It's resolution season, which means many people are searching for self-improvement goals, life-changing challenges, and healthy new mantras to adopt in the coming year. Whatever they choose, almost all of them will fail, according to science. Why? Because starting healthy new habits is incredibly hard (and January is a terrible time to begin actually).
Why not give yourself an easier option? Rather than trying to add something onerous to your life after what has been, for many of us, an exceptionally exhausting year, try taking something unpleasant away instead. What could be simpler?
That's the suggestion of Georgetown University professor and bestselling author Cal Newport on his popular blog. Every year the author of Digital Minimalism urges his followers to use the new year as a springboard to reset their relationship with social media. The start of 2022 is no exception. In fact, given the fact that recent news is enough to give you a panic attack most days, this might be the best year ever to give Newport's idea a try.
How does a social media-free January sound?
Newport's prescription is simple: log off your social media (this year he's advocating dumping Twitter specifically) for the whole month of January and instead commit to learning some new offline hobby or skill with the time you save.
Speaking of Twitter, he writes: "in fairness, this service wasn't intentionally designed to grasp our brain stem and squeeze it into an inflamed pulp of enraged emotions, but it turned out to be exceptionally good at accomplishing exactly this insidious goal." Other social media options aren't much better for your sanity.
"So why not take a break?" Newport suggests. "For thirty-one blissfully peaceful days. A period to re-learn that there are other, more meaningful, more analog ways to quiet our chattering brain. We can learn how to knit, or buy a lathe, or 3D print mini spaceships for a strategy game we're inventing with our kids. For just one month, why not take a breather from the panic and outrage?"
Which does sound kind of blissful after a couple of weeks of losing hours to doomscrolling through omicron news. And reports from regular people who tried Newport's analog challenges in previous years have been roundly positive. While these folks might not have decided to sign off all social media for good, many did say taking a break pushed them to reignite in person activities and relationships, and helped them find a better balance between their online and offline lives.
Plus, psychologists agree with Newport that a non-screen based hobby might be just what you need right now. Creative pastimes are good for our mental health and even work performance all the time, but they can offer particular benefits in times of stress and crisis by helping us stay resilient, maintain relationships, and refresh our creativity.
So if you're in the market for New Year's resolutions, here's an easy one to try: just log off social media for a month and spend the time you gain doing something you enjoy. You might find this simple experiment has profound impacts on your life for far longer than just a month.