February 08, 2019
Real moments of relaxation are only one click away.
The internet is often blamed for increased rates of anxiety and worry, especially during turbulent times. From online trolls to shaming, all that negativity can be mentally exhausting. Sometimes, it feels like the toxicity is simply a part of modern life we must accept.
Yet, it is possible to harness the incredible power of the internet to find relaxation and build resilience in each part of our lives, day by day. I did it. Here's what I learned from a year-long project to turn my devices into a screens of serenity.
Start Your Day with Serenity
Reaching for our phones upon waking is instinctual for many of us. Our first moments of the day are spent opening a news app or social media to check what's happened overnight.
Why not reclaim those precious minutes to focus on resilience? Research shows that beginning your day with a grounding exercise impacts productivity, which compounds over the weeks and months. Instead of starting your day with an information overload, use your phone to start your day with calm. A guided mediation, setting daily health goals (like time spent outdoors and with friends) and tracking gratitude sets me up for a happier day, and helps me focus on my core goals. Thanks to the innovative re-framing tools, I can even work out any limiting beliefs I might be facing and leave my anxiety on the nightstand.
I've had success using Pacifica, a free app that helps you track key aspects of happiness and good mental fitness. Other free and paid apps abound. Find the one that suits you best.
Tuck in Happiness Throughout Your Day
To keep mornings running smoothly, I've begun to rely on music for an extra boost of happiness. This happiness hack stems from research that found music calmed pre-surgery patients better than prescription drugs. I now rely on Pandora to serve up a daily playlist and have found that my household has a much more enthusiastic start thanks to a little Martha & the Vandellas at breakfast.
Right before heading out the door, I ensure that my favorite resilience-building podcasts have finished downloading. I make a special ritual of listening to The One You Feed. Eric Zimmer has hosted over 200 inspiring episodes, from the compounding nature of habits to radical acceptance. Weekly guests uplift and inspire with their research and insights into different aspects of the human condition. The show reminds me to feed the goodness in my life — and the world around me.
Build Connections and Memories
It's important to nurture the rest of my household, too. Turning off the TV has such a calming force in the house that we've invented a fun twist to screen-free dinners. We've begun listening to group-approved audio books via the Overdrive app, thanks to our local library. We've all noticed that the dining room is much more relaxed and conversation is much more dynamic with a audio book underscoring our meal. Sometimes we don't get more than a few minutes of listening in, because the story prompts a discussion we wouldn't have had otherwise.
Hobbies Are Healthy
After a day of stress, I turn to crafts as a way of detoxing. There are health benefits to being crafty: studies have found that fiber arts, like knitting, needlework or sewing, decrease anxiety and intrusive thoughts, while increasing self-esteem, community support and relaxation. That's a lot of benefit! So science backs me up: Savoring Bluprint (formerly "Craftsy" ) videos in the craft room is a deeply self-nurturing pastime.
I've even become inspired to take my screen outside to learn how to paint garden scenes en plein air, thanks to online videos. On rainy days, I turn to the classic Bob Ross episodes on Netflix. All I need is a canvas, paint, brushes and my internet connection to learn how to make “happy little trees" like a pro — and instantly find bliss.
The end of the night is perfect for enjoying storytelling on the couch or even alone in your reading nook. The screen time can be calming, especially with a helpful curated list of shows to watch on Cox On Demand or another streaming platform. Recommendation and discovery tools can help eliminate the hassle and frustration of finding what to watch. A shared movie or TV show can even be beneficial for your health and relationship, say family therapists.
Getting to sleep can be tricky, even after a calmer day. Putting down the blue light of a device and the seemingly soothing sea of social media can be more challenging than we'd like to admit. The comfort of guided sleep meditations has helped my household dramatically. Again, there are hundreds of online meditation tools and apps, but our go-to practitioner is Jason Stephenson. His substantial library of anti-anxiety meditations and sleep music on YouTube and iTunes gives you instant access to his soothing voice as he expertly guides you past the day's concerns and towards a solid night's rest.
While my day are now relatively troll-free, transforming my digital life didn't happen overnight. I developed three simple guidelines for streaming serenity.
1. The online activity can't deplete your resources, distract you negatively or leverage pain or anger.
2. Consider if the activity supports your immediate well-being or long-term growth.
3. Does the experience make you happy? Or, as Marie Kondo would say, does it spark joy?
Your answers to those 3 simple guidelines will help guide you towards a healthier online experience — and a more relaxed, resilient year!