Ihave been trying to go cold turkey over the last week and break a bad habit that I've developed. It's a habit that began years ago, crept up on me gradually and has grown until it has taken over my evenings and I'm guessing it's one that many of you have too. It's an obsession with browsing on my mobile phone.
While I know in terms of habits it's far from the worst, I've come to realise how negative a compulsion it can be and how it's robbing me of both time with others and attention to other, previously favourite hobbies.
This realisation dawned on me when my husband asked me how I was getting on with reading the books that he had bought me for Christmas and I suddenly realised that I hadn't read so much as one page.
Now, given that life has been hectic, with home schooling swallowing up my free time in great hungry bites and having five of us constantly in the house creating the same kind of cooking and laundry requirements as an average sized hotel, that may not seem odd but let me explain, I am a reader.
I don't just dip in and out of books. Once I have the kids settled in bed and everything done in advance that needs to be ready for the next day, I would usually crack open my latest book and dive in, losing myself in the story and coming up in the wee small hours of the morning, when my eyes start to cross over from exhaustion. I've been known to have several books on the go at any one time. One for upstairs of course, topping the massive pile that awaits me on my bedside table, one downstairs in the kitchen, tempting me in for a crafty read while waiting for the spuds to boil and usually an old favourite in the glove box of the car, for those times when I'm collecting my children from some class, or party, or social activity where I know the chances are I'll get a chance to read uninterrupted while I'm waiting for them to emerge.
Only, there are no social activities anymore, so that opportunity has flown the nest, as has my stolen half hour in the kitchen as the kids seem to gravitate towards there for snacks every few minutes since lockdown. My last option is reading in bed but for some reason, my little bright screened phone has taken the place of a book in my hand. I tried to figure out why this has happened and I think, while I've always liked a quick browse of the news before enjoying a snooze, now it's fulfilling a very different role.
Yes, I'm still catching up with the news events of the day, both at home and abroad, but I'm spending more time scrolling through social media, reading about people's thoughts and feelings, what events and anniversaries they're celebrating and others that they're lamenting. I like to read about those who've embraced their creative side and started baking or painting in the last year but I'm also pleased to see that those who are finding the going tough in recent weeks are brave enough to say so and reach out for companionship and comfort.
Where I've always escaped into a book to shut the world outside, I believe my current over reliance on my phone has something to do with fulfilling a need I have to feel part of a community, something that seems so distant and ephemeral after so many weeks and months of just sticking to my house and my own little family unit.
Using my phone for that reason doesn't seem so bad but what is unfortunate is that this over use of my mobile has coincided with the worst bout of insomnia that I've had for years and I can't believe they're completely unrelated.
So, I'm being strict with myself and doing what I've been making my kids do for years which is leave my phone downstairs in the kitchen when I go to bed. I'm embarrassed to say how hard I initially found it but after just a week, it's getting easier. Bye bye little blue screen at night-time and a big welcome back to the books.