‘Addictions are always an attempt to escape from stress. The more stressed people are, the more addictively they are going to behave.’ Dr Gabor Maté.
The world we live in today is so far removed from our original tribal setup and so demanding that we are currently experiencing stressors, such as raising children without a support network or working long hours, which we are unable to process and handle in a healthy way.
Unfortunately, it is also human nature to seek escape from stress rather than to face and solve it.
The quick fix is to look for instant relief outside of ourselves. This is usually provided through the dysfunctional use of something else. Some examples include food, work, sex and commonly now, our mobile phones with social media or games. Unfortunately, this is usually a temporary fix.
We then get caught in a spiral of unhealthy coping strategies, never actually healing or dealing with our internal stress. So addictive energy takes hold – a constant striving to escape rather than deal with the reality of our life.
There is no shame in any of this. The key is being conscious to it and knowing that we have a choice to change it if or when we want to.
Change is usually triggered when we finally realise this coping mechanism is not actually helping us.
So, an addiction is anything we can’t cope or function on a day to day basis without. When we think of it like that, then it can be very illuminating to start reflecting on what our addictive patterns and behaviours are.
The key to wellbeing is that your routines and behaviours serve you – that they bring you joy, happiness and health.
Reflect on your daily routines and see how it would be for you if you did not do them:
- What happens in your thinking at that possibility?
- What happens in your body?
- Could you gently experiment cutting some out some of your routines and behaviours to see what happens?
Many of us have a good awareness of our disordered relationship with food and alcohol. We keenly look to reset this via a detox. However, one addiction that is often overlooked is our use of electronic devices and social media. Yet most of us spend more time daily with them than with food, alcohol and possibly even other human beings!
The research about the addictive nature of devices and social media is still in its infancy but there is a movement towards the concept of ‘Switch off Sundays’. This is a weekly digital detox to reset the nervous system plus the body and brain’s natural rhythms.
Mindless scrolling is something we can all be drawn into and it can result in a dissociative, zoning out, almost sedative-like response in the brain. It can be a productive exercise to pay attention to the amount of time you do this and reflect on how it benefits you.
The psychological dependency on social media, the FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon, is especially seductive and seeing what happens if you disable some of the social media platforms you use for a few days can be an interesting activity.
The internet, social media and digital devices are meant to be a tool that serve us not vice versa.
They can allow us to socially connect and collaborate, essential components of wellbeing but they can also create anxiety and dependency if we do not respect the power of them and create boundaries to ensure we have a healthy functional relationship with them.
One day a week without them may be the limit we need to set ourselves to moderate this. Switch off Sunday might liberate you from a fledgling addiction – be honest with yourself and experiment to find the healthy balance you need.