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Ideas for useful distractions to replace useless ones?

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Michaela D
Michaela D Jan 26, 2022
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What are some useful distractions that we could use instead of checking social, news, email etc?
(Inspired by positive vs negative habits session).
I was thinking apps for improving skills like math. It should be something quick and relatively easy (for example not too complex math operations) otherwise, it won't be strong enough to replace the other distractions.
Do you have any ideas/tips?
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Creative contributions

Willpower depletion and interference with the ability to concentrate

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jan 26, 2022
We recede to social media addiction because we get bursts of feel-good chemicals (dopamine or serotonin) in quick succession. Almost nothing else can compete with the frequency of micro rewards we get while browsing. This is what makes social media addictive. This will make your brain seek out on autopilot apps like Instagram, Twitter, Fb, Youtube, or the champion of addictive apps Tik-Tok. You suddenly find yourself browsing without realizing how you got there.
The longer you go without browsing, the stronger the hunger. Willpower is a depletable resource. Eventually, you will run out and slip. Maybe something like this could help. Willpower alone isn't enough to fight addiction. A successful combination takes a good strategy alongside willpower.
Fighting your desires comes with some consequences:
Subjects required to resist the temptation of [watching] a humorous video made significantly larger mistakes on a subsequent counting task. This result is consistent with the standard resource depletion theoretical framework from social psychology, as discussed in the introduction. In particular, willpower depletion resulting from resisting the temptation to watch the video may have made concentration on a subsequent labor productivity task more difficult. Alternatively, watching the video may have promoted resource replenishment, enabling higher levels of concentration on the subsequent task.

[1]Snoek, Anke et al. “Strong-willed but not successful: The importance of strategies in recovery from addiction.” Addictive behaviors reports vol. 4 (2016): 102-107. doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2016.09.002

[2]Bucciol, Alessandro et al. “Temptation at work.” PloS one vol. 8,1 (2013): e53713. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053713

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Michaela D
Michaela D4 months ago
Yes, your idea is very close to what I was thinking. As you said, willpower is a muscle that gets tired, and sometimes you just want to get distracted. That's why my point is not to resist distraction, but to make good use of it.
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The alternative distraction should provide enough dopamine to be interesting, but also lead to something productive

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Povilas S
Povilas S Jan 26, 2022
It's a balance between effort (using your own energy) and inspiration (riding on the wave of interest, or a rush of neurochemicals, if you will). Learning something in a form of a game is a good example - sudoku boosts your math skills. The time spent on it is also very important, the longer you spend on one activity the quicker it gets tiring, it's perhaps better to spend short periods doing three different activities and learn less of each than try to push one on the same app.
The latter probably depends on a person, but an example from experience: I used to exercise for half an hour once or twice per day, I usually got pissed after a few days in a row and didn't exercise at all for some days, then got back to it again. Now I exercise for 10 minutes once or twice daily and can do it every day. The latter option is arguably better, cause you do it constantly, even though shortly.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw4 months ago
Exactly, I like to think word games, puzzles or even quick chess matches are gamified enough to be sufficiently entertaining while still being beneficial as they challenge and therefore improve certain cognitive abilities.
In essence, games are fine, especially if you choose to play games with some degree of problem-solving rather than simply cutting fruit, shooting or driving fast.
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Michaela D
Michaela D4 months ago
I couldn't agree more, something fast with just a bit of effort to keep it interesting. I like the idea of different games that require some skill!
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General comments

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Danny Weir
Danny Weir4 months ago
Unfortunately, I fear most of us are beyond the point of no return when it comes to wasting our time scrolling aimlessly. I was determined to reduce my screentime by reading more books this year, but i am yet to make any real progress and it has become a frustration of mine. In my opinion, I think we need to go back to the old school way of thinking. People who have serious addictions to devices but maybe don't realise it may have to actually downgrade their phones and computers to save themselves. Alternatively, we may have to reintroduce some of the classic activities such as the Rubik's cube or knitting!
Suggestions:
  • Strict screentime limits that we are not able to override
  • Financial/social rewards for carrying out tasks such as quizzes and surveys or even learning a language
  • Peer challenges, groups set up to challenge each other on carrying out useful tasks and to be held accountable
  • Governments introducing programs to promote and encourage useful tasks
  • Shifting social perception on what is "cool" or "uncool" (this could take a generation to change)
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Michaela D
Michaela D4 months ago
Danny Weir these are all valid points. I was also thinking what if instead of battling distraction we went along with it but on our own terms? So that we use distraction time more productively, like reinforcing a skill?
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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković4 months ago
I've improved my math skills unintentionally by switching to an alarm clock that gives me five equations to solve in the morning to turn the alarm off. You could set multiple alarms throughout each day and there's a difficulty setting as well.
It's a battle of notifications for most people.
Instead of getting notified by YouTube comments or Twitter mentions, you could allow only notifications from Duolingo, meditation apps, apps with varying stretching routines...
Utilizing this idea Darko Savic had recently would also be useful.
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Michaela D
Michaela D4 months ago
Miloš Stanković I have heard of these alarms, it is time I tried one! But I have 0 notifications other than texting, I get distracted enough by myself 😁
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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković4 months ago
Michaela D I use the app Alarmy.
It would probably be possible to rig browsers or apps to have a minute-long delay so that you can't open them right when you click. You'd have to click on an app or a new page on the browser and then wait one minute to click on it again to confirm your decision. That could perhaps give a person a timeframe to snap out of the mindless browsing.
Also, the delay of one minute could get filled with suggestions of what you can do instead of checking Facebook again: meditate, do a five-minute lesson on Duolingo, practice chords...
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