What a social media detox taught me about living in the moment

Sunset at Frigiliana.jpg

It feels good to be back! Well, it feels good to be back writing on 50Sense after my holidays, but as it’s been chucking it down more days than not, I have to admit that being in the UK isn’t thrilling me as much as my time in southern Spain

Before we went to Frigiliana, Mr 50Sense issued me a challenge: to go without social media for two weeks.

It’s fair to say that Mr 50Sense isn’t a fan of sharing online. He had Facebook for about six months and Twitter for about six minutes before declaring himself fed up of seeing other people’s dinners.

However, since we started Pausitivity’s KnowYourMenopause campaign, social media has become the third person in our marriage. My phone is constantly by my side as I tweet, gram and Facebook throughout the day. I try to be good and have set times, but there have been moments when I’m walking very slowly to the dining room for dinner so I can finish a message…

So I understood why he wanted me to stop while we were away. This was our first two weeks in the sun since 2004. That isn’t as bad as it seems – we moved to Spain at the end of that year and getting cat-sitters for that long was problematic, especially when they started getting older, so a week at the beach was all we were allowed.

(The rest of the time? We had to suffer the sunshine by the pool in the garden. Tough, I know.)

Circumstances once we returned to the UK meant any holiday together was out of the question for a few years, which made this one even more special and only two people were invited.

After the first morning, I came to a realisation…

My name is 50Sense and I’m a social media addict.

It was impossible. I tried my hardest, but KnowYourMenopause is so fast-moving that I HAD to check what was happening and if people are giving up their time to do a selfie, the least I can do is thank them (especially Tony Hadley. My teenage self would never have forgiven me if I hadn’t acknowledged this.)

The beautiful Dr Nighat Arif and Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley support #KnowYourMenopause

The beautiful Dr Nighat Arif and Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley support #KnowYourMenopause

But I did cut down loads and there was one area in which I was semi-successful – my own Instagram. And it was bliss.

Usually when I go away, I snap as many pictures as possible. Every beautiful view, street, seascape, sunset, sunrise, tree, flower, cup of coffee (Bosnia) gets captured from every possible angle and with as many takes as I can.

This time, however, I took five? Mebbes six? I’m not quite sure.

While I could surreptitiously check Twitter and Facebook, taking a secret photo wasn’t so easy so I had to keep to my promise.

And it was wonderful.

Travelling down from Frigiliana to get to the beach in Nerja for the first time, I was suddenly hit with how beautiful the scenery was: the smoke trails from farms, the way the sun hit the whitewashed houses, the cloud cover over the mountains – all the little instances that I miss by looking for the bigger picture through my camera screen.

That night, we watched the most beautiful sunset, with the sky lit up in tones of peach and rose. I took one photo and then savoured every moment of it.

No, it wasn’t as good as an Instagram filter could make it. The tones could have been much more and a little extra shadow would have added impact, but it was magical. Me and Mr 50Sense watched over a bottle of wine, occasionally chatting, but mostly just watching and taking it in. I went to bed feeling something strange – that I’d just had an amazing day.

Don’t get me wrong; I love taking photos and if I can be arty, fantastic. But this taught me so much about living in the moment and enjoying reality in all its glories and imperfections. After all, real life doesn’t come with an Instagram filter.

I also found myself naturally cutting back on the amount of time I spent on Facebook and Twitter. I couldn’t give it up completely – nor do I want to – but I’m definitely doing less.

How to live in the moment

Pay attention to what is happening now Too often when taking a photo – or in life itself – I’m busy thinking about what comes next: how can I crop the image, what needs a touch-up, what may be a problem. I spent the second week of our holiday thinking about how we’d be going home soon and the time flew by – probably because I was concentrating so much on the future. So from now on, I’m going to concentrate on the here and now. The future will come soon enough.

Count your blessings This can be a tough one, I know. There have been times when I’ve cried in the shower thinking life wouldn’t get any better, but it’s been the times when I’ve been thankful for what I had that have helped me through. So every now and then, take stock of the good things that have happened to you – it doesn’t matter how big or small they are – and the good people you have in your life and say thanks.

Be honest Honesty isn’t just about being truthful to others, it’s about being truthful to ourselves, too. A few years ago, I had a huge bust-up with friends that made me re-assess myself and my life. I realised that there were many things I had chosen to ignore, to whitewash over in favour of a chocolate-box view on life. It was a painful process and truth can hurt at times, but being honest with myself gave me the strength to make some valuable changes.

Learn to be less judgemental People-watching is one of my favourite hobbies. When we lived in Toronto, I would spend hours in the mall watching the office workers grabbing coffee and making up stories about their lives. But there is a phrase in one of my favourite books that always remains with me:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people.png

It’s easy to become wrapped up in ourselves and judge by what we’re going through. But that man who grabbed the last seat on the bus might have had a really hard day and feels exhausted. Or the teenager who pushes by you may be worried about their exams. Or the abrupt woman at work may be worried about her ill mother… We don’t know what is happening in other people’s lives so cut a little slack and learn to let it go, otherwise their perceived slights will ruin your day.

Don’t worry You can call me a hypocrite because I can worry for Britain. But a few years ago I learnt cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and I try my hardest to use it. Instead of worrying, I imagine what could be the worst thing that could happen and how likely that is. Then I try to work out a solution, if possible, or imagine how the worst case scenario would make me feel. I once even went so far as to choose a funeral outfit – at which point my brain told me this was highly unlikely so to stop worrying about it. It’s not as nuts as it sounds. Jon Ronson (drool) also does this and has some handy tips in the link. But worrying robs us of the now and rarely does us any good. I’m not a glass half-full person by any means, but at least I’ve stopped worrying about who has stolen the rest of the liquid (when I’m not having a menopause breakdown, that is).

HOW DO YOU LIVE IN THE MOMENT? LEAVE ME YOUR TIPS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW

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