Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present

Wireless Wonderland
Alice, referring to her experiences in Wonderland, in  Disney's Alice in Wonderland.
Also: me, every time I fall down the internet rabbit hole.  


Do ever feel as if you're in a different world when you're on your phone? Do you ever feel as if you've somehow fallen into it, like you've gotten sucked into the alternate reality of what's happening on the screen? 

Recently while watching Disney's Alice in Wonderland, it occurred to me how fascinating — and accurate — it is when people use the term "internet rabbit hole." How often have you gone on your phone to search for something and looked up from the screen a while later, surprised at how much time had passed since you'd unlocked the screen? How often have you said to yourself, "I'll just look at [Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / etc.] for a sec," and then found yourself in a lengthy cycle of app-checking? If you've ever experienced these, you're certainly not alone. Most people with a smartphone have probably had these experiences. 


Wondering where you stand in terms of phone addiction/use? Here's a Smartphone Compulsion Test to check out. (I scored 14/15.)


One study found that 89% of Americans check their smartphones “at least a few times a day," and 36% admit they’re “constantly checking and using” their phones. For those ages 18-24, that number is closer 50%. Even if you're not in the "constantly checking" group, all you have to do is look around to see that a lot of people are. This is not news, of course; many Americans (and others) are attached to their phones, some of us quite literally addicted. And it's no wonder! These devices provide us with some of the best aspects of life: connection to others, information and up-t0-the-minute news, entertainment and games, external validation, and so much more. It makes sense that we're drawn to such incredible devices. But when they become the focus of our lives, when we spend so much time in them that it's almost as if we're living parallel lives in real life and online, we have to step back and consider what this means for who we are (and who we want to be). 


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The Power of "I Am" + How to Harness It



It's probably not news to you that the words you use have a big impact on how you perceive the world (and how you feel about the world and yourself), but today I want to focus on two of the most powerful words in the world: I am

Every time you think or say, "I am" or "I'm not," you're defining yourself. We, as humans, love defining things. The world is a pretty crazy place, and knowing what we are helps us cope with the chaos. But, while definitions have the power to clarify, they also have the power to limit. This is especially true when it comes to the words I am

Because these two words are so powerful, it's important to use them carefully. I've discovered that, in order to make the most of them, to use them for clarity and not as a crutch, we have to make sure we're being very conscious and purposeful in how and when we use them. It's a process that takes practice, because it it involves a bit of complex duality: using I am for what's unconditional and avoiding I am for what's conditional.  

Why is this important? Because what follows I am is powerful and creates your reality. If I am isn't used carefully, it can become a very chicken-or-the-egg situation, in which is becomes difficult to differentiate what you actually are versus what you've continually said you are. To avoid this, I recommend keeping these two things in mind: 



With the words “I am,” you define yourself to the world, and, when used honestly, offer a valuable definition of who you are.

Consider the truth of the words, “I am a [mother / brother / friend / coworker / etc.].” There is no doubting that you're one of those things. A statement like “I am a mother” is a fact, and not something that only applies sometimes. As Alexandra Franzen put it, people say, “‘I am a mother,’ not ‘I do mothering’ or ‘My goal is to do mothering seven days a week.’ Who you are is not something you try to do."

When used in this way, I am is a definitive and concrete definition of yourself, but defining yourself in relation to family is an easy one. Most of us have no problem being 100% clear on that. The waters get a little murkier when it comes to other I am-worthy statements. For example, when someone asks me what I do for a living, sometimes, instead of stating, “I am a writer,” I might hedge the statement with, “I write about positivity and self-love.” At first glance, they seem to convey the same message, but not using I am part makes it less definitive and concrete.

Not using I am for things that are unconditionally true lessens the validity of how you identify yourself, and that's not the message you want to send to the world (or yourself!). Getting the hang of fearlessly using I am can be a challenge, depending on how you usually speak about yourself, but you can practice by thinking about how you'd answer the following questions: 


What do you do / study?
I AM (your career or major)

What is your relationship status? 
I AM (single / married / coupled / etc.)

Are you an only child? 
I AM (an only child / sister / brother)

What do you like to do for fun? 
I AM (a runner / artist / party animal / etc. )


Even if the answers aren't what you want them to be — let’s say you’re single and you want to be married or you’re a contractor but you want to be a full-time employee — it's important to use I am to embrace what's true in this moment. A vital aspect of self-love is acceptance. You don’t have to be in love with the way things are at the moment, but you should always love who you are because it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be right now.

Using I am for the unconditional aspects of your life is more powerful than you might realize. Not only does it convey who you are to those asking, but it reaffirms these facts internally, making it easier to know definitively who you are. The more awareness you have about yourself, the more you can expand the aspects you like and work on the ones you don't. 



While it's important to use I am to clearly define what you are instead of hedging a description of yourself (i.e., "I'm a writer" vs. "I write about..."), but it’s just as important not to use I am in statements that are conditional. Most of us use I am in ways that aren't 100% accurate. A statement might refer to part of who you are — for example, “I am impatient” is really “Sometimes I struggle to have patience” — or it might be completely untrue — such looking in the mirror, noticing you want to lose a few pounds, and saying, “I am fat" when you're not actually overweight.

Rather than really thinking about what we are saying, we’re often quick to use I am, labeling ourselves in an (often unproductive) attempt at self-definition. To give you a more personal example, here are some of the things I’ve said about myself: “I am antisocial. I am bossy. I am aggressive. I am selfish.” While, at some points in my life, I have experienced these characteristics, by choosing them as labels for myself, I am embracing and accepting them as universal definitions of who I am. These phrases are not absolute truths. Yes, there are times when I act in a bossy manner, but when I say, "I am bossy," I identify with "bossy" as universal trait, rather than a conditional aspect that I can (and perhaps should!) change.

The more times you say, “I am [insert adjective here],” the more you’ll start to identify with that trait. Sometimes this can be a wonderful thing, such as when you say, “I am brave. I am strong. I am beautiful,” but more often than not, we find ourselves stating things like, “I am overweight. I am unhealthy. I am unhappy.” Though there might be some truth in those statements, identifying with them as who you are — rather than a state you’re in — can make it challenging to truly love yourself. It might seem silly to nitpick at words this way, but there's a difference between saying "I am unhappy," and "I feel unhappy right now," and, small as the words I am are, they end up having a big impact on your perception. 


Whether you're learning to use the words I am more frequently or learning not to use them so often (or both!), keep in mind that how you define yourself is what you become. You cannot control everything in life, but your words are incredibly powerful and you have the power to use them in ways that increase the amount of self-love in your life. 


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How to Distance Yourself from Negativity

  No Negativity - Positively Present

If you're reading this, you're probably striving to live a positive, present life — and you probably know just how hard that can be at times. Life is filled with negative situations, people, and internal battles, which makes staying positive a tad challenging sometimes (and by "sometimes" I mean "most of the time").

As I posted last week (here on Instagram — didn't write it, but I 100% support it), "The first step to getting what you want is having the courage to walk away from what you don't." And that most certainly applies to creating more positivity in your life. If you want more positivity, you've got to make room for it — and that means getting rid of the negative. It's no easy task, but here are some of the best tips and tricks for getting rid of the negative so you can make room for the positive. (And, I know well from experience, the more space you make for positive things, the more positive things will find their way to you!)



    This sounds so obvious, but really, how often do you really ask yourself, "Is this person a positive or a negative influence?" Most of us kind of just go with the flow when it comes to who we surround ourselves with, but, in many cases, we have a choice about who we interact with, and we don't always avoid the negative. Pay attention to how people make you feel, and if you determine someone is a negative influence (you'll know because you feel drained, down, or just icky after hanging out with them), stop hanging out with him/her or, if that's not an option, do what you can to limit the amount of interactions. 


    You might have seen the memo Steve Harvey wrote to his staff circulating (and being mocked), but it's a pretty amazing example of someone setting boundaries and making them very clear to those around them. We're all different and have different ideas of what our boundaries should be, but one of the best ways to avoid negative interactions is to know what your boundaries are (especially with other people!), communicate those boundaries clearly, and maintain those boundaries ruthlessly. This is hard (even if you're good at it), but it's one the best ways to limit negativity (and practice self-love, too!).


    We all have problems — that's just life. But what most of us don't do is redirect our attention from the problems to the potential solutions. As humans, we're often on the lookout for what could go wrong (it's our instinct, trying to help us avoid bad situations), but if you want to cut back on negativity, try shifting your focus from what's going wrong to how you might be able to make it right. Yes, it's easier to complain, but when did whining ever get you anywhere? The more you treat problems like challenges you have the opportunity to solve, the more likely you'll be to actually find solutions (and limit negativity!). 


    So, so many issues in relationships (and maybe in the world?) could be avoided if people strived not to take things personally. It's difficult not to do this (after all, we're with ourselves all the time and, even if you don't realize it, your world really does revolve around you and what you're doing, feeling and thinking), but you can cut down on negativity by not taking what others say and do personally. More often than not, another person's attitude, words, and actions have way more to do with him or her than they do with you, and realizing that will make it easier not to be offended, thus cutting down on negative emotions!


    This probably comes as no surprise, but you can't control what other people do and feel (much as you might want to!). Realizing this (and keeping it in mind all the time!) will greatly reduce the amount of frustration you feel. So much angst comes from trying to make others different than they are, and acceptance is critical for positive relationships (and for cutting down on your own stress!). This doesn't apply only to people, either. There are many things we cannot control in life, and accepting what is is the best way to create more inner calm. 


    Self-love has been a huge focus for me this year, and, as a result of prioritizing it, I've noticed a number of positive changes in my life. Self-love is about respecting, caring for, and taking care of yourself. When you make this a priority, you're going to be able to more easily make choices that are best for you. Whenever you face a new decision, ask yourself, "What would be the most self-loving choice?" then choose that! The more you do this, the less time you'll have to waste on anything (or any person!) that brings you down. 


    To us, our lives seem so big and important, but remember: you're just a tiny little creature on a little rock in a gigantic galaxy in a stunningly huge universe. This isn't meant to make you feel insignificant (you aren't!), but it's meant to remind you that, in the grand scheme of things (even within your own life!), most situations are pretty small. Keeping perspective (and focusing on how lucky you are to have at least some things going right in your life) is a great way to manage stress, and less stress = less negativity. 


    How much of what you say is negative? How much is positive? We often get in patterns and are so used to doing (or saying!) something a certain way that we just keep doing it that way. But, in order to cut back on negative thinking and speaking, you've got to realize you're doing it! Pay attention to how you're describing things, and consider if you might be able to change that. For example, saying, "Ugh, Mondays!" isn't helping you make the most of your Monday. Sure, it might not be your favorite day of the week, but framing it from a negative perspective is going to keep it negative. 


    Where you spend your time is going to have a big impact on your thinking. How much of what you consume on TV, via social media, in films and online is actually positive? How much of it is making you more optimistic and engaged with your life? How much of it makes you feel sad or stressed or overwhelmed? This isn't to say you should never watch or read anything upsetting, but if you want to have a more positive life, you need balance, and you need to keep in mind that you have a choice. Take note of how certain shows / sites / etc. make you feel and actively choose whether or not you want to spend time engaging with them. 


    Many of us get quite set in our ways (especially as we get older!), and it's all too easy to say, "I can't..." Sure, there might be things you actually cannot do, but it's way more likely that "I can't" is actually "I don't want to" or "I don't yet know how to." Saying you can't do something not only limits you (if you think you can't, you probably won't even try), but it's also a pretty negative mindset to put yourself in (regardless of whether or not you actually do the thing). So, instead of saying "can't" consider what the truth is: that you don't want to, don't yet know how, don't feel up to it, etc. Doing so will help cultivate more internal positivity. 


    There's a lot of negativity out there, but there's also a lot of positivity, too. If you want to cut back on negativity in your life, fill up your time with positive inspiration. Seek out people, activities, websites, etc. that add positivity to your life and inspire you. We all struggle with negative feelings and thoughts, and it can make a big difference if you have some go-to resources to check out when you're having a down day. (Or a go-to friend you can call for a positive pick-me-up!) Try to incorporate something inspiring into every day, and you'll be giving yourself a daily boost of positivity! 

These tips are the best place to get started when it comes to distancing yourself from negativity, but it's important to remember that choosing positivity isn't easy (especially if, like me, it doesn't come naturally to you!). If you find yourself struggling to stay positive, know that you're not alone and remind yourself that it takes practice. And the more negativity you remove from your life, the more room you'll have for practicing that positivity! 


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