Virtue consists, not in abstaining from vice, but in not desiring it. -George Bernard Shaw

Addiction. You might immediately think of drugs, alcohol, or nicotine, but what about the addictions that are more commonly found in our society? How often do you scroll through social media or check your phone and email for messages? How much TV do you watch on a daily basis? Of the content you absorb, how much of it actually adds value to your life?

Addiction starts and grows when we become so engaged in consumption that it becomes hard to stop. We feel good when we receive a like, share, text or email because it causes our brains to release dopamine, a chemical associated with the pleasure center in the brain. We are literally addicted to that dopamine release!

Another reason people seem constantly glued to their phones or TVs has to do with fear of missing out. Technology gives us the ability to be socially connected and entertained at all times, and it is easy for this to become our default mode. When we constantly scroll through others’ posts or watch the news, we experience a variety of emotions including anxiety, anger and sadness over things we can’t control. Because mood changes alter the outcome of your day, there is no point in getting upset or mad at something you cannot change.

How can you tell if you have an addiction? Go off a vice for a week. Turn your phone off, delete that app, or unplug your TV. If you can abstain for one week, you are probably in control. If one week is too much, you’ve just discovered an addiction. Pay attention to what emotions you are feeling and ask yourself why you feel that way; is it just a habit or is there something deeper causing your dependence?

Accepting that you have an addiction and taking small steps to minimize your exposure to it will give you all kinds of time you never realized you had to engage in positive, value-adding activities.

Thank you,

Rogelio H. Charles