The past couple days I’ve been feeling so up and down emotionally. Random bouts of depression and the urge to cry come out of nowhere. I’ve been staying up till 3 or 4 am and I can’t seem to get out of bed. I feel no ambition and my desire to do ANYTHING has plummeted.
I keep going back for more coffee. Scrolling through Facebook… Like. Like. Heh. Scroll. Scroll. Like. Ting! A new notification!
Wait, 15 minutes have passed?
Let’s Fix This Now!
How about a can of Mountain Dew? Let me make a run to Dunkin Donuts for another iced coffee. Am I really craving that can of Monster Energy drink that my brother is drinking?
This sucks. I can’t seem to maintain attention on anything for consistent periods of time. The idea of actually doing something creative feels boring. Nothing is inspiring me. I am lonely. I crave attention and connection. Even porn sucks.
I’ve reached the end of the Internet. I’m bored. I’m grumpy.
Is this just a case of seasonal affective disorder? Am I really depressed or is this just a mood swing? I can’t just point the finger at any ONE thing that’s causing my moods. But I have a hunch that I know what is.
I believe the reason I’m in this cycle of stimulation is that I’m low on dopamine and other natural feel good chemicals. I’ve become so used to stimulating myself through artificial and synthetic means that my body isn’t doing this on its own. I spend 75% of my day on my computer or phone (that’s being generous). I’ve developed a tolerance and like any addict, I need more and more to feel normal. I’ve quit coffee before and have started up again many times. I’ve even done a digital detox and that has worked wonders. Is it time for another detox?
I sometimes forget I live on a real, living, and breathing planet. But I see life through the lens of the digital age and smartphone screens. We all know Facebook is a total buzz-kill. Yet we keep coming back for more.
I typically wake up and drink coffee first thing. Going back for more when I’d get drowsy during the day. Overstimulating myself through the scientifically-engineered-to-be-addicting social media sites Internet porn. I got into a habit of watching Netflix on one monitor and checking “things” on the other. The movie itself is often not enough to keep my attention these days. I’m so distracted! I keep a tab open for new website visitors, check my email for the 17th time, swipe left and right on Tinder, and send hopeful but sure-to-be-ignored messages to women on OkCupid.
Each of those things gives me a little rush of feel-good juice. Dopamine or Oxytocin or some shit. Sure I would feel smarter or more enlightened after watching that YouTube video on “Bad Beard Habits” or yet another article on how to “Make 2016 the best year ever,” but inevitably I’d end up feeling depleted, drained, and depressed.
I cleared all my notifications. I hit inbox zero. There was nothing left to check. Now what? Go outside? Fap? Nap? Work?
Boring! How sad.
I Was Numbing Out
Whenever I’d feel bored or slightly sad, I’d reach for the fix. Pavlov’s dog. But the truth was that I was covering up some REAL emotions that are trying to come through. There ARE some stored emotional wounds bubbling up to my awareness in the NOW. These feelings are signals for my attention and self-love. Yet I was ignoring them and trying to stay productive and happy through outside means. I wanted to get work done and be happy, not sit there and face my uncomfortable feelings. I mean, I could just get a Tinder date or read another self-help blog post to feel better.
I know I want to go within and love myself through these sometimes lonely emotions. I think I’m over my divorce or I’m fine being single, but the truth is I get lonely and feel depressed for no reason. Or is it? The only way to find out is to actually FEEL those emotions and stop trying to get rid of them through artificial or digital means.
Time for a reboot.
My Emotional Reboot Plan
The benefits of rebooting your brain have been well documented by the anti-porn community. No matter your moral or ethical stance on porn, the science of how it can overstimulate you is real. But the case can be made for all other digital stimulation. I would reckon Facebook is more addicting than just about anything.
So I’m quitting Facebook. For as long as I can muster it.
The end goal is to be able feel and enjoy the little things in life again. To FEEL GOOD without needing constant stimulation. To be able to produce those feel good chemicals organically and with natural activities. To enjoy genuine connection with other people and nature. This is how we are meant to be.
I’m thinking 1 or 2 weeks. If I feel like I’ve come to a good place, I’ll consciously choose to add back in any of those habits and see what happens. If I can keep it up for longer, cool. But I’m not making it too hard on myself.
Reboot Part 1: Detoxify Myself
I’m choosing to cut out (or severely cut back on) the following forms of habit forming stimulation. These activities tend to cause dependency and it feeds the cycle of seeking stimulation, feeling temporarily relieved, and then empty and hungry again. These are often a poor substitute for real connection and love.
- Deactivate Facebook (the biggest culprit)
- Cut back on checking Twitter and Instagram
- Uninstall Reddit and Tinder from my phone
- Give up heavy caffeine (coffee, mountain dew)
- Cut back on Fast Food as a quick fix
- Avoid watching porn, especially if I’m just bored
- Check email once a day, not all the time
- Cut back on habitual Netflix time
Reboot Part 2: Introduce Organic Feel-Good Activities
The following are habits give me some feel-good chemicals and boost my mood but are a lot healthier and natural. They almost all involve being away from a computer screen and spending time with yourself, loved ones, or nature. You know, things with a SOUL.
- Walking in nature
- Working out at the gym
- Yoga or Stretching
- Playing volleyball or team sport
- Writing a blog post or recording a podcast
- Talking to my friends or family
- Reading physical books
- Conscious masturbation without porn
- Taking naps if I’m tired
- Tidying up around the house
- Eating more vegetables and fruits
- Playing guitar or piano
- Singing to myself
- Taking a shower
- Exploring a new city
This is going to suck at first, I know.
I’m going to feel like SHIT when I go through withdrawal. I’m going want to die. I’m going to feel bored out of my fucking mind. I’m going to want to find SOMETHING quick and easy to avoid feeling these uncomfortable feelings.
But these painful feelings will pass.
Afterward I will expect to feel a lightness and sense of aliveness that has been missing. I’ll come to find joy in little things. I’ll have a lot more patience for sitting still and meditating or writing in my journal. My capacity for internal self-reflection will increase. I’ll remember what my true self feels like. My genuine desires will bubble to the surface. I’ll feel inspiration and love. I’ll feel grounded and connected to Mother Earth. I’ll feel whole and strong and capable. I’ll be more present in my interactions with friends and family.
All good things! Wish me luck.
A lot of this sounds like you are on the right track. I did a bunch of these things as well, and the transformation for me was immense. At the time I started all of this, I was in so much pain I was ready to do and try anything. I was tired of running from myself and my depression and pretending like it didn’t exist.
Many things you discussed above I did as well. Here’s some of what I did and worked for me:
– First off – I didn’t have the social media addiction that you had, so distancing myself further from social media was not a difficult thing for me. I was depressed, and I didn’t want to connect with people, so I naturally shied away from it. Although I did start a Twitter account and followed only mindfulness practitioners, spiritual gurus and authors, and people of that nature, so I wasn’t engaging with people directly (and never tweeting) but it was a nice daily link to those kinds of things. I found that reading my maligned Facebook feed constantly felt like it was filling me up with negative energy. However I used to spend a lot of time on Tinder, Match, and other dating sites prior to my last relationship. Checking them compulsively. I am rather recently out of a relationship, and I am staying away, for now, from those sites to give myself the space to heal, continue to rediscover who I am. When I am ready to date again, it will be an entirely different experience for me as I will be approaching it in a whole new way, not trying to find love, or more specifically find someone who will love me.
– I gave up coffee and alcohol – at the same time. :) This was a hard one for me. Surprisingly the coffee more than the alcohol. But I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism. It’s been about 8 months now, and I have a drink on occasion. Maybe two if I’m getting crazy. Still no coffee though. The impact: for the first time in as long as I can remember I don’t feel these points of feeling drained, tired. Just amazing the difference that it made in my energy levels and how clear headed I am now. I was inspired to do it after reading this post. http://www.raptitude.com/2009/08/beer-and-coffee-my-problem-children-put-to-bed-at-last/ – I know you already don’t drink alcohol Jeff, so really this is about the coffee for you.
– I began reading physical books, and stopped reading them digitally. Used physical books to be honest, because that felt more green to me. And it’s cheaper and there’s a ton of used book sellers on Amazon. One benefit – I highlight as I read. And I love cracking it back open to thumb through the highlighted parts I found meaningful to me, which is much more difficult and less fun to do on a Kindle app. I also found an entire new (and completely unexpected) appreciation for the physicality of a book. Maybe there’s something mindful about having a book, and feeling the pages, touching the words. Also I am further detaching myself from another screen of some sort. Personally, I also retain the information much better than an audio book.
– Being outside, in nature was a big one for me. I was *never* an outdoorsy type. I have been on a computer for a majority of the day for the past 20+ years. As I discovered mindfulness, being outside was the place in which I could connect with myself most easily and I realized that quickly and nurtured that and found a new appreciation for being outdoors. I started hiking, even trail running. Just going for walks. Getting outside, in nature made a huge difference for me.
– This goes along with the reading part – but I essentially gave up all television for reading. To some this may seem extreme, haha, but I also started this 8 months ago and I’ve only watched a handful of times since and have ZERO regrets about this one. I miss drinking sometimes. I totally miss coffee. I do not miss watching TV. But, again, that’s just me. And I’m sure once I end up in a relationship again I will resume watching it more, as that seems to be a natural activity that couples seem to do together. But it gave me the space to read instead. Full disclosure, I do still watch some sporting events. (Go ROYALS!) : )
– I made time for exercise. With moderate success until it got all winter-y. But I did just sign up for a 5 day a week fitness class, so hopefully I am putting that one to bed. Eating healthy and exercising more I realized is/can be an act of self-love, something I need a large dose of.
– Meditating daily. Enough said.
– Playing guitar. I grew up playing guitar, and didn’t play much for about the past 10+ years. There’s a door to my inner self, a connection that opens for me very often when I am playing. Music I think in general does it, but when the music is coming from me it’s even more so.
– I learned to scuba dive. (What!?) I just picked something I thought sounded interesting and went and signed up for it. Turned out to be an amazing experience, and I’m getting ready to book a solo dive trip to and stay in some hut in Honduras. Point being – try new things. Don’t think about it, just sign up for them.
For the sake of some kind of brevity, I’ll stop there. Overall what I discovered is that when I was “plugged in” I was not present. When I was doing the things that I mentioned above I was being present, in the moment, in the ‘now’. Through this drastic change in my lifestyle my depression started to ease up. The pain started to go away, slowly but surely. The negative thoughts became a bit more kind. The break-up I was experiencing was still happening, but I was able to navigate it (and still am) with a bit more peace and able to give myself the space to heal, instead of seeking comfort in running back out to find someone new to fill the void that she left.
Best of luck on your journey. I think everything you mentioned are great ideas to reconnect and reboot. Hopefully sharing a few mine helped as well. : )
Thanks Adam, for the kind words and sharing your story! I’m so glad to see that some of the unplugging really helped! I am encouraged by this! When I moved to Austin in less than a month, I am so eager to sign up for breakdance class again, or yoga, or hiking, or something even crazier I never thought of before. I could do some of that stuff now, and I might, but for now reading, trail walking, and time away from the screen (doing anything else) is my priority. Thanks again for the thoughtful reply! I’m sure it will help others who read it as well.
Completely awesome, Jeff! And, I somehow suspect as a sensitive you’re picking up on more general ennui than just your own.
Funny…today was thinking about sending my sister a letter (she lives 10 min away) saying I’m bowing out of e-communication. It’s obnoxious expecting facebook and email and texts to substitute for real communication let alone connection. Am really feeling into the reconnection with organic life, too. Nature. Definitely yes. So much more to life.
Can’t help but ask, if Boredom were a character à la Inside Out, what would he say? (past “I’m bored!”).
And, is this one of the aspects of the cycles you’ve previously recognized of creation, production, boredom, release, renew (did I remember right or different)? Need to catch up soon…say during the next two weeks :-)!
Fantastic journeying, my friend!
Yeah! Saying yes to “life” as in – things with a SOUL. Although it feels like I’m connecting to you right now as I type this, but I’d much rather hear your voice or see your face and give you a hug. Sure if it wasn’t for technology I never would have met you. Can’t blame it too much. Just going with the flow of creation like you said. This might be a period of jadedness that is a precursor to a refreshing new idea that inspires me to create like a maniac! Haha. Let’s catch up soon!
I don’t like reading that one of the true/honest/awesome/inspiring people I look up to is going through a hard time. I also don’t like reading that you think coffee could be bringing you down… I say drink that cup of joe and reflect on all the positive things you’ve done for those around you. You are a special human and don’t forget that! Facebook does kinda suck if you pay too much attention to it—take it for a grain of salt.
Hey Greg! I welcome your concern, but perhaps this post makes it seem worse than it is. I wouldn’t really call it a “hard time” but more of a realization of something. Despite the negative tone, I am still loving and positive around it.
I do love me some coffee. And it’s been a fuel that has inspired many of my creative works and great conversations. I will “get back on” I’m sure, but I’m going to give myself a week or so to recalibrate.
And yes, next time I do get that cup of joe, I will use that energy to reflect on the positive things I’ve done and all the good in my life. Great idea!
Jeff…your totally-refreshing candor much appreciated. Way to fight for your ‘real’-life. – jmr
Good for you for ditching Facebook. Remind yourself this: you were JUST FINE ten years ago before all these social media sites were in existence. You communicated in other ways – phone, email, letters, whatever. Mark Zuckerberg should not be dictating here. Anyhow, he’s just collecting your data, which is all social media is used for anyhow by the companies who built the products :(. My husband and I have been off Facebook 4 years and I can’t imagine going on there anymore, it’s refreshing. If people don’t know how to communicate with each other directly there are bigger problems to be dealt with – I’m always stunned at folks who use the excuse “oh I just can’t keep up with anyone without it”, as there’s very little direct communication on there if we think about it. Facebook is super passive aggressive – let’s just post stuff to as many people as possible because we don’t want to customize conversations to each person individually, and let’s only post our best photos as god forbid people see us as we really are.
I don’t even know what Reddit is, ha! My husband and I were just trying to figure it out, right after I tried to explain what I thought Tumbler was (kind of like Pinterest and a Blog if they got together? maybe?). Beyond blogging though, I only have Twitter and LinkedIn for work and I hate that I need Twitter for work (tech recruiting), argh!
Anyhow, regarding the dopamine, I was dealing with that a lot at the start of winter and my Naturopath recommended I try Balance D (it’s on Amazon) which really helped as it’s natural dopamine. Kind of like light therapy, we all have had this happen to us and need some help sometimes in the gray of winter!
Oh that’s great I will look it up. But you have been off 4 years? Wow! haha. Facebook makes it seem like you are breaking up with them or your friends and family if you leave. But you’re right, you were fine 10 years ago when you didn’t have it!
Wow! Needed to read this! I’m in this same boat AGAIN! I, too, was off Facebook for close to 3 years all because two of my friends were not responding to my phone calls or texts so I deleted them from my Facebook! Well, boy howdy, let me assure you this stirred up a big pile of shit! Yeah, yeah, I did make this move to get their attention but REALLY??!! And the attention it got was we do not talk to one another ever- zilch. All because I deleted them. I’m sure there’s a much “bigger” picture behind this but how will I ever know? That led to me deactivating my Facebook.
Anyway, I digress. I returned to Facebook a few months ago to promote my new involvement with my professional painting life. Well, I’m here to tell you, I spend more mindless time on Facebook than painting, obsessing, having meme wars with my dysfunctional martydom filled mom- it’s completely insane!!
I say all this to say ” thank you for reminding me of the life that I get to create for myself for I have a built in forgetter!”
Wow! Yeah unfriending people on Facebook – it’s like you’re literally deleting them from your life. But it’s not! Isn’t it crazy how it really seems that FB has replaced actual friendship? Sure, I know will miss some of my awesome groups I was a part of, and some great people whom I communicated almost exclusively through FB, but in the long run it will find a way to work itself out.
And the business part, the self promotion part, that’s where I get hung up too. I can’t share my blog posts on FB anymore, or any of my business. Will I take a hit? I don’t actually know. We’ll see.