Today's episode is a real-time update on my own social media detox and how what started as a pause revealed a deeper need.
I also lay out a practical framework for you to use in sorting out the distractions, numbing, or unhealthy coping tactics in your life and how to replace them with the life-giving, soul-nourishing things you actually crave.
1. What my own detox revealed about my use of social media
2. A roadmap for how to pinpoint areas in your own life that might need a detox
3. Healthy ways to escape, soothe, or find comfort
4. What is the difference between a fast and a detox?
5. Can I find a healthy balance with certain distractions?
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Also in this series: Episode 35: Change is Hard—Why We All Need to Detox From Unhealthy Dependencies From Time to Time
- Leave your questions about this topic here: Detox Question Doc
- For more on how to "Start with Yes" see Chapter 6 of The Best of You, by Dr. Alison Cook
- So Worth Loving
- 1 Corinthians 10:23
- Matthew 4:1-11
- My Tech-Wise Life, by Andy Crouch
- The Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch
- Psalm 16:6-8
The Best of You Podcast: Ways to Detox Your Heart, Mind and Soul
Episode 35 with Dr. Alison Cook
12th Jan, 2023
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Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are, with God's help.
Hey everyone, and welcome back to The Best of You podcast. I am so glad you're back and that we get to continue this conversation, about how to detox, specifically, how to detox mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When we've cluttered up our lives with sometimes even good things.
So, today's episode is a first for me, but I need to share with you a real-time update on my own detox, from the last few months. It directly relates to this topic, and I want to share that update with you as an example, as an illustration, of what can happen if you decide to remove something, from your life, that you suspect might be causing, unnecessary, clutter, noise, even toxicity in your own nervous system, in your own mind, in your own heart, in your own soul.
So I've got a real-time example from my own life, and then I'm going to give you some really practical resources and tips for you, as you seek to, potentially, detox from something. And, more importantly, move toward the life-giving, nourishing good things your heart, mind, and soul need.
All right, so here's my update. Sometimes a detox is a brief timeout to reboot and reset, and then you pick that thing back up.
So it's an opportunity to hit the reset button so that you can gain clarity or wisdom, about how you use that thing. But then you pick that thing back up from a healthier place; with moderation, with perspective, with healthier boundaries around it.
However, sometimes a detox reveals a deeper dependency, that it's going to need a more substantive shift. It becomes less like a reset, like a pause, "I paused, I got some perspective. I got some clarity. Now, I'm just, basically, going back to my life as it was, but it was really helpful to have that time away from that thing."
It's less of that and more like a shift. And when I think of a shift, I think of a ship, like a big ship, out on the ocean where it's been going in one direction. And ever so slowly and ever so steadily, it actually needs to shift the entire body of that ship to move in a different direction.
And this is what I mean by a more substantive shift, that suddenly this detox revealed a dependency. That actually once you remove it, it's going to change the whole way that ship had been going. Such that even if it's a tiny degree, it's not like it's doing a U-turn, it's just changing a couple of degrees to the left or the right.
It requires a more substantial change all the way through, again, your mind, your heart, your soul, and your nervous system. And you may not have even known it going into that detox. You're going to need, completely, different boundaries with the thing from which you detoxed. And that, it turns out, is what the case is with me. As I mentioned in last week's episode, episode 35, I started a detox from social media in November of 2022, about six weeks ago.
This was an information overload detox. I was noticing that when I went on social media, nothing really good was coming from it. Instead, I was just noticing this clamor, this din in my heart, soul, and mind.
So I took the time off, as I discussed last week, and really did notice a change. Noticed a slowing down, a calmer nervous system, just a lot of health that came from that time away. And I was super grateful for it, but I still wasn't considering the possibility that I wouldn't go back on. I just assumed that once the six weeks were up, I would resume my regular practices with social media. That had been the plan.
So last week I scheduled my first post. It was in conjunction with the last week's podcast episode. I scheduled it through a third-party app that I use. I work with two amazing women through an organization called So Worth Loving. They design my words, it's my words but I am terrible with design, as I've mentioned on this podcast.
I'm great with words, not so great with making things pretty. So they take my words and make them pretty and post them through this app. So I don't have to go on social media to create the post and schedule it.
So I'd scheduled the post, and I knew that it was coming out on Thursday. I had deleted all of my social media apps off my phone.
And every day, leading up to Thursday, knowing that post was going to come out, I could not bring myself to put those apps back on my phone. I just couldn't do it. Nothing in my body wanted to do that. So the post went out Thursday morning, many of you saw it, but I still had yet to download the apps and go back on social media myself.
Now this created some tension inside of me and I want to pause here, just as a side note. A lot of people, especially bigger names and brands that have hundreds of thousands of people following them. A lot of those people pay other people to post for them. They may use a service to post for them, it's very common. That's not an uncommon thing.
Typically, you might think you're interacting with a celebrity or even an author, but a lot of times it is someone else. And some people disclose this by noting, in the comments, that they're writing on behalf of the person, that they're part of their team.
Sometimes you don't know. There's nothing wrong with that per se. I've just never done it that way. I've pretty much done it myself. So if it's me on there commenting or interacting with you, it's me, and that feels important to me. That's a part of me feeling authentic. So it felt very weird, to me, to have a post out there and not actually be on the app.
And, again, it's a minor thing, I don't think anybody has a problem with that. But, to me, that brought up some tension inside because that's not how I've ever done it. But I could not get myself to download those apps. I just didn't want to go back on.
It was fine with me that the scheduled post had posted. I wanted people to know about the podcast episode. I want to use that as a place for people to know about the work that I'm doing. I'm excited about that. I want people to listen to the podcast. I want you to share it with friends. I want it to be available to people. I believe in it. But I just couldn't get myself to download those apps.
So, finally, I decided to test it. I went in through my browser, on my computer, instead of through the app. So this is actually a way that I had created, sort of an obstacle for myself. I'll talk about that more later in the episode. But when you have a square on your phone. Your phone is with you all the time. It's just so easy to click that square, you're immediately in that portal. There's no obstacle to it.
But by not having the apps on my phone, I had to go to my computer, log into my browser, put the URL on my browser to get the feed up on my screen. It's a lot harder to do, and that's one of the ways that I have created boundaries with it in the past.
So I used my browser to log on, on Thursday, to test it out. Talking myself through it, this inner tension, a part of me being like, "I need to be on social media, I said, I was going to go back. But do you really have to go back? Why do you have to go back?"
There was all this inner noise inside of me. And the first thing I saw was a picture of a friend. Someone I love, someone I have only positive feelings toward.
And I instantly noticed my nervous system amp up. It felt like a hit of adrenaline, and all that noise started to swirl back into my mind. The clamor, the comparison, the criticism, the competitiveness, just the noise.
And I just immediately got back out, I couldn't continue. I tried it again, later that day, this time I saw someone whose podcast I listened to. I don't know this person in real life, I love their podcast, listen to it almost every week. But just seeing the post on social media, it was like my whole nervous system just froze. It's like, "I can't do it. I'm out."
Something about just the level, the sheer level, of noise, of information, of data. The dancing swirling lights of all that comes with the Feed, with the social media Feed, just obliterated that sense of calm in about 30 seconds or less by just simply looking.
And other deeper voices started to emerge. "I don't want that."
"I don't need that."
"Why do I need that?"
"Do I have to have that?"
"Do I have to be here?"
"Why can't I just say no?" Now, spoiler alert, my word of the year, this year, is no. I need to give myself permission to say no to things. It's not a word I like to use. In fact, I have friends who tease me that if I say, "Maybe" that means no. I hate saying no. So I'm learning how to say no. All of this was stirred up inside of me, Thursday.
And as much as every part of me was like, "No, I don't have to do this." Other parts of me were nervous. When you're an author, you're supposed to show up online. You're supposed to have a presence.
But where was that pressure really coming from? It hasn't come from you all, my listeners. Every time I've talked about boundaries I've needed to set or every time I've posted about needing to take a break from social media. The people who follow my work, you all, this community, people who are on my email list are nothing but supportive saying, "I get it."
"Me too, I've had to go off social media."
"Good for you, do what you need to do."
Nobody in my real life or in this community has given me pressure to be on social media. But somewhere in my mind was this idea of "This is what I'm supposed to do. I'm an author, I'm a podcast host, I should have a presence on social media."
And I began to realize that this particular detox was not a simple reset. This was going to have to be a shift. It was going to create more change than I originally thought. And I began to think about new boundary lines.
Now, this is real-time, this happened in about three days, but I began to take my own advice. I talk about it in chapter six from The Best of You, "When you realize you're going to need new boundary lines, to start with, 'Yes'". And the big question that I needed to be able to answer yes to is what can I say yes to?
I want to stay connected with people. I want to stay connected with the people who follow my work. I want to stay connected with friends. I want to stay connected with colleagues, with other thought leaders who I enjoy. I want to stay connected. That was a clear yes. But on the other hand, my body is saying, "No, I cannot do this scrolling." And it really was very clear. It was just the dancing, blaring lights of all the information overload that I had to say no to.
So over the course of the few days, what became very clear to me, and it was really a result of the whole two months, was, oh, my goodness, what I learned was, I love this podcast. I love hosting it. I love preparing for it. I love engaging your questions that you send me through the Doc, through comments, through emails.
I love the private book club community we just started on Facebook, it was life-giving to me. I enjoyed logging on. It was easy for me to set healthy boundaries for it. I have some help doing it. It didn't feel like information overload. I love reaching out to friends I've actually made online, personally. I have other ways that I can get to those people. I could still stay connected in all of those ways.
None of those things stirred up the same noise, the clamor, the dancing lights of too much. It wasn't the people or the community. It wasn't the ideas, it was the scrolling Feed, that never ending dancing, blaring lights, ping, ping, ping, so much overload to my system.
It's just too much for the way God has made me. It's too much for the way my nervous system is wired. There are good things about being someone who's highly sensitive, highly intuitive, highly empathetic. Highly responsible to the information I take in. Those are good qualities, and they are not super conducive to a really active social media Feed. It's too much for me.
My body wasn't saying no to the good aspects of connecting in various ways. But it was saying no to the cacophony and clamor of noise in my Feed. Of getting all that information in one blast, without any boundaries. On when I could receive it, and pace it, and be fully present to the information I was receiving in a way that honors both the other person and honors me. That allows me to show up, authentically, in the way that God made me.
I had lunch with a friend, over Christmas, and she said it much more simply. She's not someone who's on social media a lot, but she said one day she realized, "I often have this ugh feeling in my mind, heart, and soul. And when I took time to trace that, ugh, feeling back, so frequently, it went back to something I saw on social media. Either something that just triggered me or something that I now knew that I didn't have any ability to help with." Yes, that was me.
There's a lot of hard things in life we've got to learn to respond to wisely, that we don't have control over. This was something I do have control over. So I'm making a shift, the shift in real time is that you'll see posts from me, on social media, from time to time, much less frequently. These posts will relate to this podcast or things I've written that I want you to know about.
But I won't be hanging out on my Feed personally.
This simple boundary, it's small but it's something that will, exponentially, improve my own emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Healing work is almost always boundaries work.You figure out what you want to say yes to. And that backs you into the very clear thing that you can set a boundary with, to keep your own emotional, mental, and spiritual health intact.[00:17:10] < Music >
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Alison: I want to walk you through a map for how you might engage your own work of detoxing. Especially in this technology information stuff category. Just this stuff that clutters up our hearts, souls, and mind. Last week I taught you to ask yourself the question, "What is the cost?"
Whenever you are trying to make a change in your life, what is the cost?
This week, as you think about getting specific about how to slow down your nervous system. How to detox or declutter some of the noise in your life, that is keeping you from calm, clear, grounded, brave ways of showing up in your everyday life. I want to give you a framework; number one, name it. Name the thing that you suspect, at this moment in time, is keeping you distracted, cluttered, even in some unhealthy ways of coping.
Now, when you name something, you do so without shame. You name it without shame. For me November, early November, it's social media, I see it. Every time I hit that app, nothing good happens. So name it without shame.
Get really granular about it. Is it the app on your phone? Is it a habit of buying things? What is the portal into this clutter, this distraction? This dependence on something else that's taking you off or away from this beautiful life God has for you?
Imagine that ship, that's just a little bit off, maybe, it's not even a U-turn. But it just is a little bit off, what's that thing? Just take a moment, reflect on it, pray about it, and name it. What is that thing that is stirring up any of those three Cs of clamor, of comparison, of criticism, of yourself or others, of competitiveness in an unhealthy way inside of you?
Number two, frame it. So we're going to name it, then we're going to frame it. And when I think of framing it, I think of the four sides of a picture frame. We're going to try to get the big picture here, to get some context on this thing. And the four sides of that picture frame are four question words. Number one, why? Why do you depend on it?
Maybe you're bored, tired, sad, needing a legitimate escape. Maybe you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed. And, so, it's so easy just to grab that quick fix, instant feel-good thing. Why do you depend on it?
Number two, when do you turn to it? That'll also give you a clue to your why. Is that at night; when you're tired, when you're lonely, when you're stressed, when you're worried? When are you turning to it? So there's the why and the when, and see if that'll help you frame this thing that you're wanting to detox from.
Number three, how? How do you access it? Is it an app? Is it technology? Is it a phone? Is it a store that you go into? Is it a friend that you call that isn't actually healthy? We're going to get into that next week, unhealthy relational dependencies.
How does this come up for you?
Is it a location?
Is it a group that you're a part of? That you're just noticing stirs up a clamor, a cacophony inside of you, that isn't helpful to you.
And number four, this is key, what healthier option might be available to you? Because, as we discussed last week, these things, these distractions, these numbing devices, these coping strategies are serving a purpose. We need something, and parts of us have learned to rely on this thing to meet that need. But there might be a better way to meet that need.
For example, over the past two months when I was not on social media, my body started to shift, almost, imperceptively to me. I've noticed it far more in the last week. When I've realized I don't want to be scrolling because I've discovered, oh, my goodness, so much more life-giving beautiful, healthy things for my system, instead of scrolling mindlessly.
I began to recover a joy in books, imagine that reading a book before bed. Good movies, I hadn't watched a movie in so long and a really good, beautiful, well-told story that could transport me for an hour, 90 minutes, when I needed to decompress. When I needed my mind to log off in a healthy way, I could lose myself in a story through a movie, through a book, that actually gave me that escape that I needed.
I began to remember the way that I used to rely on thinkers, from time to time. By getting their book, or by listening to a podcast, or watching a documentary. I can pace the information intake in those ways. I could both hear and be heard, with friends, when I picked up the phone versus engaging them through social media. And I began to think about, and I want to offer this to you today, three primary categories, for this question of what is a healthier option available to you?
The first is beauty, movies, art, nature, music. These are all forms of beauty. We need beauty. We need to be transported into other places in our minds, sometimes. Animals are another thing that can be beautiful, I've put animals under nature. Those of you who get outside with animals, with horses, with dogs, whatever it is, these nourish us and they give us healthy escape.
Category number two, connection, talking to friends in a healthy way about what we're feeling, about what's worrying us. Finding a group, it's hard when you're lonely. It's hard to get out there and do the work of finding a therapist, finding a support group, finding a small group. But maybe that's the good work that our hearts, souls, and minds need.
And then category number three, rest. Because so much of these distraction, and numbing, and coping things, that sneak in, come in when we're tired and we need rest. And scrolling through a Feed is not giving my soul, heart, and mind the rest that I need.
And I don't know what it is for you, but I do want to say this rest is not just sleeping. It's not just taking a nap. It's quiet. It's a calm nervous system. It's awareness. It's noticing what feels restful to you. It might be a slow walk. It might be dancing, moving your body in a fun, creative way. There's a million things it could be, when we slow ourselves down enough to pay attention.
So we're naming the thing that we need a break from. We're framing it; why we use it, when we use it, how we use it, and what might be a healthier option instead of it, at least, for a little while. And then number three, we're going to tame it. And by taming it, we go into action. We've done the pre-work, we've thought about it, we've named it. We have these coping tactics for a reason. So it's going to take a minute to see, and discover, what those good things are that you need.
So, now, it's time we've backed into it to remove the item for a specific period of time. Now, if you've relied on this thing for a while, go slowly, maybe just start with a day. Say, "I'm going to see what a day is like, and I'm going to do this differently." Just one day.
Maybe you start with one week. Just one week, "I'm going to see what my life is like without this thing I've named. And I'm going to experiment, and notice, and ask myself what feels different, what feels good?" It takes a little bit to notice that. And then at the end of that set period of time. You're going to ask yourself, "Is this something I can use in moderation, in a healthy way?"
Or "Is this something I need to continue to take a break from? This might be something that isn't healthy, for me, at all, and I'm going to need more time away from it."
As Paul says in Corinthians, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is edifying." This is about learning moderation, and this is also about discovering the deeper root of comfort, of pleasure, of real nourishment that our souls crave.
It's about uncovering those cheap substitutes and uncovering the goodness that we all need. It's going to be different for all of us. It's going to be different for all of us. For me, it happened to be the dancing, blaring lights of social media. It may be something different for you.
Now, I want to close today by responding to a couple of your questions. Number one, Michelle asked, "What is the difference between a fast and a detox?" And this is a great question. I'm so glad you asked it.
A fast is really a spiritual practice. It's a giving up something to remind yourself to turn toward God. Jesus fasted from food for 40 days in the wilderness. He took away a good thing, a good source of nourishment, as a way to grow spiritually deeper and deeper in His dependence on God the Father.
So when we fast, we tend to model after Jesus. Typically, it's food, different people have different ideas about that. But the idea is you remove something, primarily, to seek prayer and seek greater dependence on God. So there's an overlap there.
We want to include God in this process of a detox. Absolutely, this has been a deeply spiritual journey for me. But a detox is a little bit different; you're identifying something that's a distraction. A source of numbing, an unhealthy dependence, an unhealthy way of coping. In order to discover a healthier way of finding the comfort, the beauty, the connection, the real rest your heart, soul, mind, and body need.
So a detox is about learning to realign yourself, your whole system, so that you are moving in the right direction. Imagine that ship, that is just subtly gotten off course and it needs to reorient itself in a healthier, better way.
Another question that came in from Lisa, "When I think about detoxing, I think about cutting something out of my life entirely. But what if the thing isn't actually bad and is possibly even a good thing. But it's the way the thing is being used that is causing the problem."
It's a great question, Lisa gave the example of exercise. I know folks who can depend, in unhealthy ways, on cleaning. But it can really become a distraction for people, some otherwise good things. And I would just offer you some thoughts on moderation.
One of the tips I would offer you is this idea of just getting into that framing. The why, the when, the how. The why, the when, and the how you're using that thing? And then what's something you could turn toward instead?
So let's say you do the exercise, or you do the good thing, or maybe you're on social media. And you do that for the prescribed amount of time that feels healthy and right to you. But then you're still tempted to do it above and beyond that for XYZ reasons. What's something else you could do instead? And that's going to depend a lot on that, "Why".
Is it because you're tired?
Is it because you are sad?
Is it because you are worried?
Is that why you're turning to that thing more than you should? And if that's the case, think of those categories. What are other outlets for this worry, this stress, this tiredness, that I'm feeling that helps me to connect myself into God. Connection, do I need comfort?
Do I need the comfort of a listening ear?
And then rest; do I need to actually downshift my nervous system instead of up shifting it?
Do I actually maybe need to take a slow walk? To invite a friend to walk with me so I don't overdo it?
So, again, getting back to that framing so that you learn what is at the root of it, and what is something you could replace that impulse with? So, as we close, I want to offer you just a couple of practical tools. I recommend two books by Andy Crouch one is called; My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices.
And the other is his book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Those are two great resources if you are struggling with information overload, and need to set some healthy boundaries with it.
I also want to just close with the words of the psalmist who said, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night, my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
Take the Lord with you into this journey and the boundary lines will fall in pleasant places. I am amazed at what God has done in my life through a simple decision I made in mid-November. There's more to it that I haven't even scratched the surface of it, on this podcast episode.
God honors our small, brave steps. He will honor a small, brave step you take to move away from what distracts you and toward what brings you the good things, the nourishment, the comfort, the delight, the joy, the real nourishment, your mind, heart, soul, and body crave.[00:36:02] < Outro >
Alison: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.