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  • Writer's pictureJulie Nicole

Are DD's Wrecking Your Life?

Could it be possible that you are ruining your life all because of the two big D's? And no, we're not talking about those DD's. The two D's that are wrecking millions of people's lives are Distractions and Depression.

Never before have we had to deal with so many distractions on a constant basis. Years ago, before smartphones and (gasp) the Internet, if someone wanted to get in touch with you they either had to call you, mail you a letter or stop by your house. Nowadays, anyone from anywhere in the world can access you by instant messaging you through social media. We are inundated with buzzes, beeps and chirps all day long from text messages, emails and social media notifications.

And we just can't seem to help ourselves, when we hear that little noise we feel compelled to check it out. Have you ever counted to see how many times a day you check your phone? It's probably way more than you realize.

Even watching the news can become a difficult task to focus. You're trying to listen to the commentator, but you're only catching every fourth word because your eyes keep getting diverted to the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen. It's gotten so bad we can't even pump our gas without a screen being shoved in our face with advertisements and news stories.

So what impact is this having on our ability to focus?

Some studies say that every time you get distracted it takes the brain 25 minutes to refocus. If every 20 to 30 minutes you are checking your phone, how much time are you losing? A survey conducted by software company and research firm uSamp, found that 45% of employees work for only 15 minutes at a time or less without being interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to various distractions.

Nearly 90 percent of employees say they check social media at work. Nationwide workplace distractions are costing American companies billions of dollars in lost productivity. If distractions are costing companies billions of dollars have you ever stopped to think of the cost to yourself?

Could it be that part of your unhappiness and discontentment with your life is directly related to the amount of time you are spending on screens? A study done by San Diego State University showed that young people who spend seven hours or more a day on a screen are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as their peers who spend only one hour a day.

If you took the amount of time you spend on unproductive screen time, either watching TV, checking emails or scrolling through social media, and invested that time either with your spouse, kids, on your work or a hobby, how different might your life be?

The average American spends approximately 10 hours and 39 minutes every day on some type of screen. This includes the use of smartphones, computers, video games, radios, tablets and TVs. Assuming you have a desk job and spend eight hours at a computer for work, this still leaves over two and a half hours every day.

This is over 17 hours every week. This amounts to over 869 hours a year! But just so you can get a better perspective of how much of your life is being lost to the digital world, if we broke this down into eight-hour days (a typical work week) this would be three and a half months of your life sucked in by the screen.

Now imagine if you took that three and half months or that 17 hours a week and invested it in learning a new language, taking a dance class, or working some overtime to save up for a vacation to Hawaii.

What if you spent that extra time trying out new dinner recipes instead eating fast food or training for a marathon? What if you spent that time on a nature hike or playing board games with your kids, or a romantic rendezvous with your significant other?

How might your life look different than what it does right now? What do you want to change in your life? Make a list and then start devoting the time you are wasting on virtual worlds and invest it in your real life.

But let me give you a warning, if you're not intentional about it the distractions will creep in and eat up your day. So here's some tips to help you get started:

  • Remove the social media and email notifications from your phone. (This keeps your phone from beeping all day long.)

  • Have specific times when you check email - late morning, afternoon and evening.

  • Turn off your phone during work periods. If you're unable to do this, only answer calls that are absolutely necessary.

  • Set "no phone zones" in your home (dinner table, after 8 p.m.) or when with family and friends.

Once you implement these simple changes you'll be amazed at not only how much more productive you become, but you'll start feeling better as well.

Reading about or looking at pictures of someone else's life on Facebook doesn't create your own memories, nor does it release serotonin or dopamine, (chemicals that give us a sense of well being and fight depression - basically the good stuff we want more of) which is released when we interact with people face to face, exercise or accomplish goals.

The alternative to being intentional about eliminating digital distractions is to keep doing what you've been doing, which results in the following:

  • Sedentary lifestyle, which results in obesity related diseases and health issues.

  • Envy and discontentment as you compare yourself to other people's fake lives on Facebook.

  • More isolation and less fulfilling relationships.

  • Regret for not having pursued your dreams.

  • Disappointment for not accomplishing your goals and completing your daily tasks.

All of these habits create discouragement in our lives, that then leads to depression. Depression is often due to the gap between the expectation of where we want to be in life and our reality.

If we don't invest the time in making changes in our lives, without realizing it these simple distractions soon become our escape from our reality, which then becomes a vicious cycle that we find ourselves trapped in, kind of like an addict. When a person first starts drinking or using drugs they don't usually jump right into addiction. They start with small doses, but then need more and more of the drug or alcohol to feel the same type of high.

They are searching for that same feeling, but the end result is that the more they do it, the worse they feel coming down. A friend of mine who was addicted to heroine once told me that she kept using not because of the high anymore, but how terrible she felt when she wasn't using.

The same type of a need for a "high" can happen to us when we don't fill our lives with the right things. Studies have shown that when we get a text message or a like on social media it releases short doses of dopamine, but they're short lasting, therefore, creating the need for more "hits". This is what causes people to become obsessed with checking their social media outlets and phones all day long. The only problem is, just like the drug, the "high" leaves and then they are left dealing with their unsatisfactory life.

But the good news is that the power is within you to keep these DD's from wrecking your life. So start today by eliminating the distractions and start creating the type of life that you don't need to escape from, and soon you'll be living the life that other people envy and you will love.

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