Reflections on the journey – What this moment in time means for me.

Have you ever had that feeling, your heading home, and you zone out, you are just a passive passenger along for the ride in your own body? 

Suddenly, you’re at your destination, and you don’t quite remember all the details on how you got there. Some specifics sure; you stopped at that red light, the music playing in the background; when it was catchy. But for the most part the journey was a haze as you thought about your day gone by, the day coming tomorrow, the weekend coming up, or, nothing much at all.

When this happens to me I often think of a quote, that, while I have never actually read any of Ursula K Le Guin’s work (something I mean to rectify), has always stuck with me:

“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.” (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness)

When the daily rush of normal life came crashing to a halt in mid-March, I had this exact same feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the place where I find myself is an absolute paradise; married to the man of my dreams, beautiful home, adorable puppy, the most amazing circle of family and friends a person could ask for and a great job. I know how fortunate I am, there are no complaints here, only an attempt at growth.

As I adapted to this new normal, I felt a shift, an awakening within me of imaginings and interests that I had forgotten. Curiosities, that have been left in a pile at the edge of the desk and then, slowly, over the years, scooped into boxes and placed in the dusty corners of my mind. 

I am a dreamy kind of wanderer, I always have been. Happy to float from place to place with no real goal other than to see where it leads. At least, I used to be.

I never really had a clear answer for that age old chestnut; “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I clearly remember being confused about this question at one particular family gathering. How was I, at the age of ten, supposed to know what I was going to do with my life? I was ten, what did I know of the world? I pointed that out and received an uncomfortable silence from my adult audience and a pat on the head, followed by, “You really need to give it some thought.” So, I settled on Vet. It was easy, I love animals and it appeared that Vet was a lofty enough goal that it would elicit sounds of approval from the gathered adults.

 My true, secret goals were vague; to travel, to go on adventures, to fall madly in love. But society loves clarity, loves direct and clear goals, an end in sight, in a straight line. At least, that is what I was taught:

  • Graduate high school
  • Go on to Post-Secondary studies
  • Meet Significant other
  • Graduate Post-Secondary studies
  • Land the job of your dreams in your chosen field, immediately
  • Get married
  • Buy house
  • Have kids

There is nothing wrong with any of these goals. In fact, I ticked a fair number off that list, but I did them the windy way, the way that worked for me. Much to the chagrin of my straight edged and very direct Mother.

I enjoyed pulling on threads of interest and seeing what was at the end of them. Something that I used to constantly apply to my life. I’d see something of interest, wander over, experience it and either wander back or see where it took me. Some would call that aimless drifting, I was taught that society would call that lost, but, in the wise words of Tolkien “Not all those who wander are lost…” (Tolkien,1977, p. 202) I may not have a clear end goal and I may be taking a winding and roaming route, but for me at least, that was fulfilling. 

Somewhere though, I took a wrong turn. I pulled on a thread of curiosity and found myself stuck in the mud. Which is the danger inherent in any decision. 

Other people’s truths became my own, the imagined yard-stick by which society measures life’s milestones somehow found its way into my inner sanctum. I had checked off some of the markers, yes, but it wasn’t enough. There were more to check off and time was short, the yard-stick only goes to thirty and I was well beyond that. My curiosity became a hindrance, my desire to walk to the next corner and see what was there became a weakness. I lost sight of the journey and tried to force myself into a mindset that has never truly been my own. To see the goal with clarity and walk straight at it pursuing it at all costs. Never mind the emotional toll of not being true to myself. Never mind the destructive effects of obsessing over the future and trying to see what was coming, while all the time standing still. Because no matter how much you hammer at it, a square peg is never going to fit into a round hole. 

Would I go back and change that decision? No. I believe that every choice has value, whether it leads to success or failure. It is what we do with the lessons we have learned that are important. Even if it takes a while for the lesson to really sink in.

And so, it was in this constant state of frustration, that I ran head first into the huge stop sign that this global pandemic has placed in the way. 

Out of something truly scary, truly terrible and wrought with uncertainty and fear for the future, I have found my breath, and I know that I am absolutely lucky to be in this position. This forced pause from the daily routine has allowed me to take stock of the destination I find myself at. After years of hazy travelling, it has allowed me to recognize that I have, actually, achieved all the goals that I held close to my heart growing up. I have traveled, I have been on so many adventures and I have fallen madly, ecstatically in love. I am right where I want to be.

Sure, I succumbed to the perceived pressures of everyday society, that yard-stick has poked holes in my unwavering belief that everything will in fact be OK; that I am enough, that it is the journey and not just the goal that matters.

I feel my curiosity returning, new goals have arisen from the dusty corners of my mind; can I learn to write effectively and do it well? Can I learn to draw well, sew the clothes that I daydream about, can I learn to write music? In the simplest terms, can I be creative? Something that didn’t fit the narrative given to me by the rigid hallways of the education system I grew up in, or the narrow focus of my mother’s self-hating view of me. 

I see new possibilities and new winding paths to charge headlong down. I will gather the tools that will help me focus, learn and grow. Over the next few posts, I’ll explore what it means to me, to awaken and reassert my weird and quirky self. How I am teaching myself to ignore the ingrained negative self-perceptions and silence those voices that tell me to conform. 

I didn’t graduate high-school on time with my peers, choosing instead to change all my subjects halfway through my final years; I picked my post-secondary studies out of a coffee cup filled many choices and I’ve never had a clear goal of what my career should look like, other than it should have many twists and turns, filled with interesting experiences.

 I am in my mid-late thirties and according to those external perceived pressures, I should be done and set on my path. And yet, I’ve achieved everything I have ever set my mind to by taking the road less traveled and enjoying each winding route. I’d like to reclaim that mindset.

So, now the blinkers are off, the fog has been blown away and I am awake again. We get one shot at this amazing journey called life and I’m not going to allow myself to fall back on old habits. I’ll gather tools to my side, I’ll inflict my terrible writing and rambling thoughts on anyone who will willingly (or coerced) read it, I’m looking at you fellow classmates! And I’ll see where this new path leads!

Care to join me on my wanderings? Maybe we’ll find something magical!

Moss covered cave opening, with rain pouring over entrance.
Taken by me in 2005 during one of my many wanderings. Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sources:

Calla Wahlquist (2018, January 24th.) A Life in Quotes: Ursula K Le Guin. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/24/a-life-in-quotes-ursula-k-le-guin

Tolkien, J. R. R (1977) The Fellowship of the Ring. The Folio Society. (p. 202). (Original work published in 1954 by George Allen & Unwin).

An exercise in self-reflection – What this moment means to me. #personal growth #self-reflection https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6

For Facebook – I wrote a blog post on what this moment in time means to me and how I am working towards personal growth. Freeing myself from perceived social pressures about life and how we measure our value and success on this journey. An exercise in self-reflection-what this moment means to me. https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6

Is Social Media Holding Your Happiness Hostage? 3 Ways Social Media Could Be Affecting Your Mental Health

Recently a few friends of mine were complaining about social media and how negative it can be. They had decided to take a break from it to gain some distance and recharge. At first, I kind of scoffed a little, thinking it was an overreaction. But then I began to wonder, did they have a point?

Social media platforms definitely have their advantages, giving us more avenues to connect with people on varying levels, creating opportunities for businesses, and allowing us the chance to bond and interact with people across the world that we might otherwise never meet. But there is also a dark side to using social media platforms, and using them too much or in unhealthy ways can leave you feeling depressed and isolated. 

Many of us check our phones multiple times a day, sometimes even per hour, to take a peek at what everyone else is up to. Come on, don’t pretend you haven’t looked at your phone when you’re on the toilet, only to realize you’ve been sitting there for 30 minutes! We’re faced with a relentless stream of flawless photos on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, sometimes at the expense of our mental health. Have you ever been cruising your social media and see someone post photos of a party, or a trip, and wonder why you aren’t doing as well as they are? If so, you aren’t the only one! Here are three ways that social media may be hurting your mental health, and how you can regain control over your happiness.  

1. Social media can hurt your self-esteem.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have our quirks and insecurities, whether we want to admit to them or not. It’s easy to get distracted browsing other peoples’ photos, and to get hung up on their ‘perfect’ trip, looks, relationship, house, or kids. We are prone to “upward social comparison” and jealousy on social networks, according to one German research paper.

Woman standing in front of waterfall holding sign that says "I'm here you not."
Narcissism and jealousy are two unhealthy aspects of the social media environment.
Image by Artem Beliaikin via Pexels

These feelings of envy can easily spiral into deeper feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, leaving you questioning or downright regretting your life choices. Many of us unfortunately gain some sense of self-worth based on how we are doing relative to other people, and when we do that, we begin to put our happiness in someone else’s hands.

Becoming more aware of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other people’s online profiles could help you focus more on yourself and boost your self-confidence. In addition to simply spending less time on social media, try to pay attention to what you’re thinking about when you scroll through your social media feed. Are you taking what you see at face value? Make sure you’re not putting others on a pedestal, because what people post on their social media is generally not a realistic portrayal of their daily life. For instance, on one of my Instagram accounts I post a lot of travel photos, and sometimes people will message me saying things like, “Oh I wish I could travel all the time like you”. What they don’t realize is that I love photography and I take a lot of photos when I travel. But that trip I’m posting photos from? It was 5 years ago, and I haven’t been on a trip since then. When I have a rare day off (I’m self employed and often work 3-4 months with no days off), I often go exploring and the photos I take during that one day, are the photos I might use on social media for the next month or two. So not everything you see on social media is an accurate depiction of someone’s life. Don’t become preoccupied with what other people are doing – do what makes you happy!

2. Sleep and social media don’t mix!

I don’t know about you, but I love sleep! But like most people I also wake up periodically during the night, and chances are you do too. Do you find yourself checking your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night? What about when you get up in the morning? Do you have a shower first, breakfast, or do you check your phone first thing in the morning? I know what my answer is, and I can’t say I’m proud of it!

Woman sitting on couch looking at cellphone at night.
Looking at your phone before bed can be hard on your eyes and your mind!
Image by Mikoto via Pexels

Processing information and potentially becoming wound up with frustration, stress, or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain overstimulated, keeping us from falling asleep. In addition to being overstimulated, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light from our phones and laptops can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep cycle. Want better sleep? Stop cuddling your phone and try to avoid using it for at least 30-60 minutes before bed, and see if you start sleeping more soundly!

3. Social media is distracting.

Last but not least, is the impact social media may have on your attention span. If you’ve read this far, there’s still hope for you! While we now have large amounts of information readily available to us thanks to social media, it also means that people have become much more easily distracted. Social media gives us almost instantaneous distraction and entertainment whenever we want it. That is, unless you live in the country like me, and spend half your time staring longingly at the progress wheel, contemplating selling a kidney if you could just watch one funny dog video on Youtube.  

Because of the amount of information being presented to us now, we have to focus on more things, but we are focusing on them for shorter amounts of time. While we still need to study issues like this in more depth, a study was published in Nature Communications by the Technical University of Denmark with results showing that our “collective attention spans” have shortened over time. This is a layered issue and social media may not permanently damage your attention span, but keep in mind that it does provide a regular and easily accessible distraction from undesirable responsibilities, which could become a habit over time if not properly managed.

As an exercise, especially if you find you can’t even go a few minutes without checking your phone, or you use it to procrastinate – try pushing yourself not to look at it for a certain amount of time. It may be hard at first, but it will get easier over time!  

Stay true to yourself and live in the real world.

Interaction, communication, and deeper connections are important for all of us to be healthy and content. When we have a phone or computer wedged between us and the rest of the world, true connection can become rare. When you start learning about the lives of your friends through their Facebook or Instagram accounts instead of by talking to them, you know you have a problem. Some social media connection can be great, but it can’t replace actual human connection. Make an active effort to be present when you’re with your family, friends, and coworkers.

Two happy young women and two happy young men having picnic on plaid blanket with tent and guitar.
Social media should never replace your real relationships with family and friends.
Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Do you think using social media has affected your mental health? Have you ever tried a hiatus from social media? Tell me about your experience in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!

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FACEBOOK: Is social media making you depressed? Find out three important ways social media could be affecting your mental health and what you can do about it! https://cutt.ly/Atd2xjE

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Blog 2 : Social Media highs and highs

Blog 2 : Social Media highs and highs

Source : childmags

Everyone is living life to the fullest on social media and rarely do we ever see the reality.

This leaves some people feeling as though their own life is lacking or even isolated. That person must not feel the same anxieties and fears that I do. But we only see the highlights, never the roots. Like eating too many cookies, bingeing on other peoples success could do more harm than good.

There are good habits that can help reverse that harm. Like eating less cookies and more vegetables. I know vegetables are yucky and who cares about the consequences. But just give it a try.

Next time you are somewhere with family or friends put down the phone and connect to your environment. Before bed put the phone on silence or airplane mode and try to get adequate sleep. Just being mindful of your own consumption and taking care of yourself will go a long way for your mental health.

I know myself I am not perfect and I do practice these habits but not to a tee. So where do you find yourself lacking when managing your social media consumption?

Could social media activity be a mental health indicator?

There have been any studies done that indicate excessive social media use can have an adverse affect on users. Besides the addictive properties and the risks of cyberbullies, social media can have a decidedly isolating effect. When we see friends getting married, going on vacation, living the life we want to live…well, that can be a little depressing.

But is it possible that your own social media activity could tell your doctor when your health might be taking a turn for the worse. According to a new study, that just may be possible. By analyzing the frequency and types of photos that users shared on Instagram, scientists from Harvard and Vermont universities were able to accurately predict who was suffering from depression.

StockSnap_LPTFYXTH2O

Science may be able to tell which one is suffering from depression – just by analyzing their social media posts

The potential implications are astounding. An app could notify a doctor that a patient may be slipping into a depressive state – before the patient even realizes it themselves. Someone at risk of a mental health illness might be able to receive treatment before they even know there’s a problem.

While it’s possible that social media is causing the problem in the first place, it comes as a bit of a relief that it may be able to diagnose it in the future. It seems that social media is developing a safety net for its users – which seems to make it a friend after all.

Twitter:

Could your social media activity help a doctor diagnose depression? Science says it may be possible http://bit.ly/2vhu5Sq

Facebook:

A new study says  your social media activity may be an indicator of your mental health. How could this be used to diagnose depression in the future? http://bit.ly/2vhu5Sq

 

How to Stay on Top of What’s Trending

Trends are some of the key ingredients to social media and promoting business, ideas, awareness and campaigns.  How do we capitalize on current trends and keep track of social media feeds when it all changes so rapidly?

There are some strategies and tips to help you monitor social media and use trends. Social Media the Next Generation 5 Steps to Keep Up

These aren’t rocket science.  It’s about staying connected, online, offline, to your business, and community.  Listening to your audience and what they’re saying.  Learning to follow the right people and seeing what their tweeting about.  Connecting to people in meetings and outside of meetings.  Oh… and of course… talking to “young people”!

7 Ways Ad Agency Pros Stay on Top of Social Media Trends

Of the 7 ways to stay on top of social media trends, the tip I found most useful was the use of an RSS reader (like Google Reader).  I really enjoy reading blog posts but sometimes there isn’t time!  This site has suggested Google Reader can help in following 300+ blog sites by organizing them into categories.  I’m not sure I’m about to go following hundreds of blogs, but I always enjoy tools to help organize and sort through to optimize my time.  Check out How To: Get the most out of Google Reader for more tips.

There’s more tools than just Google Reader!  How about the 5 best apps to staying on top of social media trends that are bound to help!

Do you have any apps you use to follow trends?  Organize your social media feeds?

Once you start to see what’s trending on social is when you can start joining your campaign and capitalizing on media.

Like today, my social media is filled with Robin Williams comments, movies, thoughts, pictures.  It’s no wonder with the sudden news of his death that mental health awareness campaigns will spread their message together with the trending news.

View image on Twitter

 Williams’ death brings mental health issues to the fore

How do you use trends in your business?

 

http://www.receptional.com/blog/social-media-5-ways-to-keep-on-top-of-changing-trends
http://ernestbarbaric.com/strategy-apps-trends/