage

Excuse Me While I Disconnect

I am addicted to my phone. I’m the first to admit it and the first to get defensive when someone calls me out on it. My husband is the same. And a phone addiction does not bode well for marriage or family life. He would get mad at me for using mine and I’d get mad at him for his. We were at a stalemate. We both knew we had no right to complain about the other because we were both equally terrible; him for his games (I curse you Clash of Clans!) and Flipboard, me for social media and working outside of work hours. It was out of control. Plus, we were becoming increasingly concerned over how our bad habits were affecting our daughter. She’d repeat herself over and over because we weren’t listening and had recently started saying, “look up from your phone!” RED FLAG, right?

cell phone sign.png

Science is showing there’s huge issues with cell phone use and, specifically, social media. It’s time we start listening and doing something about it, especially if you have little kids who are always watching. The notifications we receive trigger the release of dopamine, the pleasure juice, in our brains. That little sound or symbol announcing someone has reacted to us in some way keeps us hooked to it, the same way people become addicted to drugs or sex: the pleasure dopamine releases keeps us coming back for more. Dopamine is created in many areas of the brain and is linked to many brain functions such as thinking, sleeping, mood, attention and reward. We’re a society addicted to instant gratification and our phones are the perfect tool to obtain it. We’ve become addicted to social media and its likes and shares. We’ve become addicted to gaming. We’re addicted to the “know”: if you need to know something -- anytime, anywhere -- Google it. I’m addicted to social media and the “know”, plus the habit of constantly looking at my phone mindlessly. It was becoming a serious problem for me but there aren’t steps or help available yet for internet/phone/social media addiction. I had to do something though so, after some careful research, my husband and I agreed to both implement some changes.

I have to believe there are many more people in this same boat: addicted to social media and the “pings” of likes and messages or hooked on games or obsessed with watching stocks or watching YouTube videos. So here’s what we did to start:

 

1.       Make folders on your phone. Organize your apps. Put them into the folders. Push them to the second ‘page’ of your phone. Dopamine loves colour and we now associate certain colours with certain apps (blue, anyone?) so keep your main page void of triggering and brain excitable colours.

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The second page has all my folders and apps

The second page has all my folders and apps

2.       Delete the apps you really don’t need. Do you really need four recipe apps? For me this was Facebook, games and my Kindle.

3.       Turn off notifications. Don’t let those “pings” get to you!

4.       If you do a lot of work from your phone, download Hootsuite or another similar app to schedule posts. Take an hour to get them ready and scheduled and walk away! The app will do the rest.

5.       Start with a simple rule to get into the flow of change. For us, it was no electronics in our bedroom. This meant no more computers, phones or TV allowed. It also meant investing in an alarm clock.

These few rules were easy to get into. Logging into Facebook from my web browser felt more like a pain than it was worth so my social media time cut back significantly and immediately. I had thought turning on the Night Shift display on my phone wouldn’t trigger my brain as much so I was constantly using my Kindle before bed. But I quickly learned that the disease I thought I had from my constant, unexplainable exhaustion was in fact from using my device before bed. What a relief to know I wasn’t dying!

Those five rules still apply but we’ve now gone deeper since. We’ve now decided no phones AT ALL after 7 pm. They get left in the kitchen and we walk away. Of course, if the phone rings we will answer it but it rarely happens for us these days! Once we are ready for bed, phones go on silent. I thought it would be a hard transition but the benefits are outweighing the discomfort. Here’s how:

1.       I never realized how addicted I was to my phone until I didn’t have it beside me. Now, when I’m in bed and I pause while reading or journaling, I will AUTOMATICALLY reach for my phone without thinking! How crazy is that!? Think of how many times I was picking up my phone unconsciously with it always so close! However, knowing this makes me fight harder to get over this and be more conscious when I do have my phone nearby.

2.       My quality of sleep has improved 1000%. Like I mentioned before, I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with me because I was so exhausted all the time. I was lethargic and foggy, moody and irritable a lot of the time but especially in the mornings. I changed my diet, bed time, number of hours I was sleeping, pillows, you name it only to discover it was using my phone right up until bedtime that was keeping me from a restful sleep. I sleep like a peaceful baby now and sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night blown away I have so many more hours to sleep because I will feel so rested already by 2am or so.

3.       My circadian rhythm is re-balanced. Similar to above, my body is more in tune with its natural rhythms and cycles now. Before we would stay up later than necessary only to find that second wind that would keep us up even later and in turn, we’d sleep in later than we wanted. We now go to sleep when our bodies demand it, usually around 9:30 and are up at 6am with no troubles. We wake up refreshed, energized and ready for the day! Also, a 6am wake up sets a really good tone for our day. We are usually up before our daughter so that means we can get some quiet, uninterrupted things done. For me, that’s typically a yoga session and a hot cup of coffee. For my husband, it’s stretching and a long, hot shower. We make a healthy breakfast now instead of mad dashing to the kitchen to throw smoothies together before running out the door as we did previous to our phone disconnection.

4.       My marriage is improved. Can you say pillow talk?! Lots and lots of pillow talk! My husband and I communicate so much more now that sometimes I look at him and think, “I’m still learning so much about you and its been over a decade together.” I feel like I’m falling in love with pieces of him all over again and learning new pieces that have since fallen into place in him. We actually talk now in the bedroom versus us getting into bed and picking up our phones. There’s no showing each other videos or articles, music with headphones or social media. It’s just chats and whatever else is supposed to happen in a marital bed! Our bedroom is more intimate and cozy now; something that wasn’t at its full potential with phones and TV in the way.

5.       Our family time is more meaningful and plentiful. We spend more time together as a family. We bake goodies, play board games, snuggle under the blankets with the occasional movie or TV show and we talk more. We’re currently teaching our daughter about gratitude and spending time each night to share what we are feeling grateful for that day. I don’t know if our more mindful presence is the contributing factor but our daughter is also a better listener and helper. I don’t have to ask twice for her to clean her room anymore!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

6.       I’m more conscious of the time I do spend on my phone. I run my business, a non-profit and my blog from my phone so it’s easy to be a slave to it. I was so scared of losing business or readers or opportunities if I wasn’t available 24/7 that I kept my phone near me at all times. Now I know that I can operate on normal business hours and the messages and emails can wait until “open” the next morning. When I do want to surf because, let’s face it, social media and the internet can be really fun and informative, I set an alarm on my phone and will give myself an allotted block of time for it. Otherwise it’s easy to start scrolling only to look up and see that an hour or two has passed. It sucks you in! An alarm keeps me in check and knowing I have only 20 minutes makes me more apt to read articles that interest me (like mindbodygreen.com) than to scroll Facebook.  

7.       I’m already detaching from my phone. When I’m in public or with friends, I keep my phone put away now. This has allowed me to have nice conversations with strangers, witness beautiful things happening around me and be a more active listener for my friends and family. I’m actually annoyed now when I’m with people who are constantly texting/on their phone in my presence. Be respectful of your friendship/relationship and be present. In that moment, that connection is all that matters and it’s more meaningful than anything you’re seeking through text/social media/internet. BE PRESENT.

All of these changes began about a month ago so the transformation is quick and incredible. I can only imagine how life will be in a few more weeks or even months as we become even more present and mindful. If any of our addictive habits with our phones/electronics resonates with you, I urge you to adopt a couple of our rules and try it yourself. It really is a huge benefit to yourself and everyone around you.

 

HAVE YOU LOVED YOU TODAY?

It’s the day of love.

A day when the world tells you to appreciate your significant other by buying them a red rose, a piece of jewelry, and making a reso at a nice restaurant.  I love jewelry, flowers, and good food so by no means is this blog post about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day.  This post is more about the things I have seen over the course of my almost 34 years.  I came across a Facebook status yesterday that struck a chord inside me. It read “No Longer Looking”. It wasn’t that this person had found love but instead felt frustrated that they simply couldn’t, felt deflated, and wanted to give up.  I want to tell the world that the only person you need to love is yourself and here is why-

My opinion varies on the subject.  It seems to be in human nature and probably a lot to do with the culture we live in that we join hands and walk two by two-before you get too old or you are deemed faulty.  If you reflect on past generations we have certainly come a long way from marrying within your postal code and not skipping a beat to start your family. Today, there seems to be less pressure to marry in your early twenties and jump into the minivan.  I still hear women talk about the time clock, how they wish they could just find the “one”, and have kids.  It’s like the movie Pleasantville.  We are not fulfilled in life if we don’t have the white picket fence, perfect home, and a variety of charger plates for our dinner parties. And look at little Chantal’s view on her future….I was drinking the Kool-Aid.

My 10 year old self predicting the future...

My 10 year old self predicting the future...

Well it’s safe to say that my path didn’t quite end up with a cargo van of kids, a multi profession career, or the horses. I blame the Hasbro game “Life” …if you took the college route you made bank, throw in a few of those extra pegs and you were set to WIN.  Now, the storybook of my actual life had a bit of college, some travelling, and a variety of relationships including a short marriage. Far cry from the routine pathway I took in my favourite board game. 

What the game of life also didn’t teach me was it isn't as easy as falling on the space that said GET MARRIED- then place your appropriate gender colored peg in your car.  It was much more difficult.  I had a theme for over a decade- it was simply to pick the wrong guys. It has taken quite a few years to figure out the common link to each of them and in all my reflecting it was the lack of self-love. People simply have to be happy with themselves to be happy with another person.  I was also to blame because, staying or picking these types of men in my life was normal and I made it acceptable to be treated that way.  I lacked the love for myself. There was everything from mental abuse, alcoholism, dishonesty, manipulation, infidelity, oh the list goes on… over years I became a shell of a person. It was completely normal for someone to treat me with complete disrespect.  It became all I knew.  Even when I would end a bad relationship I seemed destined to arrive at another one.

I took a stand one day.  Told everyone around me that I was not interested in dating ever again. I was over it.  No one could be trusted.  I wasn’t willing to have my heart ripped out of my chest anymore.  Maybe it’s with age I started to learn who I was and that I refused to be mistreated.  By no means would I say that I have the world of relationships figured out but, I started to feel more confident and secure when expecting to be treated a certain way.  I wasn’t going to stay silent and just live with it.  I used to be so scared to stand up for my feelings. Fear that the other person would judge me and maybe they would walk away- be the one to leave me!  In the end…isn’t that better? To figure out that you’re not each other’s person before another 3 years goes by.  ‘Fake it till ya make it’ doesn’t work in matters of the heart.

When I look at all the people that surround my life I can directly pin point the ones in relationships that I believe are great examples-relationship mentors.  These individuals love themselves (not in a selfish, I only put my needs first kind of way) but in a I respect myself enough to choose a partner in life that treats me the way I demand to be treated and I also show that same respect back to my person.  I watch some relationships from afar and just think...if only you knew that you don’t deserve to live like that.  People had looked at me and I can guarantee they said the same thing. 

So in closing I want to reiterate that no one should ever feel like their life is behind because they haven’t found their person, started that family, with horses, on that acreage.  You will stumble, question your gut, then your heart, then your gut again.  You will curse the game.  But get back in that car and enjoy the ride.  Learn from your mistakes, no really….actually learn from them.  Recognize the red flags and the green ones too. 

So on this day of LOVE, I want to ask you...have you loved YOU today?

Chantal XOXO