I sit here a 41-year-old man still soul-searching, struggling to figure out who I am, what my passions are, and how I should be spending my time. Money and my use of the internet are huge distractions in my search for inner peace and I just can’t stop succumbing to them. My use of the iPhone, iPad, YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, Gmail, Google News, Discord, marijuana, and video games are getting in the way of focusing on aspects of life I know are more important. I continuously fall into the trap of purchasing meaningless materialistic items and the desire to make more money. I am realizing none of the material items are making me happy and I want to start enjoying life more. Just like the above quote suggests I want to start making the most of what I have.
Lately, I have been googling things like “how to stop chasing money” and the concept of “dopamine detoxes”. These topics stemmed from listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Anna Lembke and my thoughts on money and happiness. It gave me the motivation to do another “Sober October” and the realization I was actually addicted to marijuana, among other things, like my use of the internet, smartphone, and spending money.
I’ve fallen into debt purchasing products I don’t need. I have a never-ending new list of material items I want which gives this level of excitement and also exhaustion. The list is infinite and none of the items will provide sustained happiness, a sense of true belonging, or fulfillment. If my current level of depression is any evidence then all of the items in my life haven’t prevented me from feeling this way. So what the hell am I doing wrong?
Well, there is a lot I have been doing right. Completing school to become a nurse wasn’t an easy feat. Working as one can bring a lot of stress but the profession has its rewards and to me, the most important of those is helping others. I have mortgaged a nice home in a beautiful city. I have a beautiful partner who protects all of the animals in our community (inside joke), we have three rescued cats, and hopefully, a baby on the way. So as I’ve been googling “how to stop chasing money” and “dopamine detoxes” I will start slowly incorporating some of the strategies into my life. I do not want to go all or nothing here. I am not going to try and “detox” myself from every single pleasurable thing in my life but I do need to start addressing some things. What I am going to attempt in the next thirty days is going to be challenging for me.
This post isn’t going to teach you what a dopamine detox is or how to do one. If you would like to learn more about the concept of dopamine detoxes then I suggest watching this YouTube video here. The following is my attempt at starting my first one…
To get this process started I have been reflecting on the temptations, urges, impulses, intrusive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors I have:
- googling products I want BUT DO NOT NEED. Things like: items for the house, clothes, general technology products, new smartphones, cameras, smart devices, speakers, exercise equipment, computers, video games, steam sales, headphones, and more. Looking at flyers or sales on websites like Amazon or Best Buy and sometimes impulsively purchasing items I never really wanted.
- eventually, I simply buy stuff I do not need: Video games I never play, headphones I don’t use, etc.
- googling too many thoughts that pop in my head. Many of my automatic thoughts throughout the day stimulate this urge to pick up devices and google the thought, question, or idea. What’s interesting is when I use a smart device I get distracted by a constant stream of thoughts and I do not remember or have any direction of what I was doing in the first place.
- sitting in front of the TV. Picking a movie or tv show to watch. Five minutes later picking another show. All the while checking apps or googling something on the iPad or iPhone. Not really paying attention to any of it.
- checking, checking, and more checking: Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, iMessage, Google News, Gmail, Discord, Reddit. I like to see if specific people posted something, if someone messaged me, updates on smartphone reviews, news stories, and more.
- urges to send people random photos, thoughts, and questions multiple times throughout the day. It’s an interesting observation. By doing this it increases the urge to check my phone throughout the day in the hopes someone has responded.
- searching for new video games. Checking steam sales to see if there is a game I haven’t tried. The anticipation of purchasing games on my that are all of a sudden on sale excites me. It makes me feel good that I waited to buy them on sale. The funny thing is I don’t end up ever playing them. Who is winning there?
- playing video games too much. I crushed Fortnite in 2020 and 2021.
- bringing my iPhone or iPad into the bathroom.
- Music: I absolutely love music. It is my first passion in life; however, I can’t even focus on music anymore. I constantly change songs. Start a playlist and change it seconds later. Start an album and change it seconds later. Edit playlists, make new ones, and so on. It’s similar to the distractions I have and my lack of ability to focus on a TV show. The same goes for music. Often times the music is playing and I am not even listening. I get distracted by thoughts and urges to google information or change the song. It’s wild.
- I have my iPhone or iPad when eating lunch and supper.
- drinking caffeine. I can drink two large 20-ounce “cups” a day. Feeling blah and this sense of low energy can give me an urge to reach for that second cup and I know it’s not helping me in the long run. Sometimes I will have an energy drink in the afternoon too.
- a level of anxiety throughout the day when I forget where my iPhone is.
- simply seeing my iPhone or iPad can trigger me to check it. Trying to resist it gives me anxiety.
- biting my nails.
- taking my iPhone or iPad to bed and falling asleep listening to YouTube videos or podcasts. I never retain any of the information. I don’t even remember what I listened to last night.
Some of the negative consequences that occur in my life because of the above distractions are:
- not finishing projects I would like to complete. For example, one of my showers leaks and it needs to be grouted again.
- it fuels my procrastination more.
- it keeps me in a negative cycle loop. It keeps my brain and thoughts going because I give into the compulsive behaviors. This article is not about exposure and response prevention but that form of cognitive-behavioral treatment works. When you expose yourself to a stimulus, be mindful of the experience, and respond by NOT doing the compulsive behavior then over time the desire to act and impulsive thoughts will decrease.
- my anxiety remains high
- I feel sad, disappointed, unfulfilled, and judge myself for not having or doing things that other people are doing.
- I put myself down for not getting things done around the house.
- I never end up focusing on things in my life I find are important and will provide me fulfillment. Like learning a song on the piano or trying to overcome my social anxiety by spending more time with friends.
- I do not solve my problems or attempt to solve them.
After some brainstorming, I decided on aspects of my life that I would like to change temporarily. I will do some self-reflection once it is over. For the next thirty days I am going to work on the following:
- I am not going to buy anything for the next thirty days unless it is absolutely needed. It has to do with my personal “needs” vs “wants” and most purchases I do not need at all. I basically need to buy food and pay the bills to maintain my home.
- I will notice when I have an urge to look up a product. When I have this thought I will defuse it by not looking the item up and not adding the product to my list of “Stuff I Want”. This is about me focusing on what is important in my life. I want to make the most of what I have and stop focusing on obtaining more things. Actually, as I am typing this post I just deleted the “Stuff I Want” list. I do not need it anymore.
- I am not going to google any thoughts that comes to mind. How old is Daniel Craig? What rating did X movie get on IMDb? What are the top albums of 2021? Checking up on the Elizabeth Holmes trial etc. As silly as this sounds it is not going to be easy. The force is strong!
- I am going to stop using Youtube, Twitch, Discord, Reddit, Instagram, Google News, and Twitter. There is one exception. I plan on finally getting around to re-grouting my shower and I have no idea how to do this so I am going to use the benefit of the internet to look this up. I am also going to allow myself to complete art lessons, learn a song on guitar, and learn a piano song using my access to the internet.
- fix the insulation my cats tore down in the basement.
- I will be able to use my iPad to draw, Yoga with Adrienne videos, and access piano or guitar lessons. I am going to focus on learning the songs: “Jupiter” by Wrabel on piano, “Heather” by Conan Gray on acoustic, and finally finish learning “Layla” by Eric Clapton.
- I can use my MacBook to journal. I can use my iPad to journal on the GoodNotes app. Technology has its benefits and so does journaling!
- I am going to write things I am grateful for each day. In the morning I will write down at least one thing I am grateful for.
- I will practice focusing without allowing distractions to take me away from the task at hand.
- The only video game I am allowed to play will be “It Takes Two” with Lindsay. Hopefully, I can convince her to play with me to get my fix :). At least with this goal, it will be a break from spending too much time playing video games. I love playing video games but I spend too much time playing them. The bonus here is if I can convince Lindsay to play we will be doing something together.
- If I am really bored I can pick up two books I’ve wanted to finish: Sapiens and Clapton.
- I do not really watch a lot of TV or movies. I am a YouTube junky. Most of the time when a movie is on or I am watching a TV show I am not really present because of how my brain gets distracted by other things. I am going to let myself watch TV. One rule though: TV and Movies only with Lindsay, friends, or family. This will allow me to have many days when I am not watching TV or movies. I am also going to refrain from google searching movies or TV shows.
- I am not going to google anything that comes into my brain.
- I am not going to have a device with me when I am eating.
- I am going to create a barrier and put technology in a room I seldom go to. My phone will only make a sound when someone is calling.
- Music: I love music. The biggest problem is I don’t focus on what I am listening to anymore. I am constantly distracted by thoughts to change the playlist, artist, or album. I need to take a break from this behavior of getting distracted by thoughts and changing the music. For me, it is not reasonable to stop listening to music for the next thirty days. It will be enough to complete what I am ultimatley setting out to do. Rule #1: I will not use the Apple Music App on my iPad or iPhone. Rule #2: I can use my google home or homepod mini to play an album, artist, or radio station but when I make that command I can not change it for one hour. Rule #3: I will not add any songs or edit any of my playlists on Apple Music. Rule #4: I will not listen to anything when outside walking. PS: Donda is the best album of 2021. I might just play that on repeat.
- I will not bring my iPhone or iPad into my bedroom at night.
- iMessage and Gmail is a problem. I check both too often. I also need to use Gmail for work and iMessage has its benefits because friends and family message me. Even though I would like to dump both of them for the next thirty days it isn’t realistic for me at this time. So I am going to let myself check iMessage and Gmail but only four times in seven days. I will keep a notepad next to my phone to track my use and be accountable.
Ultimately, for the next thirty days, I am still going to enjoy listening to music, using my iPad, the internet, and many other things. I am just going to pull back a bit. I want to use this time to practice focusing on the task at hand. Having less time attached to my devices and leaving my iPhone in a room I never go in will be a big change. I want to start making the most of what I have. Start working on the problems I have been putting off and spend more time doing things that spark a passion inside me.
My journey from “Fat to Fit” started on June 13th, 2020. I have lost weight. I am more fit but I have this level of awareness I can’t exercise my problems away. This journey is not about getting a six-pack or looking aesthetically good. It’s about feeling better in mind, body, and soul. Losing weight and looking better in my jeans feels good but there are so many other things I want to improve. I had “my last joint” on September 21st, 2021 and I am currently 67 days sober. I need to level up in other areas of my life and continue this “detox” from other things. I need to get a better grasp on my use of the internet and how it is negatively impacting my life. Searching the internet is not going to be the highlight of my life. There are more important things I want to do. Buying more items is not going to make me happy. I have everything I want and more. For now, I want to start making the most of what I have. The same level of motivation that caused me to start exercising daily is now carrying forward to other aspects of my life. Now is the time for me to manage the gremlins in my head.
Peace & Love,