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Choosing Life In The Digital Age of Excess
We waste a lot of time online on entertainment and distractions that give no real meaning to our lives. That is why we need to be disciplined with the time we spend online. Time is our most precious asset, and by reading this book, you will find a sense of purpose and the tools to reclaim your time and attention.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/wqgmi 116 views
|Personal Growth & Self-Improvement|
|1 publisher interested|
1. Problem: We spend too much time online on distractions that sap our energy and dopamine. It is challenging to self-regulate the time we spend online. In addition, a mental health epidemic is emerging, likely due to our overuse of digital media.
Here are a couple of examples:
People who have 6 hours or more of screen time daily are more likely to suffer from moderate to severe depression. Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335517301316?via%3Dihub
A study asked college students to report how they felt about their Facebook use over two weeks. The participants reported their mood and how much they had used Facebook. The study found that the more time students spent on Facebook, the unhappier they felt. A fascinating nuance about this study is that feelings of unhappiness did not lead to using Facebook, but that the more time they spent on Facebook, the unhappier they felt. Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
2. Solution: We need purpose and self-discipline to overcome compulsive overstimulation. The book first seeks to inform the reader about the dangers of digital overuse and then how to make a change to build digital discipline and greater life! How to find more purpose in your life is covered, and how we can actually become mentally tougher. Both of these are essential attributes in the age of overindulgence.
3. Why I should write it: I have previously struggled with internet addiction and looked at the topic in great detail. In addition, I have a bachelor's in electrical engineering, have previously published a book about porn addiction, and have run a small online business. I have implemented the concepts covered in the book, and they have improved my life tremendously. Therefore, I feel compelled to share these insights and help people overcome digital addiction as I believe it is holding many people back from living their best possible lives.
This book is written for people who want to get the most out of life and are willing to dig deeper within themselves to find purpose and go for what they want by controlling their digital habits.
- Trish Leigh and me discuss my first book.
"This is actually a needed book in the NoFap/NoPorn community because there's a lot of over-hyped "bro science"and rumors. "How to Thrive" talks about leaving porn addiction from a psychological perspective, breaking down why porn is so addictive and ways to break up from it (while also improving your life). Havard makes a big point that many other porn addiction recovery books don't talk about: Your goal has to be bigger than your addiction or you will never fully break free. I like his 8 week plan (considering it for a future challenge) and like the fact that the books is down-to-Earth.
This book is kind of like the "Atomic Habits" of the NoFap movement"
- Charles Franklin
"Why this good is a great book on quitting porn in my opinion
1. Well-written to the point well researched on the subject.
2. Every chapter is filled with useful material that's understandable.
3. This book has real helpful strategies to quit porn and strategies on how to replace the habit with something you love.
After reading 100s of books I definitely think this guy going to do massive amounts of more great work in the future."
- Adrian Villanos
"I feel like gaining the perspective from someone who conquered these very same hurdles as many of us face today gives this book a unique edge. I believe it plays at its strengths the most when it tackles the author's personal anecdotes and overall outlook towards overcoming porn addiction in the second half. I find the headspace of someone having first-hand experience with the topic to be infinitely more compelling than most of the reiteration of studies I believe other sources have covered in greater detail. Nonetheless I find Havard to be a capable author, especially when you consider this is his first venture into the literary sphere. I found it to be a gripping read and a fair share of his philosophies resonated with me by the time I was through. It takes strength to go against the grain, and the author demonstrates adherence to his word by speaking out in relation to something we've only yet to see the true nature of in time".
More can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/54159629
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What Makes Us Happy?
The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.
Many things have a significant impact on our happiness and how we feel. Among them, we find our relationships with other people, financial stability, lifestyle, career, and health. In this chapter, we will dive deeply into the neurochemical basis for happiness and how we can become happier by optimizing our neurotransmitters. It is very challenging to define happiness since it encompasses so many things. The definition we use in this book has two components. One is a deeper sense of satisfaction, and the other is feeling good emotions and pleasure. Both are very important for our subjective well-being. Spending too much time online can be detrimental to both components of happiness, and we will look more into why and then uncover strategies to become happier and more content. Luckily, our level of happiness and satisfaction in life is something we can change very fast by making more conscious and better decisions.
General happiness among US adults is on the decline, and it has been declining since the 1970s. Among US adolescents, happiness was on the rise until about 2012, when it started dropping significantly. Can you think of something else that happened between 2011 and 2012? Well, smartphones became widespread, and most people bought one during this time period. Nowadays, young people spend less time socializing, sleeping, and reading than they used to. We don’t magically get more time than people before us. It is no wonder that happiness has been declining. Sleep and social time are bedrocks for our well-being, and screen time has been affecting this.1
In a large study, researchers examined digital habits and well-being among 40,000 children and adolescents. They found that after more than one hour a day of screen time, many side effects began to appear. Among them were less self-control, impaired focus, lower emotional stability, and worse outcomes with friendships. Non-users and those with low screen time did not differ much in well-being.2 That supports the notion that conscious, limited use can be beneficial. When we manage to be disciplined with our digital use, few side effects tend to appear.
HAPPINESS AND SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships are the biggest source of happiness and positive emotions for many people. Those with rich social relationships tend to be happy with their lives. We are probably less social nowadays than in decades before since more people live alone, and screen time replaces or jeopardizes some of the social time we have. We all need time with other people. When introverts are more outgoing, they typically enjoy it and get surprised by how good they feel about the social interaction afterward.
Our ancestors lived in tribes with close social ties historically. These ties are fading away in the modern social environment. We are meant to be active and closely connected to other people. However, we can regain control of our lives and live life to its fullest if we want to. Being active with other people combines two of the most important things we can do for our well-being (being connected and active). Activities like playing soccer or just going for a run with a group of people are great for us.
CIRCUMSTANCES AND PURPOSE
Even though genetics play a role in determining happiness, we can turn specific genetics off or on as we grow and change. We have the ultimate power to change our lives the way we want to. Even if only 10 percent of our happiness was within our control, it would be meaningless not to optimize our lives. Ten percent is a huge difference. In reality, it is more like 90 percent of our happiness is in our control. We can change how we look at things, learn new things, and build better habits. Our actions, attitudes, and thoughts are among the most important factors for happiness.
Having a sense of purpose is not to be underestimated when it comes to happiness.3 If what you do today aligns with where you want to end up long-term, you have vertical coherence. Happy and mentally healthy people tend to have a high degree of vertical coherence. Much of our cognitive dissonance comes from doing things we know are not in our long-term best interests.
OVERUSE OF TECHNOLOGY
With constant access to distractions, it is easy to satisfy the surface level need for pleasure and overlook our deeper need for internal satisfaction. Deeper satisfaction comes with reflection, integrity, resilience, strong social bonds, and overall living a life that satisfies you. If you numb yourself by looking at social media for hours every day, it is easy to lose track of clarity and purpose. How can we expect to control our happiness if we can’t effectively manage our attention? Happiness is a lot about focusing on the positives. That is why losing control of our attention can be such a big problem. When we surf the web or scroll on our phones, we tend to lose control of our attention. That makes us less capable of positively directing our thoughts, which is also about mindfulness and not letting the mind drift off.
Social media is more self-focused than other’s’-focused, which is required when communicating in real life. Focusing on the well-being of others is highly important for one’s happiness. Going beyond ourselves and focusing on others is the key to many things in life. Shifting your awareness this way will enable you to obtain more influence and make you more relaxed and carefree. Focusing too much on ourselves is not healthy and something that many would benefit from avoiding.
Social media offers the drifting mind endless chances to fall prey to temptations and distractions. Every time you get distracted, you are making it easier to become distracted in the future as well because of neuroplasticity. Having the ability to focus is tremendously important. Whether you want to thrive in your career, education, or become good at a sport, you need to be able to focus deeply. The big- tech companies make money by competing for our attention, facilitating uncentered behavior. Therefore, we come back to the importance of digital discipline once again.
FOCUS AND HAPPINESS
We can change our emotions in an instant with thoughts and our physiology. We can recall pleasant memories or ask ourselves empowering questions: “What am I excited about in my life right now? What are some things I love? How does this make me feel?” Happiness is closely linked to our posture and how we use our bodies. By changing our posture, we can develop more resourceful states of mind. The common denominator here is that we need a centered mind and the ability to control our attention to have the option to change our emotional state. Becoming happier is something we can do at will by changing how we focus.
NEUROTRANSMITTERS AND HAPPINESS
Four neurotransmitters are crucial to our happiness: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Gut microbiota is involved in producing neurotransmitters, so having a healthy gut is also very important.4 You can take probiotics to stimulate your gut health, and this can actually help you become happier. If you have poor gut health, it will influence how the bacteria metabolize the amino acids in food into neurotransmitters.
Serotonin relates to social dominance and our inner sense of security. It’s released when we feel respected by other people when we gain social importance, or when we feel like we belong to a group. Increasing serotonin levels is closely linked to accomplishing activities that reinforce self-esteem as well. That is pretty much the opposite of browsing the Internet passively. It is easy to start comparing ourselves to other people on social media. When we engage in unfavorable social comparisons, serotonin levels decrease. Practicing gratitude, on the other hand, increases serotonin and is one of the easiest ways to become happier. By just taking a minute each day to think about a few things you are grateful for, you will become happier. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all of the others,” stated Cicero.
Dopamine relates to pleasure-seeking and the feelings associated with accomplishment. Dopamine is released when we engage in reward-seeking behavior. It is released to make us work toward our goals and keep us motivated. Gratitude also increases dopamine.5 If we overstimulate the dopamine system, we can feel apathetic and lose drive and determination. That will also damage our happiness significantly. We need to self-regulate our consumption online to ensure healthy dopamine levels to thrive.
Oxytocin (the bonding chemical) is released when we bond and connect with other people. Touch is very effective at increasing oxytocin. That does not happen when we text others; it happens when we talk to them or spend time face to face.6 A study showed that when children interact with their mothers via instant messages, they don’t release oxytocin. They had as high cortisol levels (stress levels) as those without interaction with their parents.7 We lose a lot when we replace in-person social encounters with messages. We lose out on genuine connection and feel more isolated as a result. Oxytocin reduces our need for stimuli. Replacing the visit to the coffee shop with your friends with a conversation on WhatsApp or Messenger is not a good idea. Social support is crucial to both avoid and treat addiction. Without strong social ties, it is much easier to experience addiction.
Endorphins are released to mask pain and is known as the body’s natural pain killer. They are responsible for a “runner’s high.” When we laugh, endorphins are released. Overusing the Internet makes us more prone to become sedentary, which could negatively affect our endorphin levels.
We currently use smartphones to text others and interact on dating apps at an alarming rate compared to a decade ago. Excessive exposure to digital environments can lead to lower levels of all the primary neurotransmitters that control the happiness factor. We can desensitize our dopamine system with the strong stimuli we are exposed to. Deficient vitamin D levels and melatonin levels caused by too much screen time indoors harm serotonin production.8 Also, less time spent around other people can come at the expense of decreased oxytocin and serotonin levels. Physical activity and being outdoors is also traded out for more screen time. These choices have a detrimental impact on our health.
THE LIMBIC SYSTEM
Our brain can be divided into three parts: the reptilian brain (the oldest), the limbic system (which emerged in mammals around 150 million years ago), and the neocortex (the newest, which began developing two to three million years ago in primates).9
If you want to be happy, you need to satisfy the limbic system. The limbic system is the emotion center and is responsible for our feelings.10 Since the limbic system is old and controls our mood; our mood is predicated on satisfying the same need as our tribal ancestors experienced. For example, we satisfy our reward system when we engage with people and stay active. If we remain active, social, and unplug from the digital world as much as possible, we are much more likely to satisfy the limbic system and feel good. Sitting on the couch watching TV alone is pretty much the opposite of what we should do to satisfy our limbic system, but that is what most people do every evening. It requires a certain degree of awareness and willpower to make sure your lifestyle is still compatible with what you are rewarded for by the limbic system.
PRODUCTIVE WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME
We have an ideal tradeoff between different activities for our happiness. It is the tradeoff between time spent working out, engaging with friends and family, working, traveling (and more) that maximizes our unique preferences. This balance is different for everyone.
Let’s say we have a friend named John who is forty-two years old and has a wife and a son. He earns a good salary, so the family is financially secure, and he doesn’t have to work long, excessive hours. He spends eight hours a day at work, and he finds the work challenging and rewarding. John also values moments with his son and wife and would like to spend a lot of quality time with them. When he has alone time, he enjoys going for runs and riding his bike. John spends time with his friends weekly, playing poker or just hanging out. He also enjoys reading, but he feels like he doesn’t have time for it anymore.
For John, spending the right amount of time doing what he values is ideal. For most people, this involves quite a bit of time being social since we are social creatures. It also involves various projects and hobbies for many people. What happens when we spend three to four hours daily on our cell phones? Is suddenly time spent on our cellphones one of the most important pillars for our subjective happiness? Most likely not. It just steals time from the other things we could have been doing that would have yielded a significantly higher return. It will most likely make us lose out on time with our family or, at the very least, reduce the quality of the time we spend around them. For instance, people derive less pleasure from their relationships when cell phones are present. Parents experience less social connection with their children with cell phones are present.11
Excessive use of smartphones leaves us with less time to do the things we value. Maybe even worse is that we are penalized neurochemically by the usage. We have to consider alternative costs to how we spend our time. Many people these days have behavioral addictions, and many use some of their screen time on damaging activities, such as losing money on gambling or fueling shopping addictions.
TALKING WITH STRANGERS AND THE CONNECTION TO HAPPINESS
Conversations with strangers significantly impacts our well-being, which is quite a surprise for many people. There are two important reasons for this. First, we are incredibly social and release a lot of feel-good neurotransmitters when we spend time with people. In addition, we reinforce a healthy and empowering worldview when we talk to strangers, and it is a pleasant experience. If you engage in small talk with strangers, you do so because you have optimistic assumptions about the world. If you never engage with strangers, it is much easier to think that they are out to get you. Don’t go on your smartphone when you are waiting in line. Look for people open to small talk.
We do not have separate silos in our lives; everything ties in together. It is tough to do anything well if we don’t feel at ease within ourselves. Excelling academically or in our careers largely depends on our ability to focus. Our focus is again reliant on how we feel within ourselves. If you feel at ease, sitting down and reading a book will be easy. When a feeling of inner peace and comfort is present, we can easily focus, and we don’t have to use as much force to get the job done.
Ideally, we should reach a place where doing activities that nurture us financially, spiritually, and socially feels good. Most people find going for a run a challenge. Others feel the same way about work or reading. It is possible to engage in activities that are helpful for us long-term and get pleasure from them. That requires crossing a few barriers to entry though.
People can experience the same situations in many different ways. For some, walking to work in the morning is a pleasant experience. Feeling the wind in their hair and looking at people and their surroundings can be satisfying. For others, it is painful to be outside in the cold, walking to work. They need more potent stimuli to feel okay since their brain circuits are more desensitized. Luckily, it is possible to sensitize your brain! It is supposed to be pleasurable to be in your body. By being consistently conscious of the stimuli you allow in your life, you will find more pleasure in the small things you experience with time.
A few years back, I found daily activities like going to the supermarket or doing the laundry painful. I had to use a lot of willpower to get motivated for these essential tasks because my brain was highly desensitized from Internet addiction. By building a few good habits and avoiding unnecessary digital stimuli, I managed to turn things around. I had to overcome a barrier; eventually, it became easy to avoid constant digital dopamine. It is in the beginning that things are the hardest. If we just keep going, things will get easier.
Everyone has a unique experience of life. There are huge differences in people’s subjective well-being. This is easy to decipher based on what people are talking about, focusing on, and how they look and behave. If you spend too much time on distractions, I think you can increase your subjective well-being by being conscious of your digital use. If you force yourself to be without your cell phone or other sources of digital stimuli over and over, your inner state will begin to shift. You will eventually learn to become your source of good emotions rather than relying on entertainment from others.
We have a lot of tools at our disposal these days that we can use to suppress discomfort, pain, boredom, or any negative feeling. You can check your smartphone to get away from boredom or loneliness. You can have a few beers to numb yourself. You can lie down on the couch and watch TV to avoid discomfort. You can drive instead of walking in the rain. By constantly avoiding the inevitable pain that is a part of existence, we do ourselves a grave disservice. Running away from pain only makes it appear in a different form later.
We are at our best when we are centered, present, and in alignment with ourselves. To become centered, we need to have moments of deep presence daily. That can be obtained most easily when we also take time-outs from the digital world. It is much easier to reconnect with ourselves when we take some time to become present and leave the never-ending online buzz alone.
THE SOCIAL BEING
Our relationships impact our physical and mental health tremendously. We need time to connect with friends and family. When we spend time with our friends and loved ones, we constantly share little details about our lives, and this intimacy is sorely needed. It makes us feel like there is a point to existing. Our neocortex is larger than that of any other primate, and when we are social, it is constantly firing. Society, as we know it today, is essentially a result of cooperation - a social behavior. Collaboration has taken us to the top of the food chain. Physical contact, socializing, and simply being around people have a myriad of benefits. We are the happiest when we are around other people and feel connected to them.
Feeling connected and belonging to a group is important for our well-being. Being around other people instills a sense of responsibility and concern for others. Bonds and connections with others can also help us feel a greater sense of purpose and reduce stress. When we feel safe about our social relationships, we feel good because of serotonin. Social isolation and perceived low-status increase stress (cortisol). The most isolated people are at most risk of experiencing many health issues, and our resilience depends upon social bonds to a large extent. Loneliness has also been proven to be damaging to our health, which is quite concerning when we know that screen time often comes at the exclusion of being social.
In Pennsylvania, a small town called Roseto has a population of Italians who migrated together from their native village. The Italian community had an exceptional health advantage over surrounding cities in the past. On average, the inhabitants in this village had heart health indicative of being at least a decade younger than they were.
The Italians maintained their old social traditions, and one magic ingredient made a massive difference. Residents used to have social gatherings in their neighbors’ kitchens. The residents derived massive social support from this, and according to researchers, this was the main factor that explained the inhabitants’ excellent health. Through assimilation into American culture, the Italians abandoned the intimate houses of the village and moved to large suburban homes instead. They left their ceremonies and way of life and were drawn into the lifestyle of the surrounding community. The result was that their heart health deteriorated to the average national level when they stopped following their old social customs.12
I used to be very shy and would go to great lengths to avoid social situations. As my brain got sensitized through applied effort, I started enjoying going out and connecting with friends. Obviously, there is room for everyone, and it is not necessarily better to be extroverted than introverted, but it is possible to change if you are at the introvert extreme. All we need to do is sensitize or desensitize our dopamine systems. That will affect our degree of sociability and enthusiasm. By being conscious about how I spent my time online, I managed to sensitize my dopamine circuits. There are almost no limitations to how you can alter your brain. You can reinforce the neural pathways you want and steer your new patterns any way you desire. It all comes down to our actions and the neural pathways we reinforce or avoid reinforcing. Every time you act like the social party animal, you are strengthening pathways in your brain, making you more like that persona.
Social norms have changed extremely fast in the last ten to twenty years. It is far easier to slide a direct message to someone than go up and talk to them in real life. We are getting worse at reading subtle social nuances since we spend less time being social than before. In the future, we might know just the right emoji for a situation, but not necessarily the proper facial expression. Knocking on someone’s door unannounced has become a thing of the past.
Communication is at the core of business success, education, and social relationships of any kind, and our social skills are undoubtedly the most important skill we learn. John D. Rockefeller (the wealthiest man in American history) said: “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee, and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.”13
We will need to communicate well and deal with other people regardless of where technology takes us. We are still the social animal, and we should not let screens steal the time we should have spent being social. If we do, we pay for it with our happiness.
• Find your ideal tradeoff between time spent on different activities. Write down your favorite things to do and how often you get to do them (this will fluctuate with time). Do you wish you had more time available? If so, reflect on whether your digital habits limit your time for family, friends, exercise, or something else. Commit to spending more time on these things.
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