Jo with sunglasses in foreground smiling at camera with river, fields and sunshine in the background

Lost in a social media rabbit hole

This year, I noticed myself developing a bit of an unhealthy and unproductive habit of scrolling through social media when I woke up in the mornings - especially if I was waking up before the alarm. I was spending a good 20 minutes or more going down a social media rabbit hole and then feeling bad about it afterwards, thinking I could have done something much more healthy with my time... feeling like I was throwing my valuable time away and not making the most of it. It had become easy and familiar to lie snug and comfy with my duvet heavily packed around me, watching videos of haircuts, cute kittens, dog-training and random other stuff... not really helpful and not conducive to me getting up and starting my day on the right foot.

Once I'd noticed this habit and decided I didn't like it, I changed it.

I now get up as soon as I wake up. I make myself a cup of herbal tea and I go into the garden to watch the sunrise over the fields while I listen to an audio book on Audible. Usually, it's a book I can learn something from, that's going to improve or help my mindset in some way. Or, I go for a short walk.

Not only does this get me feeling positive but it also exposes my eyes to early morning light (something that's really important for our circadian rhythms and helps better sleep).

I don't know if you've read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg? If not, I highly recommend it.

He introduces a formula which gives a helpful explanation of how our behaviours work:

B = M+A+P

Behaviour = Motivation + Ability + Prompt

In other words, in order for us to perform an action or behaviour (whether it's a good, healthy one like going for a walk after dinner or a bad, unhealthy one like reaching for the bottle after dinner) there have to be three things in place:

1. the motivation to do it
2. the ability to do it (it has to be easy), and
3. a prompt to do it.

In my case, the behaviour I'd adopted of scrolling through social media was happening because the motivation, ability and prompt (MAP) were all in place. I was motivated to scroll because it was entertaining, it was automatic, I could stay comfortable in bed, it was a gentle way to wake up - it had become an automated and unconscious habit. The ability to do it was there - it was EASY! My phone, which I was using for an alarm, was by my bed - I could reach out an arm, turn the alarm off and start scrolling all in one deft movement. The prompt was waking up. It had become a totally unconscious and habitual action: I wake up, I reach for my phone, I start scrolling.

To change the habit into something more healthy, I had to disrupt the MAP.

I had to create the motivation to do something different. I had to reduce the ability to scroll by making it harder and I had to change my automatic programming to change my response to the prompt. I had to learn to use waking up as a prompt for something else more purposeful.

So, I've done just that. My waking up routine is now very different. The first thing I do when I wake up is get up. My phone is now in the kitchen so I have to get up and turn off the alarm by hauling myself out of bed and walking through to another room. Because I'm in the kitchen, I put the kettle on and make a herbal tea. I then go into the garden (in all weathers) or go for a short walk and listen to a short segment of an audio book on Audible. (pic below of me on my short walk complete with Shokz headset, listening to Tiny Habits on Audible and catching some morning sun!)

Notice how I've disrupted the MAP and created a new MAP for my new behaviour?

Motivation - I increased my motivation to make a healthier start to the day by focusing on all the benefits it brings me: a sense of purpose; a healthy and positive mindset; a better sleep pattern. I'm also learning - by choosing books to listen to that are teaching me something, I'm expanding and developing my knowledge and usually end up feeling calm, refreshed and a little bit wiser. It certainly puts me in a good mood! By focusing on the benefits my new habit brings me, I have helped to motivate myself to do things differently.

Ability - I made it hard instead of easy to scroll by moving my phone to the kitchen before I go to bed. I made it easy to make a cup of herbal as my very first action by having my phone in the kitchen. I made it easy to spend 20 minutes in the garden with my cup of tea or going for a walk by getting my chair, wellies and waterproofs ready the night before.

Prompt - I've changed the meaning of the same prompt. Waking up is no longer the prompt for reaching for my phone, it's become the prompt for making a cup of tea and catching some morning sun rays to start the day well. I have done this through practise and repetition.

We can apply this MAP model to creating new, healthier habits in place of drinking too. I loved what one of our members said when she posted in the Facebook Group a couple of weeks' ago about how she motivates herself to embrace sober life by focusing on the positives. She suggests we have to:

"be brave and think about all the positives and time you get back, the new hobbies you can start, new friends you will meet..."

Those three positive benefits alone are really strong motivation for creating a new behaviour. All that time you get back gives you great flexibility and helps you be more productive, rest more, play more. The new hobbies, activities and interests you can develop are enriching and fulfilling - they can also open up the door to the third one, meeting and making new friends. And, these will more likely be the type of friends who will offer you healthy connections and support that will add something of huge value to your life.

By focusing on the benefits to you of staying sober, you make it easier to disrupt your old drinking MAP and to create a new one. And, as our member says: "it’s the best thing I have ever done with myself".

What can you do today to boost your motivation for staying sober?


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