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The healthiest thing about traveling to London and Paris for our anniversary had nothing to do with the delicious vegan food or the almost 20,000 steps I walked each day. The best thing about our visit to Europe was my intention to let go of digital distraction.

I made a conscious decision before we left not to get an international phone plan. I knew we would have wifi at each hotel and Bri’s plan comes with international access at no charge. As a wise former client told me before my first trip abroad, “there is probably not going to be a personal training emergency”. There was no logical reason to stay constantly connected while on vacation.

Letting go of digital distraction was surprisingly easy most of the time and a little painful at others. I had no desire to Instagram works of art as I strolled Tate Modern or live stream the sacred space of Notre Dame. But sitting on the train between London and Paris, I found myself itching to connect to the onboard wifi to pass the time, despite the multiple books in my backpack and the journaling I had hoped to do. In hindsight, I am grateful the wifi signal was weak and slow, causing me to give up and turned to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine instead.

When I got back, I asked clients and friends what I missed. Other than some unpleasant winter weather they didn’t have much to tell me. Any FOMO anxiety I might have experienced was misplaced. I’ve been trying to tune into my JOMO lately and this recent experiment confirmed that letting go of digital distraction is key to finding the joy in real-world connection.

I don’t want to blame social media and email for my stress or any feelings of overwhelm, but I’ve come to understand how much the need to constantly be available and “out there” can strip some of the of calm and contentment from life. This 7-day break gave me some insight into how I can continue to protect my mental health and enrich my life with real-life moments that matter.

What is connection really?

In the beginning, social media was very entertaining and interactive. It connected me with many people who are now IRL friends. It let me tell my story my way as a brand new personal trainer. I even found the best massage therapist in Springfield via Instagram. Nine and a half years later, social media has changed. The noise level is set to overwhelm. Now, I find the best thing I can do for my business is to preach my Middle Ground Manifesto and share my well-earned wisdom with those who are ready to hear it, not chase people with Facebook ads. My workshops, television segments and client referrals are the best showcases for the pragmatic solutions and mindful coaching I provide.

I’ve also learned I’d rather text a friend about her week or meet with my wellness peers over tea than trying to keep up with all their feeds on Facebook. A few minutes a week of in-person connection fills me up in a way that scrolling photos can’t. I’m going to double down on my efforts to reach out and invest in real relationships.

I’m not that important.

I’ve finally come to the realization that the world is not hitting refresh waiting for my latest Instagram story. I’m not a big deal to anyone but me. News and photos do not have to be shared immediately. Most emails can wait at least 24 hours. At home, I already cut off text messages at 8 pm. (Take note, if you text me after 8 pm you’ll probably get a response around 6 am the next day.) I also do a Social Media Sabbath every Sunday, a restorative niche I set for myself years ago.

On the trip, I gave myself 30 minutes each morning to triage emails and post a photo or two to Instagram to keep the algorithms happy. This time with my morning tea was more than adequate to take care of any actual business that needed to be addressed. I’m committed to finding other ways to set stronger boundaries in my day to day routine. I’d like to go back to No Email Thursdays, a productivity experiment I’ve done before because it’s a great way to get things done. Maybe I need to turn on Do Not Disturb for periods of deep focus or during social events too? I’ve also been unsubscribing from email lists each day, removing things that no longer serve me from my inbox.  I am also 100% sure that starting the Thrive Together business support group to connect with other women in wellness was the best thing I could do personally and professionally.

Why are grand gestures so important when the satisfyingly simple will do?

Letting go of the constant need to post updates and photos helps you let go of the constant need to create interesting things to post. For a moment, I let myself spin a story of needing some elaborate flowered filled Valentine’s day post from Paris when I realized that was just my ego talking. I was trying to fill some role or expectation that had nothing to do with the joy I felt having brunch with my love of 20 years, taking a stroll on a sunny afternoon and then being back at the hotel lounge for delectable and free nibbles with tea. I understand there is a bit of irony in my realization that we are “simple brunch people” while vacationing in Paris. My point is that focusing on the expectation of what should be means we miss out on the perfection of what is. You’ve got to stop writing the story and learn to be in the moment at hand.

None of this means I am giving up on social media. It means I am going to be more intentional and mindful about my minutes online and the content I consume. It means I’ll post less. It means you may not get an answer back to an email or Facebook question as quickly. It means your best means of communicating with me is having me as your coach (client emails get answered first!) and being on my email list.

Do I love your shares and likes on social media? Of course! Who doesn’t love a little validation? But letting go of digital distraction means letting go of letting those likes and shares as a measure of my worth as a coach. My clients 9 and 10 ratings are more meaningful to me than hearts for a selfie.  I’d rather chat with you at the Farmers Market about the last Fit Life segment I did then counting the likes when the segment posts to Facebook. If you see me in the real world, please stop and say hello.

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