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Digital Stockholm Syndrome: How To Defeat Temptation

As your habits change, what you want changes.  The things you used to desire no longer seem appealing.

Avoiding your distractions may seem impossible now.  It feels like you need to keep up with the latest Netflix show, or check Instagram every half hour.

By practicing self-discipline, it’s not just your actions that change.  It also rewires your brain so that what you want to do is what’s best for you.

I’ve made this change of desire in five main areas:  

(Disclaimer: I don’t judge people for enjoying any of these activities!  I’m just sharing my personal experience of eliminating these distractions from my life)


Quitting junk food and sugar has been a long process.  Over time, I gradually limit what I allow myself to eat.  One by one, I’ve cut out pizza, soft drinks and candy.  My diet’s not completely clean yet, but my brain is already being rewired.

At a Memorial Day cookout, I was loading up my plate.  I spotted a Spinach and Carrot Salad with olive oil, and it looked delicious.  I was craving a salad, which had never happened before.

Once that point is reached, having a healthy diet is much easier, because you start to crave foods that are good for you.

Video Games

I used to be an avid gamer.  Video games were what I used to escape from reality.  I wanted to escape from reality because I had so many problems I didn’t know how to solve.  Video games offered a set goal and a clearly defined path toward it.  The easy sense of accomplishment was addictive.

After years of focused self-development, I started making progress toward my real-world goals.  Imaginary achievements no longer gave me a sense of accomplishment.  I discovered that they pale in comparison to making progress in life.  

These days, even when I try to play video games, I quickly lose interest.  Overcoming obstacles in real life is much more satisfying.


For a long time, I would always want to catch up on the latest Netflix show.  I would watch every series that was recommended to me, and was endlessly looking for more.

There are infinite amounts of content available now, and more showing up on a weekly basis.  I don’t follow much of it any more.  Often, I watch part of the first episode, and turn it off after ten minutes.  Like with video games, escaping into TV shows doesn’t bring the pleasure it used to.  

My brain is now attuned to the excitement and drama that comes from making progress towards my goals in reality.  Once you start making progress in real life, TV shows seem like a pale imitation of the real thing.  Netflix shows and Video Games are often a substitute for really experiencing and making progress in life.


Lately I’ve found that being fully present is the most effective way to connect with people.  Presence means your mind is completely empty of thoughts.  In this state, you have increased awareness of the world around you.  Instead of thinking and filtering what you say, you just say what shows up in the moment.

I quit drinking once I realized Alcohol is a Presence-Inhibitor.  Drinking made it impossible for me to have empathy and be present in the moment.  Because all the bars, restaurants and events are closed due to quarantine, quitting became incredibly easy.  

Now that I’m free from alcohol, I don’t even desire it any more.  I turned down offers of drinks all day on Memorial Day.  Lately I’ve found that the increase in mental clarity and productivity when sober outweighs any desire to drink again!


Social media apps are designed to be addictive time-wasters, and Facebook is the biggest culprit.  Lately I’d been checking Facebook every half-hour, out of boredom more than anything.  Each time, I would get sucked in and scroll endlessly without realizing how much time had passed.

This week, I brought that to an end.  I set a limit for myself – I could open Facebook once per day.  While I have gone over that limit a bit, I’ve saved a tremendous amount of time and energy by limiting my use of it.  Now that I’m freed from its clutches, I’m not even tempted to open it back up.  Having a bit of distance from it has made me desire focused productivity more than wasting time on social media.

Once You Quit, The Desire Goes Away

Quitting these habits can be difficult, but once I was free of them, staying away turned out to be surprisingly easy.  In retrospect, they all have a ton of negative effects and very little positive about them.  What kept them in my life so long was simply being addicted to them.

Once I was free, it was my mind that would want me to go back to them.  My mind would remind me of how good it felt in the past to smoke weed and play video games.  The truth is, it did not feel good.  It only relieved the pain of my everyday reality.

Instead of looking for pain relievers, the right path is to look for the sources of pain and solve them once and for all.  By getting rid of the mental pain your problems cause you, you won’t need pain relievers.

As a quick reminder, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying these activities in reasonable amounts!  Just don’t let them take over your life, like I did!

Joel Smith

Author and writing coach at The Fit Writer.

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