With so much talk about needing to detox our bodies from our physical consumption, it felt like time to start thinking about detoxing my mind from my mental consumption.
My decision to rid myself of mental toxins came when I began the process of decluttering my home. As I rummaged throughout rooms and closets, throwing out what no longer served me felt symbolic.
Feeling as if a burden were being lifted, I thought it would be a good time to also declutter my mind.
Differentiating trash from treasure, in my living space, created a need to carry out the same process in my life.
For me, implementing my two-day fast meant taking a break from social media. It was about making a conscious effort to live life disconnected from the lives others are living.
It meant enjoying and appreciating my own thoughts rather than reading someone else’s. It’s amazing how something so natural can feel so novel.
Day One: Buckling Up
This was not a cold turkey endeavor; though it was sporadic.
Unbeknownst to me, I had been moving towards this process for a couple of months.
I had actually started with a diet of intermittent media fasting — which involved no social media before a certain time in the morning.
How we start the day sets the tone. I didn’t want my days to start with checking my phone.
From there, I moved to being online at scheduled times — for a prescribed amount of time.
As the fast began, the first thing I noticed was a sense of relief. I was expecting more resistance from myself. I was expecting to feel the need to check for new comments or posts — there was nothing but a sense of peace.
I soon found myself constantly and mindlessly pick up my phone. My social media apps had been deleted; BUT I flipped through other apps. I checked my email much more frequently.
There was still the habit of reaching for the phone when I was bored or not occupied. As the day went on, I found that I became antsy.
Why is This So Hard?
I learned, in the first few hours, that I needed to rewire my brain to not reach for that phone… to not mindlessly scroll through social media and to live life rather than watch life being lived.
At the end of the first night, my family and I went to church. I normally take a picture of what’s of the stage and post it to Facebook.
I took the picture and I searched for the app to post it. Then, I remembered — it was gone. I had never thought of myself as someone suffering from FOMO, but something was certainly going on.
In that moment, I became mindful of how much I was using social media. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it.
I was quickly learning that the initial diet was a lot easier than the fast. With the diet, I could count on those periods of time that I had allotted myself to scroll through my feed, leave comments and post.
The fast offered no such luxury.
Just as I was starting to wonder how much longer I could endure my two-day abstention from social media, I decided to challenge myself.
“Could I go a week?” I wondered.
That question triggered another — “Why couldn’t I go a week?”
It was as if I had convinced myself that I couldn’t live without it. That was troubling.
While only engaging intermittently, I understood , at some point, I would still be using social media.
The fast was different. There was nothing to look forward to.
I had long since disabled notifications on my phone — it felt a bit Pavlovian to respond to every ding or vibration.
However, my arms and hands led an automatic charge — with my brain far from the consciousness of my actions.
It was only after repeatedly (and compulsively) reaching for my phone, picking it up and searching for my icons that I began to wonder about what I was intending to do. Surely, I had a purpose.
With my father having been a food and gambling addict, I was acutely aware of anything that threatened to control my behavior.
Reflecting on those, almost mindless, moments caused me to label what I was doing — subconscious intention.
There was clearly intent behind my automatic behaviors, although they appeared to be mindless, to me.
After that epiphany, I searched Google. As I read the titles of the various articles, I was reminded of Napoleon Hill’s, Think and Grow Rich. Mr. Hill discussed in detail how to DELIBERATELY program our subconscious mind to direct our intentions.
In my case, I was learning how paying attention to our automatic behaviors can give us insight into our unprogrammed subconscious intentions.
This experience went beyond a simple detox experiment. It allowed me to not only take a closer look at myself, but afforded me an opportunity to gain further knowledge into the struggles of my clients.
From personal experience, in various areas of my life, I can more fully appreciate how hard it is to be a victim of our own behaviors.
There are certain things that books can’t teach.