Friday, February 6, 2015

Can You Handle the 9 to 9 Challenge?

If you are anything like me, you start your day with a cup of coffee and logging onto the computer. I check blog comments, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and so on. I may hop over to Pinterest or Instagram. I dabble with the news, where something horrible has certainly happened, and I shake my head sadly at the screen and take another swig from my mug. There's nothing else I can do about a downed plane across the globe or a heist that killed thirty tourists two days ago. I don't think much about tho morning clicking about. This routine has just become the norm. Maybe it has for you, too?

I think this is normal, but I'm not sure it's the best thing for us. I'm not opposed to those websites and use many of them. I consider them assets to communication, business, marketing and entertainment. But a few weeks ago I heard two men talking on a podcast I love and their conversation had my mind reeling in the best way possible. (It's free to listen to and all kinds of wonderful, so check it out.) What the podcast's guest talked about was the feeling of lacking so many of us consider normal now. He explained how we are now forced to constantly compare ourselves to others, thanks to social media. You may not even realize you are doing it, or it is happening, but it is.

That struck me. They went on to talk about this in detail. The man explained that while those websites do have lots of inspiration and friendly news, we also can't help but compare our lives to other lives in our news feed. You read about people's accomplishments, purchases, new haircuts, birthday parties, weight loss, awards, date nights, perfect food, babies, new cars, and so on into minutia. No matter how self aware and wholesome you may be, it is in our natures to devour all this information and internalize it. We compare ourselves, find desires we can't have, and vacations we can't take. You'll find something about yourself that is lacking, no matter what. This may motivate you or depress you, but either way you are starting your day with lack.

You. Are. Lacking. Nothing.

You don't need to buy anything, be anyone else, achieve anything wondrous, or take photos of your sushi to feel fulfilled. You don't need to start your day with ads telling you otherwise. You don't need to hear about Becky's toddler's gym pass. You don't need to get scared, angry, confused, or sad. And I really think forcing this level of socialization at the beginning and end of our days makes our lives worse. Let all that stuff come into your brain after you already took time for yourself to set your own mood, goals, gratitude and love for yourself that day. The planes still crashed and Steve still caught that giant bass, but you can wait till you remind yourself you already are perfection before you get into the shower... Start your day as a creator and not a consumer. Start it accepting, if only for a minute or two, that you're okay exactly as you are right now.

So here is what I'm proposing. I'm not saying you should avoid these sites but I am going to put a moratorium on them between the hours of 9PM and 9AM. Those 12 hours are the ends of my day, and since I am up several hours before 9 and go to bed several hours after nine - it means I am not bookending the dawn or dusk of my day with comparisons.

I know some of you will balk at this. You may love starting your day with the news (I'm not talking about weather, but news) or checking in with your tweets and wall. You don't feel that it effects you in any negative way. Great! Good for you! I still urge you to try this for three days, because even if you have nothing but fellow church members and family on Facebook the world of Social Media (and new media) is littered with ads, fluff stories, and the kind of stuff that crawls into your brain stem and can still poison you. Don't start your day with poison.

You have the entire day to read about horrors and tragedy. You can swing over to your favorite gossip site and diss celebrities and criticize novels after lunch. Can't wait to slam that new TV show in an Amazon review... how about you just shelf that till 9:01AM? Your morning is better than that, so is your evening. Make the commitment to create, love, thank, and praise in this time instead. You might discover you no longer have the desire to hurt when you take the time to heal instead.

So what to do with your free time? Now it's just you and the flaccid iPad at breakfast? How about watching, reading, or creating ANYTHING that puts you in a mood of happiness and gratitude. It doesn't have to be something new-agey and fluffy. I am talking basic. Avoid the news or that local columnist you can't stand and instead play your favorite bands' Tiny Desk Concert and dance in the kitchen. Put on a favorite movie that makes you laugh, and watch some of it while you sip your tea. Not into music or movies? Make that time a time for quiet and meditation. Read a favorite chapter from a novel you know by heart. Read a poem, pray to your God, or pet your dog and take a morning walk instead. Sit and count your breath and see if you can make yourself smile for one full minute. Get out a journal and write all the things you are so grateful to have in your life. Take that piece of paper and slip it into your pocket and carry it with you all day. Read anything that inspires you and makes you feel like anything is possible. Laugh at cat videos. Watch the birds at the feeder. It doesn't matter. Just don't start your day feeling lack. Start it loving.

It matters that the first thing you absorb in your day is something positive and empowering.  I know that social media can have things like that but it also has all the other  junk as well. You don't need to start your day going to a job you wish you could quit and first reading someone's update about how they just got a promotion and are moving to Bali to become a celebrity scuba instructor. Hell, you don't need to even hear about Linda's new Toyota Corolla. Why? That can all wait for after 9AM. You can start your day feeling that comparison and lack, a subtle self-flagellation, or choose to hold off until you took time to be quiet, grateful, smile and happy.

So that is my challenge. Can you give up social media, hard-hitting news, and any other sort of Lack Fishing at the beginning and end of your day? Can you start your day instead with a moment of thankfulness and joy and end your night without laying in bed wondering how you too can afford to take the family to DisneyWorld like the Stevensons? Just don't. End your day with laughter and love. Watch a comedy, have sex, prepare a meal, play a board game, high five fiends watching the game together with wings and beer... do anything but get sucked into that well of lack that is constant comparison.

What do you say? Can you try it for just three days?

I am going to try. I am going to start my days with music, creative writing, animals, design, and laughter. I will end my nights with friendship, comedy, and warmth. I have twelve hours between to read sad news stories, check all those social sites, and get distracted by Reddit AMAs. But I am taking back the hours from 9 to 9 and using those to make my own life one of bliss. And I bet if you make it three days you can make it a week. And if you can make it a week you may find yourself in a better place all together. How could you not be if every morning starts with a thankful heart and a reason to dance and every evening ends laughing?

So, Will you join me for the 9 to 9 Challenge?


Blogger Nancy Lewis said...

Thank you so much, Jenna, for this post. Truly, there is nothing like getting up and watching the sun come up with coffee in hand, watching the remainder of the scurrying of night animals, taking what I consider the best time of the day to feel what being alive is all about.

February 6, 2015 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Sam Sheehan said...

Yes! I'm in. Starting my mornings with a blank sketchbook page, ending curled up with the emberverse series, this is my plan.

February 6, 2015 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Right on Nancy and Sam!

February 6, 2015 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Thera F. said...

I already kind of do this. I wake up and spend the first 10 mins just sitting up in bed, looking out the window. Then I take the required trip to the loo and make coffee for hubby and I. This is where it gets tricky, at about 7 am he turns on the news and it's on for app 15 mins, to check the weather, for school bus cancellations, road conditions etc., but all the bad stuff is also in there. Once he leaves I turn the tv off, get the kids out of bed, off to school etc and generally do not sit down at the computer or even check the phone for the first time, until about 8:30.
Evenings are easy, I am usually sick of the computer by 8 or 9 and prefer spending time with hubby or the kids.

February 6, 2015 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Thera F. said...

I already kind of do this. I wake up and spend the first 10 mins just sitting up in bed, looking out the window. Then I take the required trip to the loo and make coffee for hubby and I. This is where it gets tricky, at about 7 am he turns on the news and it's on for app 15 mins, to check the weather, for school bus cancellations, road conditions etc., but all the bad stuff is also in there. Once he leaves I turn the tv off, get the kids out of bed, off to school etc and generally do not sit down at the computer or even check the phone for the first time, until about 8:30.
Evenings are easy, I am usually sick of the computer by 8 or 9 and prefer spending time with hubby or the kids.

February 6, 2015 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

What a great post Jenna. I will try it! My worst thing (yet I do it everyday) is to go onto CBC news or Facebook and see people calling people idiots if they dont vaccinate their children. Seems to be happening on a daily basis. Or judging based on religious beliefs or political stances. Just ridiculous and it gets me right riled up. You are right. We should not begin and end our days with that.

February 6, 2015 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Michelle: exactly! this challenge is a suggestion, and its not about not doing what you like its about taking time for peace and joy instead of inundating yourself with comparisons or negativity. You have all day to feel like that, but don't start and end your day with it.

February 6, 2015 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger ebwhite said...

YES - Yes, my television is almost never turned on except for Downton Abbey and a couple other PBS programs. I can get the weather forecast and scan for a few news/political stories on my computer. 9 to 9 a great idea.

February 6, 2015 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I do this already! On the computer when I work from home, and listen to books when driving for work.
Other than that spend time outside taking care of critters or in the kitchen, or reading.
Jeesh, why would anyone think this is hard?

February 6, 2015 at 10:09 AM  
OpenID rawketstarling said...

I really, really like this idea. I try to "unplug", but I think instead of using my smartphone as the alarm clock, I'll let it charge in the kitchen, and use an old iPod radio as the alarm. I don't like rolling over and then laying there, literally not even out of bed yet!, checking my instagram.
I have been trying to be more mindful of the tiny rituals I can create here, to make my home a true sanctuary--music while I shower, always always a beautiful mug for my morning tea, etc. What a good way to try to forge new rituals!

February 6, 2015 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

Challenge accepted. We don't watch TV so the kids and I are always (it seems) on our idevices and the computer. I do cut off the kids an hour before bedtime and they switch to drawing or books. It makes sense to cut myself off too.

February 6, 2015 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I'm halfway there. I spend my me time at night knitting usually. I'll try pushing off that first fb check in until later in the morning instead of during breakfast and try for more mindfullness then.

February 6, 2015 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

I gave up my morning checking-of-the-news ritual about two months ago (because I was starting the morning sick to my stomach over all the ISIS beheadings and whatnot), and it evolved into giving up checking the news altogether. Sometimes I will hear news updates on the radio or in passing conversation, but otherwise, I have given up the 24-7 news cycle our country seems addicted to. And you know what? I feel no less intelligent for it, but I feel way, way, way less stressed out and unhappy. If something truly life-altering happens in the world, I will definitely hear about it. Otherwise, I really don't need to know about some asshole setting their dog on fire in Jersey or what ridiculous name a pop star gave their latest baby. My life is so much happier without all that garbage cluttering my mind. What it boils down to is that sometimes, the world sucks, and sometimes the world is awesome. My goal is to make my days as awesome as I can, and I'm much more able to implement that goal when I'm not poisoned by all the hatred and stupidity and disaster the news networks spoon feed us day in and day out. I love this idea!

February 6, 2015 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Kat @ Where the Sidewalk Ends said...

Challenge accepted :-) I prefer how I feel when I wake up without having used internet at all at night, and now that we have our little farmstead with farm chores, if I'll be done at 9, it will be a great relief. Thanks Jenna!

February 6, 2015 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Love love love. I'm in.

February 6, 2015 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger sarah e blog said...

hell yes ill join ya!

February 6, 2015 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger psoupbetty said...

I'm in, Jenna! Of course, I'm already one of those odd ducks who just doesn't do social media -- none of it -- so that part is not too hard. But I've also been building a digital-break into my life in other ways by having declared my Sundays to be computer-free starting January 1st. I simply want less digital noise in my life. It's all too easy to log on just to check email and the weather forecast and then, all of a sudden, an hour has gone by, and I am left feeling that I have lost something precious. I'm with Kelsie -- if something truly earth-shaking occurs, I'll still hear about it! Bring back the peace, please!! Pauline in Ithaca

February 6, 2015 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

This is grey guys! How will you spend your non-digital time ?

February 6, 2015 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Lisa Martin said...

And here's to the 12 hours becoming longer and longer as you realize what a contentment-robber social media can be (just like women's magazines have always been!). Kudos Jenna

February 6, 2015 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger ebwhite said...

Non-digital time will be spent quilting & making baby blankets. The population in Southwest Houston is expecting many wee ones in Spring and Summer. Plus my sister has put in a request for a quilt.

February 6, 2015 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Maralee Childs said...

Count me in too! I have to say that in the natural course of farm life, winter is when I tend to overindulge in screen time. I think psoupbetty has a great idea too. So no screen time for me between 9 and 9 and none at all on Sunday's! I feel my nerves unwinding already :-)

February 6, 2015 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger rosa veldkamp said...

I'm in! :D

February 6, 2015 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger chantelle Carlson said...

Yes! I love this idea! Saves me getting sucked down the blog/YouTube/nonsense hole well past my bedtime.

February 6, 2015 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Cat H said...

I. LOVE. THIS! How so true this is. There is a part of me that wants to just give up Facebook but I have met folks there who I like to converse with, and old friends who I've reconnected with. They make me laugh with their posts but there is still that part of me that misses the days when I didn't sit and compare my life to how others are living theirs.

I read something the other day that helped me put things in perspective. It said that most people post things that show the good side of their lives - you don't get to see the bad stuff happening. Their lives are no better or worse than yours.

I am going to take this challenge. Hell, I might even add a whole day where I don't go on the computer at all. Thanks for these wise words my friend. Peace.

February 7, 2015 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger aart said...

A digital diet is always a good idea if you find it dominating your life in a negative way. Maybe I'm too old to have been effected as some younger folks are. I learned to ignore flashing net ads, and not clicking on every link that pops up, back in the Compaq88 days. I apply the same technique to slow the flow now.

If I find myself overindulging digitally, or taking anything too seriously or personally..I unplug and look inside my psyche at *why* am I reacting/behaving in a negative way. Often that can be cured by simple self awareness of what do I really need, other times it takes more.

I don't have a cellphone or 'smart'(stupid?) phone so am not in the habit of *constantly* checking in everywhere I go by clutching a pocket device like a security blanket. I have to go sit at the laptop on my desk, or get up and answer the landline...I allow caller ID and the answering machine to frequently doing their jobs.

I haven't watched/listened to the news regularly for years. I use only one SM anymore, used to use several for a nonprofit I worked for-what a time waster with little return.

I also unsubscribe to any one/thing who share every inaccurate drama laden meme that comes along.

I know I don't *need* that much input, I know it can twist your brain and body. You *can* control what streams thru your life, and when. I don't need 9 to 9, but I wish those who do the best success in taking back your life and guarding your strongest 'self'.

February 8, 2015 at 6:46 AM  
Blogger Juliet Carol said...

Last week I had decided to stay off computer and IPad till after 11am...I wrote it down on paper, but have a great need for more willpower! Wish you success! Love to read your posts!

February 8, 2015 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger tea4too0 said...

I have been too long gone from home.
My computer has just now been put back online. So I have been with out, for awhile now. I did miss not being able to check all the places I loved to visit, here most of all. I am very glad to be back home. Thank you for taking such good care of it and yourself.
I am taking your challenge.

February 8, 2015 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Sam Sheehan said...

I'm going to admit I'm finding this harder than I thought... I spend a lot more time than I realized sucked into the void. And taking it a little further and really embracing the concept of avoiding things that make me feel lacking... I don't text certain friends during those hours now. I put my sketch book aside, because I was drawing the horses I desperately wish I was riding. I didn't realize how much wanting I fill my day with. How much of a void I'm creating. I need none of it.
Now I'm trying to spend some of that time making it happen. I'm making little cardboard seed starting pots. I'm drafting a lesson plan for the dog training session I want to run this spring. Focusing not on what I don't have, but on how I can make the things I want happen, if they are really important to me.
And most of all, doing much powerful thinking.

February 8, 2015 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

Im going to try this. You are absolutely right I have a horrible addiction to social media!. Instead I think ill just try to be more present with my 3 year old and 11 month old. Its not fair that their mom is half engaged in them thanks for the support!

February 14, 2015 at 8:21 AM  
OpenID Vicki said...

I really like the notion of being a creator instead of a consumer. Words to live by. How did we all get to this point?

February 21, 2015 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Jenna, you are so wise! frankly, this is genius. I'm up for the challenge! (let's see how long I last... )

February 22, 2015 at 4:29 PM  

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