So DDJ is over and I’m reflecting on what in learnt…was there any point in absenting myself from all forms of social media and denying myself red wine for a month?
At the start of January I was feeling ‘burnt out’. I’m not a great fan of psychometrics but it just so happened that I needed to ascertain my wellbeing for a university assignment, my score on PANAS (try it here) was on the low side for me, not clinically depressed but neither was it my normal cheery bright-side reading. I was coming to the end of an intense year of study, a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, which had left me feeling uncertain as to my intellectual abilities, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next and I wasn’t sure why I had wanted a MAPP qualification in the first place. To compound my misery I had been unable to dance since the end of November due to a silly injury and the lack of exercise endorphins was kicking in; January found me well and truly fed-up!
It seemed like an ideal time to retreat for a month and contemplate in private, I turned off my notifications on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and stocked up on fizzy water…and this is what I discovered…
When I am trying to let go of a habit I will find it easier if I have a replacement arranged in advance. So instead of checking my phone in the morning I made sure I had a book next to my bed, not just one that I happened to be reading but a special one reserved for that time when I usually catch up with social media. I allowed myself a chapter each morning with my tea and the Today Programme.
Likewise having an alternative option to red wine in the evening acted as a stand-in for that moment when the day turned to evening, I needed a ritual that felt like a treat and most of the time fizzy water worked! I have drunk more camomile tea than I can remember ever consuming before and all that liquid does mean a lot more nighttime trips to the loo!
Whilst social media can be a habit that wastes time I am relatively self-regulating in the way I use/used my online presence. I get a lot of information via newsfeeds and certainly felt that a month without information gleaned in this way hasn’t been beneficial. I enrich my knowledge with what I learn, see and engage with through social media. Used as a platform to disseminate ideas nothing else has the capacity to enhance the way I absorb the world. Stepping back has made me realise that it’s a positive force for opening my mind to new possibilities.
I have missed friends on social media. The connections I make online, those micro-moments that add to my daily need to relate have become very important to me. Phone calls, face to face meetings, long emails or even letters, are all lovely ways to be with people but they are not always available. Staying connected to friends’ lives, the everyday experiences they reveal online, the articles they share, shape my relationships and without those networks I feel cut-off.
Given the current political climate I feel that I may have benefitted from not ‘hearing’ the constant chatter of anxiety that must have been going on, on the other hand I also feel that I haven’t been able to offer support. Not that I feel that my occasional tweet would have any impact but I care about what is going on in the world and appreciate social media for giving me the chance to express my opinion; I don’t believe that we should overshare but it is helpful for me to have an outlet for my thoughts. I enjoy using that line of communication to say thank-you…to show my love for others work or to just show I care.
Not drinking Wine has increased the speed at which I finish the Guardian crossword. Just as checking FB was part of my morning routine so doing the crossword in bed is an evening habit which has been enhanced by the additional sharpness of sobriety.
I was disappointed that not drinking alcohol had no impact on my weight, in fact I have a feeling that my jeans are tighter at the end of January, that may not be the fault of no-wine however but my enforced exercise limits. Yoga isn’t quite the same in burning calories!
The most difficult social media platform to not take a peek of was Instagram. I missed Instagram with a deep longing. I use instagram to catalogue the positive beauty I encounter daily. I miss having a space to create my view of the world. Instagram acts as a visual diary to remind me of how amazing this life, my life is, and how lucky I am.
When I felt the urge to give in to either wine or Instagram I took the time to question what was going on around me, what need was I trying to meet? Being mindful was the most helpful strategy and what I learnt about myself will continue to inform the manner in which I drink and interact online.
I’m really looking forward to connecting and drinking. This has been a month in which avoiding wine and Facebook has created a space that I have filled with productive reflection, and tidying cupboards. It has made me realise that it's ok to take pleasure in a bottle of wine with friends and that there is nothing damaging to my mental health in spending time on Twitter.
My positive emotion count is up, although whether this has anything to do with abstinence is uncertain, I have more energy, I am ready to get back out and be in the world. It hasn’t done me any harm to disconnect and detox my liver but I can’t categorically say I feel it made any real difference to my physiology or psychology and I don’t think I will repeat the experiment any time soon. Hurrah for February.