The Big Idea
We need to disconnect from our smartphones and choose instead to connect with others.
Questions I Answer
- How can I disconnect from work?
- How can I have a closer relationship with my family and friends?
- What’s a digital detox?
- How can I prioritize connecting with others?
Actions to Take
- Watch this week’s TanyaTV Video – Digital Detox: Unplug to Connect with Others
- Reach out today to one person that you feel you’ve lost your connection with. Just one person. Just a quick text message, maybe a phone call, even a short email. Reach out to that person who means something to you that you haven’t had time for in the past and see if that doesn’t increase your happiness and theirs.
Key Topics in the Show
The benefits of deep social connections
Feeding our dopamine addiction with smartphones
Deciding what we really want to use our phones for
Setting aside tech-free time for ourselves and our families
Creating your own routines for connecting
Resources and Links
- Related Episodes: Episode 083: Scheduling The Unschedulable
Welcome to season seven of Productivity Paradox, a podcast focused on using productivity not just to get more done, but to accomplish what’s most important. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on cultivating happiness through the power of productivity.
To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to Press.com/podcast. And now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton
Hello hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 90. Over the second half of the season on cultivating happiness we’ve been talking quite a bit about connection and the need for one another in order to increase our happiness. And the reason why we’ve been talking so much about connection is that honestly a few months ago I did a survey asking you what topics you were interested in me talking about and this idea of relationships kept showing up again and again in the survey results. And I feel like this is really one of the keys to true happiness because we need connection in order to be happy. And in truth while social media keeps us in the know about those people that we love it doesn’t really deepen those connections. It can help us stay connected to a small extent but what really nurtures a relationship is the personal connections and the reconnections that really make us feel valued. Today I want to talk about why we need to disconnect from our smartphones and choose instead to connect with others to really intentionally carve out time to deepen up those connections.
You see social media is both terrible and amazing in that it does connect us with our friends and it keeps us in the loop with professional circles all while still easily leading us down that black hole of scrolling where before we know it we spent an hour looking through our newsfeeds. When we’re talking about connection today I really want to talk about that deepening of connection. It’s not just about touching base with someone or simply checking in. Yes, it’s nice to wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook but isn’t a phone call even better. You know where you can talk and find out what they have going on in their life or how they’re celebrating. That’s what connection is, it’s scratching beneath the surface and digging in deeper with one another. It’s valuing their emotions and their feelings. True connection allows for vulnerability for each of you. It’s really allowing your relationship to grow roots. Conversations build connection and conversation goes back and forth. It’s not just you looking at a feed. It’s talking back and forth. That’s what really allows those roots to take hold.
Deep social connections are a key component of our happiness but it’s not just our mental health that it improves, bonds of friendship are crucial too for physical health because studies show that strong social ties boosts the immune system and increase longevity all while decreasing the risk of contracting chronic illnesses and actually even increasing the ability to deal with chronic pain. So in other words we all need friends, we all have that need for connection. We need each other in good times and especially in the times that are bad. The close relationships we feel with our friends aren’t about spending every single minute of our time with them. It’s not
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about the quantity. It’s that quality. It’s really about the feeling like we are supported and the connections we have are strong and nourishing.
It’s estimated that about 42 million Americans over the age of 45 suffer from chronic loneliness which according to one study from AARP raises the risk for premature death. One researcher has called loneliness an epidemic that has greater health threats than obesity. Loneliness is not cured by scrolling through your news feed. When we feel a sense of urgency to scroll through and find the newest posts, to share and comment and like everything before anything else that’s not really connection, that’s our addiction to dopamine.
We’ve talked quite a bit on this show about dopamine, the chemical in your brain that encourages you to complete small tasks. And just like we’ve talked about with our To Do lists where your brain wants to quickly complete the easiest task to get that great feeling that dopamine brings, it’s exactly the same with our phones. To your brain when you pick up your phone and you scroll you’re simply completing a small task and so it gives you that little hit. It’s Pavlov’s dog syndrome. We hear that ping of our phone and we just have to pick it up. We feel compelled to do it. Ivan Pavlov would probably have thought smartphones not as phones but as triggers that manipulate our brain just like he was able to do in his experiments. We want to pick up our phones because well it feels good like scratching an itch.
David Greenfield a psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut confirms that when we hear or we feel a notification alerting us of a new text, an email or Facebook post the cells in our brain release dopamine which makes us feel pleasure. There’s a reward in us checking that notification. In reality the research shows that it’s the anticipation of that reward that gives us the bigger dopamine hit than actually checking our phones itself. In other words just hearing that notification is more pleasurable than reading the post or the text or the e-mail itself. And why is that? Why is it that smartphones have become such an addiction? Well they’re a little bit like a slot machine. It’s the same psychological tricks that casinos use to hook in gamblers. For example we don’t know what we’re going to find when we look at our phones or how relevant or desirable a message is going to be. So we keep picking it up and checking it over and over again because every once in a while we find something really good and that makes our dopamine skyrocket. It’s one of the reasons people keep pulling that lever again and again on the slot machines. It’s exactly the same.
Similar to gambling some say that an over reliance on our smartphones can become a behavioral addiction. And some of the symptoms of that are your devices and interactions with them keep you up late or interfere with your sleep or they reduce the time you spend with friends and family or they interfere with your ability to finish your work or your homework. They cause rudeness and phone snubbing. You know like when you’re in the middle of a conversation and you just can’t resist the urge to check your phone. Or perhaps you feel less creative or you find yourself interrupting creative time with phone checking. Do any of those sound like you? Listen I think if we’re all honest we all know that we are a little bit guilty of a few of these things from time to time. We all deal a little bit with this addiction because it really is something that calls to us, the pinging of those phones. And don’t get me wrong I am not saying we need to get rid of our smartphones. I know I’m not going
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- But we really just need to be mindful of how we’re using them in good and in bad ways.
I do think there’s lots of really good ways to use our phones. Phones aren’t all bad by any stretch of the imagination. We just need to be really cognizant and paying attention to how we’re using them. We need to decide what we really want to use our phones to do. What is the purpose of your phone? Let me give you an example. Too often we might think we need social media to keep up with the news. But if you’re getting your news solely from social media you’re likely getting articles with click bait headlines designed to incite a visceral reaction rather than an unbiased take on an issue. A lot of times it’s really slanted. So try unfollowing inflammatory news shares. You know who your friends are like that. And use a good news app instead. Whittle down your feeds until you’re seeing posts from friends, groups and businesses that you really truly care about. If you’re going to keep scrolling social media no matter what you might as well make it a more positive experience for yourself right.
You could also take news out of social media and apps and instead sign up for an e-mail newsletter from your favorite news source and read the news only in your inbox. Or better yet maybe try getting a hard copy or an online subscription to a news source that you really do like. Once you’ve taken some of the news surfing out of your social media use it for what it’s really originally meant for, connecting with friends. Comment on the events and the happenings your friends are actually posting about. Send them messages of support or make plans to meet up in person. Taking the time to really think through how you really want to use your phone can make a big difference.
But what if we take it a step further and really disconnect ourselves from our smartphones entirely. I’m not talking about forever, just taking an intentional break from time to time. For many families Friday night at sunset the laptops, electronic devices, even business transactions, laundry, cooking and writing are all prohibited for families as part of the Jewish Sabbath, a joyful day of rest. Ariz Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Media Group describes this day as an opportunity to connect with his inner self and find what’s important without getting distracted. He grew up keeping Shabbat for religious reasons. But science upholds the benefits of taking a break from technology and families that aren’t Jewish or aren’t religious at all can start implementing a tech free day into their own lives.
Tiffany Shlain, a San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker and her family implemented a tech Shabbat on Saturdays about 9 years ago and while they’re not religious and they are very tech savvy they just felt the need to get away from what they called the emotional pinball machine of responding to notifications. I kind of love that term because that is exactly what it is, that emotional pinball machine. The day to them feels longer and more relaxed and their high school age daughter says the tech free day takes off some of the pressure and remove some of the FOMO she experiences on a regular basis. It’s a family focused day for them and that time off has helped them think differently about social media.
We actually started doing this at my house as well. We have in the summers tech free Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the entire summer season. When the kids are at home all day long I was finding that they were on technology way more
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than I wanted so I implemented these tech free days and I found that on those days they were really connecting with each other and they were really finding more creative ways to spend their time. So I also really advocate for taking a little bit of time away. After all, we take breaks in many other ways. We take a nap. We sit down for a meal. We talk with family and friends. We don’t often think about the need to take a break from our technology. But it’s just as important.
Smartphones have been linked to all sorts of physical problems like headaches, vision problems, sleep disorders, spinal issues. We’re really designed to be active. So when we instead stay glued to our phones we deprive ourselves of that healthy active lifestyle. Think too of all that data we’re receiving from our phones. It’s been said that we take in the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information from our phones every single day. That’s enough to overload your laptop within a week. This amount of information is detrimental to our ability to focus, think and feel. Downtime is essential for our brains. When we’re pushing our brains to their limits we’re exhausting ourselves and we lose sight of how we’re really interacting with the world. So we need to intentionally set aside some tech free time. And when we do that we’re more open to real in-person connection because we’re attuned to the details of life around us instead of that high alert for other notifications.
People practicing a tech free detox have experienced deeper inner peace, family closeness and deeper reflection. It’s a mental reset that ultimately benefits the work the next day. Now you don’t have to set aside technology for a full day, you can just start with a tech free hour in the morning. A break for any length of time will be beneficial for your brain to allow for a period of renewal. This week on my episode of Tanya TV I’ll be sharing some easy tips on how to have a little digital detox. So if you think that’s something you’d like to implement I’d encourage you to tune into that because when we put down our phones and we unplug we’re intentionally allowing space for our relationships.
Most people don’t think about their friendships as a necessary health benefit but rather as a luxury that maybe they don’t really have time for. Friendships don’t have to be huge time commitments. If you truly don’t have any time to talk on the phone for 30 minutes with people you claim to care about it’s time to really step back and take a look at where your time is going. Look in particular at your smartphone use. There’s probably some wasted time in there that could be freed up to really spend on the people that you care about. Similarly, if you find the time to binge watch TV shows you can make time for your friends. We have to get rid of the “I’m too busy” excuse. Let’s be honest, we’re all busy. We can allow our days to fill with meaningless interactions or we can choose to fill it with people and things that we really love. When we tell people we’re too busy to talk or to meet up our friends often aren’t really sure if you truly mean that you’re busy or if it’s just your way of saying you don’t want to spend time with them.
Now you may be in a busy season and when you are, set expectations. Make plans for after this busier time and put it on your calendar and then make sure to follow through. You really want to make sure that those people who are important to you feel that in your actions and part of that is making time for them. If you do need to tell someone that you are too busy to meet qualify your busyness and set those expectations. “I’m busy for the rest of the month but let’s plan to meet up at the start
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of next month.” Or you could say “I’m tied up until the end of the year but let’s plan to talk on the phone for a little bit next week.” Suggesting an alternate way to connect that works with your schedule will ensure that your friends don’t feel abandoned and that’s really important.
But let’s be honest with where your time is going. If you’re not sure why you’re so busy try tracking your time. When you have a clear picture of where your time goes you can better choose where you want to spend your time and make some positive thoughtful changes. And I want you to keep in mind that not all connections have to be in person. Often that’s impossible to do especially if you live in separate places. I’ve mentioned on the podcast several times my best friend and I live several states apart. But that doesn’t mean we can’t connect in deeper ways. You don’t have to be in person to make these connections. Make an effort to spend time on personal, small gestures that keep up your connections, sharing little bits of information about your day in your life that your friend wouldn’t be able to find on social media. And then ask them questions about their lives. As I said earlier conversations build connections and conversations mean sharing on both ends. Asking them questions. Having them ask questions back. That really is such an important part of building these relationships.
And when they give information, follow up. Ask how a project went. Try checking in with them after a stressful day at work. See if there’s more meaningful ways than just remembering their birthday although that’s important too. We don’t want to forget their birthdays. But when we only check in on those bigger days it doesn’t really communicate that they are important to us. There’s so many ways to use your phone for good. A quick text message can go a long way to create conversation and connection. You don’t have to be on the phone talking, texting works just as well as long as those conversations are that, conversations. This is how you use your smartphone for good, to make others feel seen, heard and valued. Try to create a routine of connecting. Send a regular text message out on a certain day of the week or set up a regular phone time to talk to them. We talked about this back in episode 83 when we talked about scheduling the unschedulable. It feels funny to schedule phone calls with our friends but when we actively carve out that time it makes it more meaningful and that’s how these relationships become even stronger.
Now if you can meet in person, that’s great. Try setting up a regular meet up. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It truly can be as simple as running errands together, going to a local yoga class once a month or even sitting in a coffee shop. It’s not really about the activity, it’s about the time you spend together that makes the connection worthwhile. Having a regular routine is better than trying to haggle over busy schedules and it makes it more likely that it’ll actually happen. These regular interactions are important to keep our friendships nourished and I think that’s a key here. We want to nourish our friendships. Most of us just want to know that we’re loved and that were thought of. So if we can validate and confirm that for those people that we care about rather than just dismissing them because we feel so busy most people will understand and they still feel loved in your busier times.
I would love to encourage you to reach out today to one person that you feel you’ve lost your connection with. Just one person. Just a quick text message, maybe a phone call, even a short email. Reach out to that person who means something to
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you that you haven’t had time for in the past and see if that doesn’t increase your happiness and theirs. I guarantee it will. Friendships really are the key to our happiness. I think that’s why that response came up again and again and again in that survey and that is why we’ve spent so many episodes talking about it because I truly believe it is so important to cultivating our own happiness.
Now if you do want more information on that digital detox I was talking to you about I would love for you to tune into Tanya TV. Just go to inkWELLPress.com/ YouTube and it’ll bring you straight to my channel and I’ll have an episode they’re called Digital Detox, Unplug to Connect with Others. Give it a try and see if you don’t find that unplugging for just a little bit each week makes a big difference in your life.
Now next week is our last episode of the season which is so exciting and we are going to be talking about taking time to savor the moment. So I hope you’ll tune in next week. And I do want to take just a second to remind you if you haven’t had a chance to grab your planner this is a great time to do it. Just head over to inkWELLPress.com to check out what we’ve got to help you plan for the year ahead. All right. Until next time. Have a beautiful and productive week.