Advice provided by the guides at Mountain Trek on a variety of health, nutrition, fitness and hiking topics.

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Q&A: How can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

Q: How can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

A: If you have difficulty falling asleep, managing food cravings, feel like you’re at the mercy of mood swings, are noticing muscle loss, have excessive sweating, low energy or libido, can’t seem to lose belly fat, or have unusual weight loss or gain, your hormones may be out of balance. Hormones are little chemical messengers that initiate and maintain all the systems in our body. For survival, we’ve been blessed (rather unfortunately) with an override system—a giant red panic button of sorts—that is triggered when we’re stressed or notice we’re in danger. You’ve probably heard of it—it’s our flight, fight, or freeze response—and when faced with a stressor, such as a mountain lion—or an irate client or teenage son or daughter—our sympathetic nervous systems cause a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (a.k.a adrenaline), as well as various endorphins, to be released, giving us a magic jolt of power to either high tail it out of there, stand our ground and fight off the stressor, or rev up to take action (freeze). This cocktail of survival hormones is akin to downing a case of Red Bull. It ramps up energy, but at the same time, it shuts down digestion and immune functions, as these are not critical for survival at that exact moment. There’s the catch—this response is meant only for that exact moment—a finite one-time event.

Cue up today’s norm, when we have ongoing, relentless stressors bombarding us, both emotional and physical. Since these stressors are not finite, one-time events, our stress hormones have no chance of neutralizing. Herein lies the problem…

In a natural circadian day, the stress hormone cortisol rises to help us wake up and focus, allowing us to go work to bring home the calories necessary to survive (and the money to pay the mortgage). Cortisol levels naturally lower as atmospheric light changes in the afternoon, and are eventually replaced by our sleep beckoning hormone, melatonin. Without proper hormone balance, we don’t sleep correctly, and our immune system doesn’t perform well at its key tasks; fighting viruses, bacteria, cancers, and repairing damaged tissue. Sound important? You betcha.

During this same day, a series of thyroid hormones control our metabolism, while our blood sugar is managed by the hormones insulin and glucagon. The effects of these being out of balance? obesity, diabetes, fatigue, irritability, to just name a few.

Meanwhile, our sex hormones, estrogen (primarily estrone, estradiol, and estriol), progesterone, and testosterone are all being created from our youth hormone DHEA. And if our sex hormones are out of balance, the side effects are numerous, the worse case being cancer.

If we are under continuous stress (“chronic stress”), our youth hormone, DHEA—which, don’t forget, is the precursor to our sex hormones—takes a back seat to cortisol production, as cortisol is technically more important to survival—we have to survive first, so we can reproduce second! Ultimately, if we want to balance our sleep, sex, and metabolic hormones we need to manage our chronic stress. Only once we’ve lowered our cortisol levels throughout the day do our other critical hormones have the chance to balance out.

Since all of our various hormones are created from the building blocks of our nutrition, eating a balanced diet—with an emphasis on the plant kingdom—is essential to keeping our hormone production up as we age. Exercise is also critical—especially strength training to momentary muscular failure (the point at which no more reps can be performed with perfect form)—and will help slow the decline of human growth hormone production, a natural process occurring from middle-age onward, but one that we should attempt to counteract.

As we enter midlife, it’s critical to monitor our hormone levels so we can effectively manage our energy, moods, sleep, and body composition. The endocrine system is amazingly complex, so we recommend getting a thorough baseline measurement from your doctor of all of your hormones and their precursors. Since our hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the day and night, we recommend a test that takes multiple samples over a 24-hour period in order to properly map the rise and fall.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

Happy woman standing with her back on the sunset in nature in summer with open hands

Q: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

A: Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of study that focuses on improving our mental health by means of “building what’s strong”—a term coined by Martin E.P. Seligman, one of the foremost advocates of positive psychology. It encourages patients to focus on positive emotions and mental states, such as happiness, joy, compassion, love, and “flow” (a state of being undistracted by thought), in contrast to the traditional psychotherapy that focuses on negative emotions, like anger and sorrow.

Although the majority of research in mental health over the last 100 yrs has focused on pathology and “fixing what’s wrong”, or identifying and treating disease and disorders, modern research is showing that augmenting the traditional psychotherapy approach with positive psychology can contribute to long-lasting peace, calm, connectedness, joy… and even longevity!

Positive psychology is also beneficial to advance the well-being and optimal functioning in healthy people. Some psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers, saw early on that there was a benefit to studying the holistic nature of our mental health and created popular theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy, which shows a hierarchy of what makes people happy and the things that they do to achieve that happiness. Today, we continue to learn and study less clinical forms of positive psychology that can be practiced daily, and eventually formed into positive habits (learn how to form healthy habits in 6 easy steps).

Almost 25 yrs ago, National Geographic did a study on populations with a high rate of Centenarians (people who live to over 100), because not only do these populations live longer, but they are also considered the happiest people on earth. Their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, radiate vitality, calm, peace, joy, and connectedness. There is a correlation between their positivity and their longevity (to be fully transparent, there are a host of other lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and work habits). If you want to dig into this some more, the findings and the continued research can be found on Bluezones.com.

Now, each year, the United Nations rates the “Happiest Nations on Earth”, and is finding that these “Blue Zones” are constantly topping the charts. For relevance, Canada currently ranks 6th behind the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 18th. So what do these populations do differently? Below are some behaviors found in the Blue Zones that you can implement to counter mental and emotional stress, anxiety, and depression, while contributing to a deep satisfaction with ourselves and our life’s circumstances.

6 mental health behaviors for balanced wellness

Smile

It takes less muscles than a frown and is infectious. Consider making a practice of smiling at the first 5 people you see in a day. You’ll likely receive one in return.

Practice Gratitude

Finish your day by journaling 5 experiences or people you appreciated in your day… completing your day with your ‘glass half full’.

Savor

Slow down to bring as much presence as possible to a pleasurable experience. Relish in it with as many senses as possible. This builds your enjoyment of being singularly focused in the present.

Flow

Revisit or start fresh with an activity that seduces you into full engagement. It could be creative or physical. Immerse yourself so deeply that you lose track of time and self-consciousness or mundane thought.

Connect

Trade an hour of social media engagement for an hour of face to face sharing. We are wired for attachment to others through our limbic, emotional-social brain. Cues from facial expression, body language, and voice inflection are essential for all trusting relationships.

Be Mindful

Employing the same mindful presence that we use when we savor a pleasurable experience, practice 5 minutes of deep breathing while staying present, curious, and self-compassionate for any quality of thought or feeling that arises while you are still. Notice, allow, and let it go.

Exercising these positive psychology tools will deepen happiness, contentment, and peace of mind, and will enrich our lives, and those around us, with the key elements for joy and longevity.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

 

Sad woman looking out of the window in loft apartment

Q: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

A: More research is confirming that physical isolation and emotional aloneness can contribute to premature death at the same rate as sedentarism and obesity. Both of which have been proven to cause a 30% increase in premature death. Eliminating social interaction entirely dramatically heightens one of our greatest fears—dying alone. This constant fear—which underpins many of the feelings, thoughts, choices, behaviors, and habits in our life—spikes anxiety and cortisol. With these hormones are chronically elevated, it decreases immune function, deteriorates sleep quality, drives emotional food cravings, and increases the incidence of depression. Consequently, say during a pandemic that mandates isolation and restricts social gatherings, a lot of news is turned to mental health.

However, it’s equally possible to turn isolation and aloneness into an opportunity for growth.

Although we are wired for relationships via our social and emotional limbic brain to mitigate the fear of dying alone, we also have a need for ‘me time’. Whether we take this alone-time to meditate, take a walk, or commune with nature, this time affords us the opportunity to build a deep relationship with ourselves. In fact, we all probably know of individuals who happily live alone, and go on to live long lives. Why? They exhibit many lifestyle traits of a positive mental attitude. Attitudes like gratitude, self-confidence based on self-appreciation, savoring life’s little pleasures, connecting to ‘flow’, and going for joy over happiness. We will share more of these traits when we discuss positive psychology and it’s findings for mental and emotional health in our next Health Talk Happy Hour.

If we invest in alone-time to notice thoughts and feelings that arise in relation to being isolated or feeling alone, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Instead, we can choose to become curious about the ways we all avoid discomfort and our deepest existential fears. Notice these hardwired habits of desire, craving, compulsion, and even addiction are tied to avoiding these uncomfortable feelings. Through compassionate (non-judgmental) self-observation, we can be curious about what is underneath our feelings and actions. This mindful self-awareness expands our sense of self and gives us the freedom to make different choices. So when we make choices that are aligned with our core values, we build a positive mental attitude that ultimately supports longevity.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

Overworked woman with back pain in office sitting on chair with bad posture

Q: My posture at work is terrible. Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

A: Back pain is now the second most common reason North Americans visit the doctor (after the common cold). With an estimated 80% of North Americans sitting for their work and averaging more than 11 hours per day seated, it’s no wonder that posture-related health issues are going through the roof. Humans have never been so stationary in our entire existence! But no matter how much our parents have nagged us to “sit up straight”, our bodies weren’t designed to sit, they were designed to move.

Almost all previous work involved moving constantly—bending, lifting, standing, and walking—so posture-related pain in the workplace is a relatively new thing. When our spine is chronically out of its natural alignment, the muscles that support our spine become imbalanced. Some muscles atrophy while others are in constant strain. The result is pain, lack of energy, muscle exhaustion, headaches, bad mood, osteoporosis, lack of balance, and even compromised immune function.

Recently there have been a plethora of products invented to remind us to get up and move, alert us to stretch and straighten, or brace us into a ‘neutral spine’. While these devices can give us a glimpse of correct posture, they do not fix the underlying issues—they are like bandaids, and should only be used temporarily.

6 actions that you should try to habituate to make your good posture permanent:

  • Learn what neutral spine is (get a C.H.E.K postural alignment assessment)
  • Lengthen some of our chronically tight muscles (sign up for weekly gentle Hatha Yoga class)
  • Strengthen our core and stabilizing muscles (sign up for a weekly pilates class and strengthen your back and neck muscles, not just the chest)
  • Move (functional fitness and HIIT classes), and remind yourself to stand and walk whenever you are on a phone call
  • Ergonomically adjust our workspace (standing desks, elevated computer screens, forearm supported keyboard)
  • Build your mindfulness practice to constantly scan and readjust our body posture until it becomes habituated

Once you implement the above, you will notice your back and neck pain subsiding substantially. If you’d like to read more about the dangers of sitting, read our article, Why Sitting Is Bad For You and 5 Ways To Fix It.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: My Body Feels Toxic—What Should I Do?

closeup of a label-shaped chalkboard with the text time to detox written in it, placed on the branch of a pine tree

Q: My body feels toxic—What should I do?

A: The topic of detoxification is old and new, detailed, and confusing. All modalities of detoxification are essentially supporting the eliminatory systems of the body to release unwanted substances that are taxing the body’s health and energy. Our body naturally filters chemicals and bio-toxins via the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system. We also expel particles of waste with our breath, urine, feces, and sweat. In the modern world, we are ingesting, inhaling, and absorbing toxic chemical compounds from the food industry, our urban atmosphere, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Our filtering organs are taxed.

Here are 7 simple lifestyle tips to help your body detox naturally

1. Drink Water

Drink a minimum of 10, 8 oz. glasses of filtered plain water to help your kidneys flush water-soluble toxins.

2. Fiber-Rich Diet

Aim to get 2-3 bowel movements a day with a fiber-rich diet so that the fat-soluble toxins that the liver filters and releases into the intestines don’t get reabsorbed.

3. Breathe Deep in Nature

Go for a fitness hike or walk in a clean natural environment whenever you can to expel unwanted waste via your lungs.

4. Sweat

Enjoy a relaxing sauna or steam once a week to purge toxins through your sweat glands.

5. Natural Chelators

Include natural “chelators” into your diet like cilantro, garlic, spirulina, chlorella, or miso. Chelators bind to heavy metals and pull them out through the digestive system in a process called chelation.

6. Get a Massage or Foam Roller

Relax with a full body massage that includes lymphatic drainage to support bio-toxin removal. Stretching and foam rolling can also assist lymphatic circulation.

7. Break and Cleanse

Schedule a simple 24-hour water or juice fast once or twice a year to give the eliminatory organs a break.

Introduce some or all of these practices to help avoid the negative effects of hormonal disruption, cancer cell stimulation, and organ duress from the accumulation of excess minerals, heavy metals, plastics, and petroleum chemicals. We hope these tips help you feel cleaner, inside and out.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

Hiking-in-British-Columbia

Q: What are the best hiking shoes and hiking poles?

A: Hiking Footwear is all about function and fit. Since we all have wildly different feet, there is no one best brand, but there are ideal shoe types for what we aim to get into. If you are hiking on smooth trail surfaces (gravel) and have reasonably strong ankles, a very light “trail-runner” would be fine. As their name suggest, trail-runners are a hybrid between street running shoe and hiking boots. They offer great traction and are lightweight, but aren’t as stable as a hiking boot. Here are some trail-runners we recommend. If your trails are more technical and have loose rock, roots, rock steps, are quite narrow, and your ankles are prone to rolling, an over the ankle light to medium-weight hiking boot will best serve your needs. If you are planning a multi-day backpacking excursion on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails, a well broken-in, heavier-duty, stiffer over-the-ankle hiking boot will over the traction and support you need for a long journey.

Once you have determined your function needs, we suggest you try on as many different brands of that style of footwear as possible (with your moisture-wicking wool hiking socks, of course—we highly recommend Darn Tough). Every brand uses a different size and shaped sole and footbed, and since each of us has differently shaped feet and toes, it’s paramount that you try your shoes on to find the right fit. A poorly fit boot and low quality sock is a guaranteed recipe for blisters. Here are the critical things to look for when trying on your shoes:
  1. Ensure the fit is snug when laced. You want to lace your boots firm, but not tight—somewhere around an 7 or 8 out of 10 on the pressure scale. Ideally the shoe will have even pressure across your entire foot once laced and not have “hot spots”, or places where your boot will rub excessively when hiking, causing a blister.
  2. The right size will need to find a good middle-ground. It needs to have a bit of room in front of your toes so they don’t hit against the shoe/boot when going downhill, but not so roomy that the heel lifts when walking uphill. Read our full guide on how to properly select a hiking shoe.

Most larger retailers (MEC, REI) will have fake rock ramps for you to demo your fit on. Make sure you use this, so you can see how the boot performs on all angles. After choosing the best fitting shoe, ensure that you can take them home to wear around the house for a couple of days to ensure the fit is optimal (and still return them if not).

Trekking poles are a fantastic addition to your hiking gear arsenal. They distribute workload and force, allowing you to hike farther and faster while providing additional stability and protecting your joints. They propel you forward on flat and uphill terrain, and become a brake, or shock absorber on downhills, unloading our knees from upper body weight. 30% of your effort should be distributed to your arms when using trekking poles, so they provide a full-body workout while hiking.

Choosing a hiking pole is less personal than choosing hiking shoes or boot. When choosing your poles, follow these tips:

  1. Ensure that when they are extended, your arm can be bent at 90 degrees while holding the handle.
  2. Look for poles that have built-in shock-absorbing springs or cushion. This addition will keep the jarring out of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists when the poles make contact with the ground and is well worth the small cost increase.
  3. Carbon poles are nice, but not necessary. While these poles save weight, which is great if you are doing a multi-day backpacking trip, their increased price tag isn’t usually worth.
  4. Choose a cork grip if available. Cork is a great, and natural, material for hiking poles that offers both good grip, breathability, and traction when wet.
  5. If you want the full-body workout when you go for your evening walk around the neighborhood, choose a set that comes with rubber tips that you can put on for urban fitness hiking.
We hope these tips help you find the right footwear and poles for your hiking needs. Nordic trekking, which is what hiking with poles is called, just like it’s winter counterpart, Nordic Skiing (Cross-Country skiing to most of us), is one of the best full-body, cardiovascular endurance exercises out there. Couple these physical benefits with the mental benefits of nature immersion, and it is arguably the most overall healthy exercise option possible. Proper footwear and trekking poles will only heighten your experience.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I make or break a habit?

image of dice spelling old habits

Q: How can I use this period of isolation and working from home, to make or break some healthy habits?

A: This time of restricted travel and socializing is an ideal time to add or delete 1-2 behaviors that we want to change. Creating or breaking a habit requires consistency and repetition, but this isn’t usually easy. With this mandated break, we have the benefit of consistency right now. Without racing to the airport, commuting to work, or feeling obligated to attend an event, it’s easier to set a routine.

To fully capitalize on our newfound stability, there are a few things we can do to increase our chances to form a new habit or break an old one.

Pick Two Actions

First, focus your attention on a maximum of two specific actions that you can commit to daily for the next 4 weeks. Before COVID, we needed 3-6 months to solidify an action into a habit because our work life was in constant flux and flow. By embracing more time at home, we can significantly shorten the time needed to make or break a habit.

Are they Sustainable

Next, ensure you could continue your specific actions into your lifestyle once the travel and work restrictions are lifted.

Are they Achievable

Third, call it a 30-day ‘experiment’, to take the pressure of perfectionism off.

Make Yourself Accountable 

Fourth, set a 2-week reminder in case you fall off the wagon.

Reward and Temptation

Fifth, take a tip from Ultralearning, by Scott H Young, and remove an unwanted habit by understanding and replacing the needs that it services. For example, if eating Ben & Jerry’s while watching Netflix gives you a sense of reward and relaxation after a productive day of work, you could replace those needs with some restorative yoga and a candlelit Epsom salt bath—both great ways to reward yourself and relax. Another of his suggestions that we support at Mountain Trek, would be to remove the temptation altogether in the first place. Meaning, don’t purchase the ice cream.

I suggest diving deeper into proper habit formation by reading our article: Building Healthy Habits in 6 Easy Steps


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How do I control my snacking?

Young man taking potato chip out of glass bowl while sitting on sofa in front of laptop on table and having snack

Q: Why do I crave snacking so much now that I’m working from home because of coronavirus and how can I stop it?

A: Firstly, Mountain Trek supports snacking! In fact, in our approach to mindful Balanced Health, we don’t judge food or eating to be “good” or “bad”. It’s all about what, how much, and when that makes what we choose to eat either positive and healthy, or derailing. If you’ve ever been to Mountain Trek, you have heard our nutritionist, Jenn, say to eat a mix of foods every 3-4 hrs up until dinner in order to maintain consistent blood sugar (energy requirements) throughout the day. Varying blood sugar is what gets us in trouble with caffeine (hello, 2 pm crash) and snacking. This means we actually need to snack in order to optimize our mental and physical health and vitality! But we need to ensure we’re eating the right amount, of the right thing, at the right time. 

Snacking between Meals

Ideally, each meal or snack will have a little protein with a variety of colorful items from the plant kingdom. As stated above, we should be eating snacks 3-4 hours after breakfast and then again after lunch. Timing our snacks will balance our energy levels and prevent over-snacking. If we can take the time to organize our snacks on the weekend, we can make healthy and timely grazing even easier. Pre-cut and containerized veggies and protein dips and a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butter, hard-boiled eggs are all great, healthy snack options.

Why we crave the “Trifecta”

As for your “craving”, the reason you find tasty but unhealthy snacks on your mind is that we all get attracted to the “Carb-Fat-Salt Trifecta”. There is biological wiring from our tongue’s taste buds to the neurotransmitter release of our “feel-good” hormones, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These mood enhancers bathe our brain with an uplifting break from our stress-filled day. So eating potato chips, which hit the trifecta on the head, makes us happier, chemically at least. Emotional eating is real! When we feel depressed, disconnected, lonely, bored, exhausted, we are emotionally stressed. It is normal to unconsciously reach for a little something-something to pick our mood up and feel satisfied. But that short term pleasure turns to long term pain.

Habituate Healthy Choices 

Setting ourselves up with actions that we can habituate, while we have the kitchen so close to work, can pay dividends when we go back to the office or begin traveling again. 

  • Prepare snacks and set timers to remind yourself to step away from the screen to refuel. By preparing in advance with a healthy mindset, it makes your healthy snack a satisfying, easy and quick option instead of reaching for a bag of chips. 
  • Make your snacks nutritional, but also pleasurable. Include a variety of fruit choices with nuts, seeds, cheese, nut butter, and hard-boiled eggs. These are all great, healthy snack options.
  • Pre-cut and containerize veggies with protein dips. The combination of a fibrous snack with protein is nutritious and will provide you lasting energy.

To get started, here is a 2-day healthy meal plan. Learn more about how to develop a nutritional diet from home during one of our Basecamp Retreats.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

9 Ways To Digital Detox

I’ve recently become a parent, and because of that, I feel justified in employing scare tactics to warn you of the dangers out there in the world. I’m not talking about the man in the van who looks like a clown. I’m talking about something that Albert Einstein saw coming 70 years ago when he said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots.” 

HP, the company that promises, “With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world,” just surveyed over 7,500 people in North America to learn about our relationship with technology, specifically our smartphone screens. 

What HP found in a recent study:

63% think our digital lives and real lives are out of balance.

50% of couples have used their phones to ignore each other.

65% think it’s ok to check their phone during dinner.

58% think it’s ok to check their phone on a date.

40% admit they use their phones in public to avoid talking to others.

63% believe relationships were closer in the past, and the same percentage believe relationships were more meaningful before social media.

60% wish they could return to a time before social media.

91% would rather have 1 real friend than 100 online friends.

I could shake these stats off and pretend they don’t apply to me. But HP also found that parenting has gone digital and that 1 in 3 parents spend over 5 hours daily on their phone. A stat that requires just too many exclamation points to bother entering them.

Digital Use is Leading To Addiction, Depression, Suicide

I’m worried that if the day Einstein feared isn’t already here, it’s fast approaching. Selfies are up, relationships are down. Every day it seems like there is more connection, but less connecting. Engaging with the *actual* world is becoming overwhelmingly intimidating. And while this certainly might lead to a generation of idiots, we’re now realizing that the staggering amount of time we spend staring at a screen is also leading to a generation of anxious, depressed, and lonely souls. Einstein had no idea the extent of what this technology dependence would do to our psyche. How could he? Who could have predicted that global depression rates would increase 18.4% between 2005 and 2015 and suicide rates in the US would rise 24% between 1999 and 2014? And that governments would have to step in and impose curfews on gaming for minors to prevent addiction?

Our digital habits aren’t just wreaking psychological havoc – they’re physically harmful too. Sitting 10+ hours a day in front of screens leads to chronic inflammation, which has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Cell phones distract drivers from red lights, stop signs, children running across the road, and ultimately cause 1.6 million car accidents in the US every year. That’s one every 20 seconds. By the time you get to the end of this paragraph, there’s a chance someone just died texting and driving. That’s not okay.

If Einstein were to see the amount of time we spend glued to our screens would he really be that shocked? Or would he just say we are all now those “idiots” he theorized we’d become? By scrolling through an endless stream of emails and social feeds, inevitably comparing our lives to the highlights of everyone else’s, obviously deteriorates us physically and spikes our social anxiety. As a new mother, I feel it’s my duty to try and change our current course so that my daughter does not fulfill Einstein’s prophecy.

Be aware of your current usage

Just like a dietary detox, the first step in digitally detoxing is awareness. For instance, if you want to lose weight you have to look at what you’re putting into your body. Garbage in = garbage out. The same goes for your relationship with your devices. 

Look at how you’re interacting with your devices by building a digital diet sheet. Record how much, how often, and when you’re on your phone, laptop, game console, or TV. Seeing those numbers will do half the detoxing work.

Tip: start with your smartphone and enable Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android. These two stock features will give you a snapshot of how you currently use your smartphone. I personally like the stat about how many notifications you get each day. Each notification breaks your concentration on what you were doing, be it driving, chatting with a colleague, or playing with your child.

Most spend upwards of hours on social media weekly, let alone daily. Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, says “most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications.” Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your numbers. Simply be aware.

Technology isn’t to be demonized by any means. It helped put a man on the moon and sequence the entire human genome. But the way it’s used today tends to keep people inside a bubble. Instead of simply inspiring or enabling us, it’s creating anxiety and tension. It needs to be rebalanced. Here are nine ways you can reprogram your relationship with technology.

Nine Ways To Digitally Detox:

 

Build “No Phone Zones” in your home

This could be the kitchen or the bedroom, places primed for human interaction and bond-building. Place baskets at the perimeters of these zones so you can physically leave your phone behind.

Set “No Technology Times” in your home

If you’re a culprit of looking at your phone before falling asleep or before your feet even touch the floor in the morning, leave it in the hallway when you go to sleep. Mountain Trek suggests stopping device-time at least one hour before bedtime to reduce blue light consumption, which is similar to the wavelength emitted by the sun and triggers our “rise and shine” cortisol stress hormone.

Let your friends and family know you’re taking a break from your phone

This way, you won’t feel anxious about people contacting you.

Turn off notifications

Notifications are the digital version of that person always bothering you. Mostly, they actually fuel potential symptoms of addiction by causing your heart rate to increase. Notifications let your phone control you, as opposed to how it should be, the other way around.

Turn on grayscale

By making your phone less desirable to look at, you’ll be less tempted to tap around on it. Here are tutorials for iOS and Android

Take distracting apps off your home screen

This way, you’ll have to intentionally seek out an app to use it, and, in doing so, you’ll cut down on the “accidental” time-sucks that happen when you mindlessly hold your phone.

Put a learning app like Duolingo or Elevate next to your social media apps, increasing your chance of skipping out on an hour-long social media binge. Learning is one of the best ways to satiate our mental needs.

Play phone Jenga

When you go to a dinner party, or at least host your own, encourage the guests to stack their phones. This way, everyone will be less inclined to look at them; you don’t want to be the one who removes your device and makes the whole stack tumble down.

Set out parameters

Don’t go all or nothing, because when you starve yourself of anything, your mind wants to go to the other extreme. Instead of deleting all your apps at the same time, try deleting Facebook first, then Instagram, and the list goes on. One habit for one day, then one week, then one month. The idea is to make your change a big priority and a small step.

The most delicious things in the world don’t taste so great after a few too many bites, and the same goes for digital consumption. But it’s hard to shake ourselves out of a stupor. It’s hard to “awake” once our brains have been habituated to scrolling on devices and apps literally engineered for addiction. Breaking the trance will be hard, but you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, we suggest getting a friend or family member bought in on the idea as well. 

For a full digital detox, come visit us in the lush mountains of British Columbia for a week of unplugging and resetting, physically, emotionally, and digitally! 


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: