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May 31, 2022

Mark Ostach: How to Honor Family Over Technology with Digital Wellness

Mark Ostach

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How’s your “Digital Wellness” these days? Have you thought about doing a “Digital Fast”? Mark Ostach thinks we all should!

As a parent and digital entrepreneur, this is something I’m working on constantly. But as someone who is quite often “connected” and making a living through my devices, it is quite difficult to find a balance that works for me as a father, husband, and small business owner.

Author Mark Ostach joins me today to share how we can live with phones, laptops, and all of our other devices and still be present with those we love.

Meet Mark Ostach

Mark Ostach is on a mission to help people find the courage to connect with others. He works with organizations and businesses to help people battle the pace of modern life and find ways to restore their energy and focus. He's done two TED Talks and authored the book Courage to Connect.

He says that his work isn't about getting people to turn their backs on technology. Instead, he hopes to help us embrace technology in more meaningful and positive ways. Ultimately, Mark knows that people have to find ways to balance their digital demands while still following through with real life commitments.

Mark really started to notice this about himself as a young adult. In 2003, he recalls going through a breakup when he was a junior in college. He couldn't stop watching his ex's new life unfold on her MySpace account. Even though he knew it wasn't productive, he couldn't pull himself away. From that point on, he made it his mission to help himself and others understand how what you do online influences how you think and feel.

Understanding Digital Wellness

What is digital wellness? It's a common question, and Mark Ostach answers it a lot. He says that the easiest way to conceptulaize digital wellness is to think about physical wellness. Specifically, he uses the metaphor of nutrition since technology is often another form of consumption.

If we compare digital life to physical life, digital calories are an easy way to understand your digital wellness. Just like a dietician or nutritionists would never tell you to forgo food completely, Mark doesn't want you to give up technology. Instead, he wants you to consider the different calories you consume. How much comes from binge watching shows or getting sucked into social media drama? Are you filling your mind with empty calories or are you consuming things in positive an energizing ways?

Make no mistake about it. This doesn't mean you have to eliminate memes and Facebook entirely. Instead, be willing to check in with yourself each day to see how you're feeling. Some days, you might decide to take a break from technology for the remainder of the days. Or you might simply decide to use it in different ways. Perhaps you spend some time sending some encouraging texts or making some calls to reconnect with people.

Why does this matter? Keeping an eye on your digital wellness can help you see if technology is adding valuing to your life or becoming a distraction. We've all had the experience where we are coming back from work, ready to spend time with our partner or our kids. But in the back of our mind, we are still running through digital obligations, such as unread emails, or lingering pieces of content, like internet gossip. When you are distracted in the background, it can be hard to step back into real world conversations with loved ones.

How Technology Impacts Us

Mark Ostach says that we should remember that people want to feel seen, understood, and heard. Unfortunately, technology can be a barrier to this. Many couples find themselves only half listening to one another, Their phones pull them apart during the brief moments of time each day when their schedules overlap.

Don't be afraid to communicate to your partner that you want their full attention. You also want to be willing to give them yours. This is equally true for our relationship with our kids.

While there are dozens of apps and ideas for how to help kids navigate screen time, Mark says the best thing to actually do is to be a model for them. That means as adults, we have to put our phones down at dinner rather than making exceptions for ourselves.

It can be challenging, especially since so many people juggle full time jobs and side gigs or find themselves making a living online. Still, he says that demonstrating what digital wellness looks like is the best way to start teaching kids about healthy screen time habits.

Small Shifts for Improved Digital Wellness

Are you ready to improve your digital wellness? Then it's time to make small changes for a better experience with technology.

Most people who are interested in personal finance are already familiar with the idea of baby steps. Mark Ostach says that improving your digital wellness works the same way. He encourages people to commit to tiny, disciplined changes. These “deposits” accumulate over time just like compound interest.

One suggestion Mark has is to spend the first 10 minutes of each day without your phone. You might practice gratitude, read devotionals, do a yoga routine, or something else. The idea is to build new habits that are analog in nature that will set you up for success later in your day.

Of course, you don't need to do this every day for it to make a difference. Depending on the season of life you are in, you might be called about by little kids. Even spending three out of every 7 days without a phone can have a big impact.

Another shift involves engaging more positively online. Maybe you read a piece of content that felt inspiring. If it links to a GoFundMe and you feel called to give, Mark says you should do so. He even says you might consider sharing the campaign or talking about giving. This is different than how many of us show up online, but it's so much more positive.

A final powerful shift you can make is to set boundaries around your email. He says that it is so important to know when and where you will check your email. That way, you don't let what is in your inbox define your version of success or interfere with your sleep. It's too easy to be controlled by what other people say in email, so make sure you are intentional about your inbox habits.

Final Thoughts on Digital Wellness with Mark Ostach

Being a more positive and present person is certainly something most of us are interested in becoming. However, it's a journey, just like finances. One thing Mark Ostach emphasizes repeatedly is that you don't have to get it right all the time. Instead, understand that you will slip up and fall back into old habits.

Rather than getting so frustrated with yourself that you give up on your digital wellness, stay committed to the journey. Progress won't happen overnight, but the small steps that you take will add up faster than you realize.


Guest Bio – Mark Ostach

Mark Ostach helps people find the courage to connect – with themselves, their purpose, and with the people in their lives, both online and offline. Mark's goal is to restore energy and focus to organizations battling modern life’s non-stop pace and growing sense of disconnection.

A nationally recognized speaker on Digital Wellness, Mark has done two TED talks and spoken to thousands of people all over the world encouraging them to embrace a culture of digital wellbeing.

Mark Ostach Resources

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How are you promoting digital wellness in your family?  Do you like the advice from Mark Ostach?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.

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