April 17, 2020

Week Sixteen: Establishing Healthier Habits

by Jennifer Kane

Week Sixteen: Establishing Healthier Habits

Changing old habits, (and starting new ones) can be a difficult task.

  • Sometimes our mind convinces us a certain behavior is something we should do
  • So we start doing it, even if it doesn’t always feel good…
  • That behavior is often praised or rewarded by the people around us, (who dig the fact that we may be putting their needs before our own)…
  • Which reinforces the feeling that it’s something we should keep doing…

… and the cycle continues.

It can be hard to make this stop — especially when it comes to our digital habits, which often occur on platforms designed to minimize boundaries, managed by companies with a vested interest in our continued habitual use.

Sometimes the thing we need most to break a habit is some sort of permission from a source other than ourselves, assuring us it’s OK to make a change, take a chance, try something new.

Well, I’m not your mom, your therapist, or maybe even your friend, but I can give you that permission if you want it.

You have permission to be “off duty”

Although we live in an culture that worships “the cult of busyness,” the “side hustle,” and being “always on,” it’s OK to opt out sometimes and practice habits that instead put your needs and desires first.

As much as it may seem like you need to respond to every text immediately, watch the latest Netflix show as soon as it’s released, or be constantly striving for success, you really don’t.

  • It’s OK to establish “device down” times or “digital office hours” for yourself, (or your whole family) and communicate that info to the people in your life, (i.e. “I only respond to emails between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm,” or “I only use this cell phone for emergencies. If you need to reach me, please email instead.”)
  • It’s OK to prioritize the habits that help you stay sane, safe, and healthy. If that means you meditate or exercise in the morning before you respond to work requests, then so be it. Otherwise you’re just letting everyone stand in line to drink from a well you’ve already allowed to run dry.
  • It’s OK to ignore or delete things in your life because they are just noise and don’t provide value. Bi-annual texts that you have a dentist appointment coming up? Likely worth keeping. Instant notifications that someone gave a thumbs up on the picture of your brunch? Likely not.

You have permission to say “no” (and also “goodbye”)

As we talked in Week 15, it’s positive and healthy to establish habits that distance you from anything in your life causing unhappiness or pain.

That decision is solely yours to make. Even if everyone in the whole world thinks something is cool, it’s still OK to decide it’s awful for you and give it the boot.

  • It’s OK to disconnect yourself from people who regularly make you feel inferior, ashamed, guilty, sad, angry, etc. Even if you only interact with the person periodically — even if you never engage with them directly — the bad feelings from having them in your life can still weigh you down. Don’t be afraid to mute, unfollow, or unfriend.
  • It’s OK to choose not to respond to, participate in, or engage with any piece of content thrown your way online. (Yes, even if you’re “nominated” to do so!) That includes Internet challenges and memes, weird emails you didn’t ask to receive about stuff you don’t understand/care about, or group texts/chats to which you’ve been unwillingly added.
  • It’s OK to set some rules around your use of technology you consider to be problematic for you personally. It’s also OK to delete that tech from your life entirely. The people with whom you want to still stay connected will find other ways to reach you.

You have permission to share your feelings

Even if you can’t immediately change a habit, you can change the silence that surrounds it and start sharing your feelings about that habit more regularly.

Because if a habit makes you sad or angry for a day, that’s likely no big deal, but it’s practiced, (or observed) for years, those feelings can add up and start to become disruptive and even damaging.

  • It’s OK to be honest with yourself that you have habits that bother you and you struggle to change. It’s also OK to share that info with other people, who may have similar problems and find your experience inspirational or comforting. By only presenting a sanitized, “all smiles” version of your life to the world, you might actually be making others feel like they never measure up.
  • It’s OK to call out the habits that cause you pain. For example, if someone close to you continually looks at their phone when you’re talking to them, it’s OK to say, “Hey. When you do that it makes me feel like you’re not really listening to me. Can you put your phone down until our conversation is over?”
  • It’s also OK, (and awesome) to call out habits that bring you happiness. For example, you could tell someone, “It really made me happy that you decided not to play games last night and hung out with the family instead. Thank you for that.” You should give yourself props for making changes too, even if they don’t stick.

This week’s exercise

If you need it, let this post serve as permission to start changing old habits or behaviors in your life that currently aren’t serving you well. Or, feel free to print out the permission slip below and give yourself permission instead.

Remember these changes will probably feel awkward at first and will not always be rewarded with admiration and praise by others. But you know what? People will get over it. You might be surprised by how quickly everyone adapts, (including yourself).

If someone complains about the changes you’re making, you also have permission to say, “I understand your frustration, but this is something I need to do right now for my own health and happiness.” Then, leave it at that. You have permission not to deal with it if they choose to have a subsequent hissy fit.

Thank you for stopping by! We’re in the home stretch on this eCourse. Next week we’ll talk about ways to quiet the digital noise and distractions in your life. I look forward to seeing you then and hope you continue to be healthy and safe.

Want to participate in this eCourse?

1. Continue to drop by my blog or Medium account each Saturday where you can read the weekly post at your leisure, or…

2. Subscribe to this email list and I’ll send you a post each Saturday.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this course as we go. Feel free to leave comments on any of the posts or email me at jen@jenkane.com if you’d like to share something privately


Digital well-being, Digital Wellness, Habits

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