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The Problematic Habits Power Hour

Bunch of flowers

Continuing on my trend of using this blog to mainly eviscerate/educate myself, let's embark upon the latest journey into... The PROBLEMATIC HABITS Power Hour featuring yours truly!

I've recently (about four hours ago) emerged from a deep dark funk that I've been stuck in for a couple of weeks now, being my longest funk for a good while. Despite how it sounds, it was not particularly funky. But I've come out of it with a few lessons that I will no doubt forget in a couple of months' time.... So I am posting this so that next time I am in a funky old funk, one of you can say: "Yo, Sylvia, do you not pay handsomely for both .com and domains only to post three times a year about how terrible you are and what you should do differently?" and I'll say "AH YES, I forgot about that" and re-read this post, and hopefully take one step further away from being a "do as I say, not as I do" type person.

Let's begin...

1. Not Controlling When I Use My Phone

One one particularly dark funky day, I decided to torture myself by watching sad things. After being unable to finish David Attenborough's A Life on Our Planet due to ugly crying, I decided to watch The Social Dilemma. That was a better choice, but instead of ugly crying, I made this face the entire time instead:

Despite this, I came away with some ideas for improving my own relationship with social media, and I started by: - turning off all app notifications except for actual communication apps. The thought that a soulless algorithm can try and prompt me to pick up my phone when I've not used it for a while, by feeding me little snippets and previews of other people's social media activities, drives me mad. I want to decide for myself when I will pick up my phone, and not be bossed around by push notifications designed to maximise my screen time (aka advertising consumption). (Imagine I am yelling now) I do not want to become reliant on my phone for multiple mini dopamine hits, doled out to me periodically on some algorithmically determined schedule like some kind of revenue-generating Pavlovian lab rat/dog/addict, with no sense of the years and years it may take to un-do such chemical dependencies.

- as the credits rolled, I immediately deleted a stupid time-wasting penguin game from my phone that bombards me with ads. Not gonna lie, I miss the penguins sometimes, but it was worth it. - my Oppo phone came with a Digital Wellbeing app which I now use to monitor my usage and data. It tells you how many times you receive notifications too, which is a big eye-opener. - I decided to limit myself to one screen at a time - no phone while watching TV (ground breaking, I know) - please prepare my medal: I no longer take my phone to the toilet. *bows*

2. Not Recognising That Some Daily Structures Just Don't Work for Me

Okay this doesn't sound particularly fun, but it comes from a very reliable source.. My mum has been telling/yelling me this for my entire life: Do the work first, then relax.

Picture it: Sicily, 1923

A beautiful young woman with flowing ebony hair lies on an Ikea couch (ok it's not 1923), staring transfixed at her TV. Instead of enjoying her favourite show (we'll get to that later), her mind runs wild with all the things she is yet to do. To the untrained eye, she looks relaxed. Instead, she is paralysed, mentally berating herself for her overflowing inbox, untidy house, not exercising, not doing her creative projects... a shopping list of failures. Fun!

The long game here is that I should probably sort out my tendency towards negative, anxious or obsessive thinking patterns.. BUT you know what's a shorter step on the journey towards Actual Self Improvement? Removing roadblocks to my mental health. It's clear that I must plan to work first, and plan to have fun later. I've tried planning to relax first and then do work later in the day, but you know what - it just isn't for me. If my schedule is: 9am-11am relax and watch TV, 12pm-2pm do some work, I can guarantee I will not be relaxing before 12pm. So instead of trying to become the kind of person who can handle the anxiety of knowing there is Work Coming Soon, I may as well just remove the cause of that anxiety entirely. Do work first, then relax with a clear conscience afterwards. It's just what works for me.

3. Saying "Yes" Instead of Saying "I'll Think About It" Yesterday I turned down three incredible opportunities for events or performances between now and next year. I wanted to say yes to each one, but I know that I'm at my limit as I am. I still have waves of "what if" every now and then, but luckily I have a team of friends who remind me that taking stuff off my plate right now is a gift to myself, not a loss.

For the first time, I found myself saying "I'd love to say yes, but I'll need to think about it first", and boy did it feel good.

I want the words "I'll think about it" to become part of my daily vocabulary much more, from now on. I think this will be handy when dealing with the kids at work too!

4. Relying Too Heavily on Old Favourites

Deep in my funk.. stressed, getting sick, overwhelmed.. I'm sure it was natural for me to binge watch my favourite show/s and take comfort in the familiar. But when every day you're stuck in bad habits, feeling down, struggling to get your normal routine back, I feel like watching the exact same show/s every day really just creates a vortex. Every day becomes the same, and it only gets harder to change your mindset and routine... before you know it, you're struggling to figure out what day it actually is.

One of the first steps I took to really get out of FuNkYtOwN this time was to watch something I'd never seen before. Not picking up my phone while watching TV helped me keep focus and really enjoy the show too.

I decided to carry this through to social media too. Usually if I watch IGTV or YouTube, I usually watch the same old channels, as I'm just killing time on the toilet (not anymore!). This morning I started out by watching a video by my friend A Small Wardrobe instead and it was so nice to begin the day with something that inspired and excited me, that reminded me of everything I'm capable of achieving today! Which leads me to..

5. Not Using Social Media for Good

Not that I was using it for Evil, but I don't think I was using it in a way that encouraged me to be my best either. The hardest part here is that you're not really in charge of what you see in your feed. What you see is decided based on your screen time, how long you look at each post, and so many more factors outside of your control. So... I want to use social media: - less often - more consciously - more actively

I'm going to use Save and Bookmark tools so I can refer back to posts or users long after I've forgotten someone's username. I'm not going to rely on auto-play features either, I want to be in charge of what I see. I'm going to create playlists for content that is valuable to my SOUL, not just entertainment or mass-produced endless tutorial videos.

Being the kind of person who often wakes up and realises "Oh wow I've watched nothing but Golden Girls for 14 weeks straight", I know I'm susceptible to sticking to what's familiar. So I'm trying to more actively expand my social media circles - if you have any good suggestions to add, please comment! Here are some of my favourite channels that tend to put out either hard-hitting truths, or real quality thoughtful content, rather than just motivational quotes: @ASmallWardrobe (YouTube, Instagram and Patreon) on mindfulness, clutter, use of space, wardrobe, routine, productivity, wellbeing, goal-setting, and more.

@Thrive (Instagram) on avoiding burnout, productivity, success, achieving goals.

@InspiredToWrite (Instagram) on creativity, productivity, self-doubt, impostor syndrome, and art-making

I've also just followed @StevenPressfield, author of the greatest book ever The War of Art and I'm excited to check out his feed more closely.

My final goal for my use of social media is to use it more to check in on friends. The times in the past few weeks that a friend has dropped me a message just to wish me well, check on me, or invite me to talk to them about my troubles, have been so amazing. I've tried my best to return the favour and check in more on friends, even just to say hey. It's hard to strike a balance - I think of my friends each and every day, but I don't want to spend all my days scrolling down a news feed liking pics either because that doesn't service me or them, it just lines someone else's pockets. So why not put my money where my mouth is, and use social media for the purpose we all thought it was originally created for: connecting with the people I love. During appropriate screen times. Not on the toilet. And not just to share funny pics, but to reach out and let people know I love them.

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