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The social media detox challenge

I love it when hubby and I throw challenges at each other. Like that time I challenged him not to drink any alcohol during the week. Which is literally every Monday. But we’ll get back to that one day. Today, I’d like to tell you about the social media detox challenge that hubby has recently thrown at me.

It all started three weeks ago as a bet, when hubby insinuated that I was addicted to Facebook and Instagram. How dare he? Just because I was literally picking up my phone every second to scroll down my social feeds and spy on my friends lives?

However, something that started just for fun, this social media detox challenge I decided to pick up basically just to prove my husband wrong, has now become a new life habit. And I am glad my life has taken this unexpected turn.

I was convinced I was not addicted

Digital addiction truly is like any other addiction. You do not want to see it, you do not want to accept it and it is hard to move away from it. I was addicted and my husband was once again right. Checking out on social was the last thing I used to do at night before falling asleep and the first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. I was not able to enjoy the moment anymore, because I was constantly worrying about what was “happening” on social.

I only changed my mind after week 2 of detox, when I decided to re-install Instagram to see what it would do to me. And it did me wrong. That’s when realized I was addicted and decided that I needed to do something about it.

Here are three instant benefits of social media detox as I could experience them on my skin.

Self-esteem

Probably the most important one. Since I quit social media, the look on myself has improved. When I was spending a lot of time checking out other people’s lives, I was subconsciously hating mine. This only became clear to me once I stopped spending my time on Instagram and Facebook. After two weeks into the social detox challenge, I decided to re-download the apps to see what would happen. That’s when I realized that looking at other people’s “perfectly staged images” made me feel like the smallest piece of shit.

The moment I re-opened Instagram, I immediately felt overwhelmed. Those slick images of people doing stuff made me feel useless and boring. As if I was missing out on something important, as if everyone else had many important things to do. Except me. Even if I perfectly know that the majority of those posts are staged up stories, I still felt somehow depressed and sad. And no one needs this kind of negative energy!

Stress levels

To my biggest surprise, being constantly connected was giving me stress. I never thought I would admit this one day but it’s true: being on social does have an impact on your stress levels. Albeit stress is not always a bad thing, it is when your levels are too high and you are stressing about things you cannot have an immediate impact on. Like having a wonderful perfect life similar to what you see on Instagram. Which most of the times is not real. Even if we know that those things are not real, deep down they still affect us. And I guess this is where all the power of social media lays. You can influence people and make them want something, even before they consciously know that they want it. Super scary.

Concentration

Given that my stress levels are lower, my attention has improved. I am much more focused on what is happening at present, instead of secretly worrying about what is happening on social. I can now enjoy the moment and concentrate on doing one thing at a time, instead of worrying about what will come next. Which is literally the way we navigate around social media. We just scroll down our feeds like maniacs, sometimes we do not even read what’s in there. And unfortunately, this way of handling information and people translates into the real life then.

Needless to say that I have removed the social media apps again and decided I’d better stay away from that negative energy. I do not want to exist through people’s likes. I want to exist in the real life as we know it.

A farewell to gluten

How you can stop eating what you love most in 5 (not easy) steps.

Step 1: accept the change

The first and most important thing to do in order to stop eating what you love most is to accept change. When change knocks at your door, most of the time it is unwanted and unexpected. Your animal instinct will immediately tell you to fight what is happening. And if you think of it, that’s the most logical reaction.

This is exactly what happened to me a couple of months ago, when the doctor told me I had to stop eating what I love most: gluten. Basically, anything that I love (pasta, pizza, pastries of any kind, bread, cakes, biscuits…). I am not sure you can understand how painful this revelation is for someone like me. I am Italian, for God’s sake! All my daily meals have featured white flour for 34 beautiful and unforgettable years.

Come on, is it even physically possible to live without gluten? And if so, is a gluten-free life worth living? I wanted to die at first. It took me a whole 2 weeks of gluten overdose during holidays in Italy, to realize that maybe my body knew more than I do. And that, maybe, a journey into the gluten-free world could not do me wrong in the end.

So here is what I’ve been learning: when change gets at you, the best thing you can do is just roll with it. Fighting the change will bring you nowhere, plus you will need all the energy you can spare to stay strong through the process. So suck it up babe! You got this.

Step 2: keep your eyes on the prize

Changing a life-long habit is never easy. It can help to think that when these things need to happen it is usually for something even better to happen next. Therefore, if you want to stop eating what you love most, you need to stay focused!

The key is to remind yourself that it is worth it. Think about the positive effects that this change will have on your body and your mind. Set reminders on your phone. Schedule some time during the day to circle back to your “why’s”. Think back at what awaits at the end of the journey. For me, it’s the promise of feeling better, less tired and galvanized.

At the beginning, I thought I could also aspire to lose some weight but you will find out this ain’t going to happen due to step 4. Of course, an intimidating, kick-ass doctor who keeps regular track of your diet can help too.

Step 3: celebrate the little wins

The road to change will be so very long. You have to praise yourself every single day for having controlled your basic instincts and for resisting to temptation!

Believe me: when you have lived and loved all sorts of bread since birth, you realize that even spending just one day away from a baguette is a huge accomplishment. Which, in my case, needs celebrating with a big nice glass of red wine. Again, you will see in step 4 how I am not going to lose any weight here.

I have tried so many different diets in my life. I’ve always found it easier to stick to the change after a small time of exaggeration. Like I said before, if you know you have to stop eating white flour, I suggest you start after a full week of cakes and pastries of any kind. That will make you so sick you will almost be even happy to start your new diet!

(Note to self: look at you, thinking you can trick your mind so easily. Good for you!).

Step 4: find an enjoyable alternative

There is always an alternative. Even if not the most suitable (like the big glass of red wine I just spoke about). But that doesn’t matter at this stage. When you are asked to remove something you love from your diet, the only way through is to find something that is somehow equally enjoyable.

Therefore, when you are told to stop eating white flour like me, sadly, you need to find something that will replace your afternoon cookies. I stuff myself with chocolate for instance. After all, no one said this new diet was supposed to make me lose weight.

This is your safe anchor, the one little thing that you will hang on to during difficult times, and the little treat that will keep you from falling into depression, so it has to be something that is enjoyable enough to keep you away from trouble and temptations.

Step 5: listen to your body

This is probably the most serious and eye-opening tip you can grab from this list. Believe me, your body knows better than you do. It does know what is good for you and if you take the time to listen to it, it will even tell you what is bad and has to be stopped.

When my body started not to function as expected anymore, I went to see a specialist. She told me that those little pains here and there were signals my body was throwing at me, to tell me that something was wrong and had to be changed.

Again, for someone who loves any kind of pizza (and when I say “any kind” that also includes “cheesy crust” from Pizza Hut, which normally sounds like an insult to most Italians) it takes a lot to digest an information like this. Your body does not tolerate the things you love the most. I almost fainted in front of the doctor.

At first, I thought my body did not love me at all, given it was basically sending me directly through a living hell. With time, and after spending a couple of weeks into step 1, I started to realize that actually my body did love me. And that is exactly the reason why it was telling me to stop gluten.

Now if you’ll excuse me: it’s breakfast time and I have a warm double chocolate croissant waiting in front of me (hey, nobody is perfect, and maybe I am still struggling with acceptance here…)


Embracing failure

Today’s wake-up call is about embracing failure. In a world where everyone is running up to success (which nowadays seems to be measured in money, power and Instagram likes), people are starting to appreciate failure. It looks like making mistakes and accepting failure is becoming cool. And I truly believe this kind of acceptance is the best thing that could ever happen to us.

I just found out that the bakery at the corner of my street has closed. In a heartfelt note posted on the shop window, the baker explains that after 20 years of loyal service, she has decided to move on to a new challenge. A new chapter of her life.

I am super sad. I can still smell the perfume of her freshly baked pain au chocolat. Mmmh. This bakery was literally steps away from my door. On weekends, I was only steps away from those delicious freshly baked pastries and her orgasmic tartelettes aux citron. It will take me MONTHS to get used to this change. But this is not why I am telling you this story.

A big revelation

Let’s focus on the baker. She has decided to move on, to stop and change after 20 long years. she has accepted that something needed to change. She has taken the time to look at herself embracing failure. Bold. So very bold of her!

Just to give you an idea, I am soon to celebrate 10 years in my work career and that scares me, as I start to feel the need to move, to stop and change as the baker did. The only problem with that is that I still do not know what I would like to do next. No f***ing clue.

Back to the wake-up call now. If we can embrace failure and decide that failing is not only ok, but it is actually something to be proud of, we can also decide to be happy. We can decide that something that a minute ago was freaking us out is now inspiring us. It is all happening in our minds. What a responsibility!

This is huge guys. If making mistakes and accepting failure becomes cool it means that, in the end, we are finally recognizing that WE are the only real person responsible for our own happiness. We are the ones to decide if we are happy or not.

Think about it.

When you wake up in the morning and you had a good night sleep, you know it is going to be a good day. Right? When you are running late for work and you manage to catch the bus seconds before it hits the road again, you know the stars are with you and it is going to be a good day.

When your 3-year-old is sleeping in her bed for longer than 2 consecutive hours, and your 1-year-old has not asked for his milk after midnight, you know you will be sleeping at least for 6 consecutive hours and you also know that tomorrow is going to be a very good day. I know, baby steps, but better than the previous night’s 3 hours, right?

I think that we are just so formatted to always want more that we have somehow forgotten how to be happy just with what we have. And in the long run this is not doing us any good. What would happen if we’d try to concentrate more on what we already have? On our accomplishments, our achievements, instead of only focusing on our objectives? Let’s take some time to celebrate ourselves (for the good and the bad too). Even when at first sight we feel like there is nothing to celebrate, we surely have at least learned something. We should not be spending all our energies on thinking that we are not enough. We should on the contrary focus our time on training our self-esteem.

It’s all about acceptance.

I am not against successful people. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to pursue a better future. What I am saying is, we should also sometimes look at what we do have, instead of always only focusing on what we don’t have. and that also includes the mistakes we have made. It includes embracing failure and accepting who we are and where we are in the journey.

Let’s accept that it is ok not to always be perfectly groomed and excelling at all we do. We are allowed to feel crappy, lost and tired! Be indulgent with yourself. It’s ok not to have a plan, if you embrace it. You will never be good enough for people anyways. The sooner you accept this, the better.

Epiphanies and resolutions

The beauty of having epiphanies is all in the making resolutions afterwards. But it is never easy, because most of the time, resolutions translate into change and God knows how much human beings do not like change!

Epiphanies are funny, because they hit you all of a sudden and when you least expect them. It’s like when you have to make a decision. Should I go right or left? Should I eat this cookie or not? And then you turn, or eat the damn cookie, and all of a sudden BAM! The correct answer is crystal clear and right in front of you. Yes, you turned the right corner or, no, you shouldn’t have had that cookie.

A moment of bliss

What triggers that “click” in our minds that allows us to see things we hadn’t been able to see before? Why is it that obvious answers are sometimes so difficult to get to?

Well, I think that we’ve probably been looking for the answers to those obvious questions in the wrong places. Sometimes, we might have been asking the wrong questions all along, or maybe, we hadn’t even started questioning ourselves at all. But what’s good with epiphanies is that they come with resolutions. You cannot just have a revelation and then sit on it as if it never happened. Or probably you can, but then I am not sure you’d be happy. When having epiphanies you also have to make resolutions and this is for sure the hardest part.

A no-brainer

My latest epiphany consisted in realizing that the only one to blame for putting so much pressure on myself (as a woman, a mum, a wife, a friend and a worker) is actually me. A no-brainer, as a matter of fact, but somehow I always thought that I was doing a bunch of stuff “because it had to be done”. So what kind of resolutions could I make, in order to move on from this epiphany?

I’ve decided to stop running all the time, especially when it’s not even clear where I’m running to (or from). As my mum used to say, you shouldn’t jump off a bridge just because someone told you to – let alone if that someone is you and you’re not even sure why you should jump in the first place.

I decided that it was time to stop listening to that little voice in my head pushing me to always do more, reach higher, run faster. Mostly because my voice can’t answer two simple questions: why? And what for?

Refocus on the really important things in life

Not long ago, I was working really hard towards getting a promotion which, to my big surprise, I was refused. After the initial disappointment, though, I realized that what I regretted the most was focusing so many hours each day on what a thought was a priority (a step up in my career), to the detriment of my other aspects of my life, that I wasn’t looking at as important. Until then, I had felt that my family-related tasks were taking away focus from my “precious” work time, when in reality it should have been the other way around. And when that epiphany hit me, I took my refused promotion for what it really was: a great opportunity to re-prioritize. 

I have been blessed many times in my life already. I have two beautiful kids and I have found the love of my life. There is a roof over my head and a family to return back to. And friends, a lot of friends who care about me. But somehow, it’s like I had to go for what I did not have. Or perhaps worse – wanting it so badly made me overlook and underestimate what I should have cherished.

Looking back now, am not even sure I really wanted that job. I think I was just going with the flow. I was just doing what everyone else around me thought was the right thing to do, because aren’t we all pushed to want more and aim higher? Enough, right?

What if we were just happy with what we already have?

What if, instead on focusing on what we do not have, we started to focus on what we do have, and be more grateful? Or better: why not try to aim higher, but only as long as the focus of the quest is the right one – as an individual, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, a friend – or even to make it simpler – a human being?

Back to my epiphanies and resolutions now. I have decided to turn things around work-wise: they are not ready to promote me now? Fine, I will ask my employer to work 4 days a week and take it from there. I want more “me time”, but I don’t want this need to take away from other things that really matter. Like my kids, my husband and my friends.

So I’ve decided: my career will take a small step back for my life to jump forward.

And you? What is your epiphany? Tell us your story and we will publish it on here! getintouch@thereallifeblog.com