As I glance up from my laptop around this quaint little cafe I often visit to write from when I’m inspired, and I inspect the native habitat of a freelance writer, I can’t help but feel slightly disturbed by a number of things I see. To begin with, I’m startled by the flash red bunting that hangs overhead. Has that always been there? Surely I would have spotted it against the distressed grey walls. I’m also confused by a large book shelf full of old and battered-looking titles, many of which I’ve always been curious to read. Given the countless hours I’ve enjoyed in my hub of creativity, how had I not noticed it before and why have I not taken advantage on those afternoons I craved a little break from the laptop?
Perhaps most concerning, however, is my crowd of fellow caffeine-fiends. Though every chair is occupied and we sit practically shoulder to shoulder, all eyes are fixed downwards, with their fingers dragging up and up and up tiny screens of unending feeds of emails, statuses, and snaps. It strikes me that the reason I’ve had no opportunity to really appreciate this unusual haunt is because my attention is captured by the fictional world of pixels. I, like the digitally fascinated around me, am a slave to scrolling syndrome, constantly distracted by a gallery of other people’s lives.
I consider my phone addiction to be one of my worst habits. Most evenings, I have to set myself a series of tasks, be it cooking, cleaning, colouring, eating, just to keep my hands occupied and avoid the temptation to sit and catch up with the happenings of every individual on the planet. No doubt, I could have written a novel using the time I waste on my awful impulse and, what’s more, I dread to imagine how much of my own happiness and gratitude I squander daily on the endless comparison. One thing is absolutely certain. The more hours I spend looking at other people’s beautiful and brilliant lives, the worse I feel about my own.
Comparison may well be our greatest foe in our digitally intoxicated world. No one’s life is perfect and yet it seems as though everyone’s is when looked at through the rose-tinted lens of social media. We’re constantly advised to not compare but, truth be told, how can we not?! We are reared in a culture where our merits are judged based on how we perform next to others. Our academic achievements, career goals, our appearance and life accomplishments… We can’t easily rewrite a mindset that has been ingrained within us from as early as infancy. But what we can do is stop exposing ourselves to the channels that feed that insecurity.
A distraction from distraction might seem the opposite of a solution, but that’s exactly what I prescribe to remedy scrolling syndrome. Instead of using those mindless minutes to browse Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, certain little tasks can serve to refocus on the present, to within, to your own life and the people immediately in your vicinity. Anywhere that isn’t the glossy filtered life of social media sensations. With small tasks such as these, you can avoid the trap of getting sucked into a marathon of comparison and instead give yourself a little nudge towards appreciating your own little triumphs and joys.
1) Read a motivational quote
And no, I don’t mean the ‘fitspo’ on your favourite wellness blogger’s Instagram. Take your inspiration from a physical book; something you’ve read and that’s resonated with you. perhaps a book of poetry or just one that lifts your spirits. I keep words to inspire from Kikki.K in my bag at all times and just flick it open for a little boost whenever my mood requires it. Think about the words, absorb them, apply them to your situation and then carry on with your day with fresh positivity.
2) Smile at a stranger
When our digital safety blanket is lifted, it often makes us realise the extent of our isolation. But, we don’t have to sit in solitude. We can find the connections we crave simply by opening ourselves up to interaction. Meeting a new person often starts with a smile. In some cases, they might smile back. They might say hello, initiate a conversation, share an idea that leads to swapped numbers and future rendezvous. There’s something incredibly brave and daring about a smile and that courage is almost always met with reward. I think we appreciate the guts of a real life gesture so much more now that social media allows the most introverted of us to recede away. But, if you don’t get the response you hoped for? That’s no bearing on you. So just smile and see where the effortless gesture takes you.
3) Send a thank you note
And while we’re on the topic of real life acts, what a lovely gesture it is to extend gratitude. Everyone has something or someone to be grateful for. In recent years we’ve grown increasingly aware of the practice of gratitude, many (myself included) keeping journals to remind ourselves of our privilege. But why keep gratitude to ourselves when sharing it can multiply the joy it brings? As I recently heard, to feel gratitude without expressing it is like wrapping a gift without giving it. If something makes your day, write it down for the person responsible and let it make someone else’s day too.
4) Make someone a brew
Can’t say it with words? Say it with tea. Take 5 minutes out of your day to boil the kettle and dole out a hug in a mug to your friends or colleagues. Who knows, you might just find a thank you note on your desk shortly after. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
5) Enroll in a class
Always wanted to pick up French or perhaps you dream of painting a masterpiece? Okay, you might not be able to learn how to do either of those in the seconds it takes to read a tweet, but it’s ample time to sign up for a class. Making that commitment to learn is a great step towards enriching your person and a much more valuable use of your time.
6) Donate to charity
Like a swear jar but better. If you find your fidgety fingers inching towards Instagram, send some goodwill to a charity you believe in instead. You may be out of pocket but everyone will be richer for it.
7) Place your head below your heart
I can’t claim to be an avid yogi but the benefits aren’t lost on me. I was once told by a true master of the practice that, in times of anger, stress or sadness, to place my head below my heart, and that advice has come to my aid on many occasions. In yoga, inversions are often used as a mood-boosting tool. A literal change in perspective can facilitate a metaphorical one so, whether you’re a total pro at handstands or you can just about reach your toes, get your head below your heart, sit in the gravity shift and relax instead of winding yourself up with a deadly dose of digital debasement.
8) Text a friend
And ask them how they are… Invest your time in a worthwhile connection.
9) Plan tomorrow’s outfit
A little forward thinking beyond the present doesn’t have to be a bad thing if it saves you a bit of time though. Putting together an outfit for the next day in my mind, especially if you have an important meeting or event to attend, helps you feel that bit more confident and prepared, not to mention it spares you some stress and minutes the following morning.
10) Find a recipe to make for dinner
Just like the last tip, planning how you will refuel and nourish at the end of the day saves time and also gives you something lovely to look forward to. If you set yourself a challenge to try a new recipe in the evening, you’ll feel inspired to get crafty in the kitchen and also be rewarding yourself some well-deserved me-time to conjure up what you love. Find your favourite recipe, grab the ingredients on your way home and make it a delicious treat for yourself.
11) Tidy your workspace
Our thoughts have a tendency to get chaotic and cluttered when the space around us appears messy and disorganised. A quick desk clean-up can put your head back in the game, boosting your productivity and overall mental clarity. A tidy space makes a tidy mind.
12) Write down something you’re proud of
Don’t be afraid to celebrate yourself for yourself and not for the benefit of anyone else. We’re so used to shouting our achievements on social media to gain validation and praise from the masses. These days, you’ve never really mastered anything until 1000 strangers on Instagram double tapped it. But, in order to feel content in yourself, you have to be comfortable praising your own actions just for you. Keep a personal note of what you’ve achieved to bolster your confidence and stop relying on any one else to help you realise that you are incredible.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go and use your moments wisely and stop investing precious moments in a bout of comparison and criticism. Use these next time the social media scroll gets you down.