Humans are flawed creatures. No matter what kind of tool we are given, there is a part of human nature and a subset of our society, which will always become addicted. Somehow we manage to take great tools and abuse them to the point they are no longer useful.
Given how fast technology has been innovating, it is no wonder our brains have a hard time avoiding addiction. We're still evolving and we are still growing. Instead of being scolded for bad habits, use this list as an opportunity to revisit tools you use and whether you have a healthy relationship to them.
Too Much of a Good Thing, Is a Bad Thing
Social Media - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are amazing inventions that allow us to stay connected across the globe. Consider how many friends you had during university that you can still communicate with while living thousands of miles apart. It's a a technological wonder, but it's prone to addiction as well. Instead of seeking real connection with those around us, sometimes we get caught up trying to connect with humans through social media and on our phones. It's a false sense of connection especially when we derive our sense of worth from "likes" and "hearts."
Work / Professionalism - In a world where consumerism and capitalism are king, working hard is both applauded and (in many professions) expected. Trying to achieve isn't a bad thing, but what are the sources of your desire? Consider whether you are working 80 hours a week because you want the approval of your parents, peers and the opposite sex, or whether it is something that comes from within. Only you have the answer, but just because society considers "working hard" to be a good thing, doesn't mean it should go without self-reflection.
Exercise and Fitness - For some people, the hard part isn't getting into the gym, but getting out. Exercise produces all types of endorphins and chemicals in the brain, which feel good and can grow addictive. It's easy for some to get into a physical flow during exercise, shut out the mental noise and feel fantastic. Type "running" into Google and you'll find that the first search recommendation is "running high," and the first result is "how to achieve a runner's high." Run for the wrong reasons and what is the difference?
Stimulation - How often do you sit silently looking at a wall or just being alone with the thoughts in your head? For some people, the only time this happens is right before they fall asleep for a few minutes. Our lives are being constantly filled with some type of stimulation whether it is television, music or news articles. Even the "good" kind of stimulation that helps us to grow as humans, such as interesting podcasts, educational books or documentaries are all stimulating our brains and preventing internal reflection.
In the Face of Addiction
These four habits are difficult to analyze given the perspective our society usually takes on them. Most advice suggests that exercising is healthy and working hard is good, but this is not always true. Here are some actionable tips for you to face an addiction to any of these items:
Noticing Motives - The first step is just about developing an awareness within yourself to understand your motives. When do you feel like checking your phone most often? Most likely it is not when you are with all of your best friends. The habit shows up the most when you feel alone and are disconnected from other humans. Once you are aware of your motives, it is easier to diagnose and treat.
Take Regular Fasts - Our ancestors of all faiths used fasting from food as a way of resetting their relationship to what they consumed. Today, you can use the same concept when it comes to any practice you may be addicted to. When you go to the grocery store, leave your phone at home for a while. Take a trip with your phone on airplane mode. Stop exercising for a few days longer than usual. Whatever your fast looks like, it is going to help reset your relationship and give you a useful perspective.
Take a Nuclear Option - Sometimes old habits die hard. Even with something as innocuous as social media, if you cannot get it under control then you are out of control. There are plenty of immersive treatment centers that will allow (and force) you to unplug from certain things. One option is called a Vipassana meditation retreat, which includes 10 days with no phone, no exercise, no talking and no eye contact. It's enough to rid anyone of almost any addiction.